Apple just gave IBM a huge leg up in the cloud wars with Amazon

Tim Cook
Apple CEO Tim Cook Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla

IBM’s partnership with Apple bears even more fruit today as the IBM Cloud becomes the first cloud computing platform to support the smash hit Apple Swift programming language.

Swift has already found a niche with iPhone app developers. Now, with IBM’s help, Apple Swift is going to invade the enterprise — giving IBM Cloud a feature that leading competitors like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure can’t match.

Swift, first introduced by Apple in 2014, literally has developers cheering. Nowadays, there are over 10 million programmers hacking away with Swift, IBM says.

“The thing about Swift that’s very appealing is the speed of the language; the elegance,” says Vice President of Cloud Architecture and Technology Dr. Angel Diaz.

In December of 2015, Apple took the huge step of releasing Swift as open source, meaning any developer anywhere can download the language’s source code and improve it to their liking.

That move hit the gas pedal on Swift’s already considerable growth and popularity, sending it to the top of the popularity charts at GitHub.

Apple Senior VP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi has said that it intends for Swift to be “the language, the major language for the next 20 years of programming in our industry.”

What IBM Cloud now provides enterprise app developers with is a set of tools for writing software in Swift that’s intended to run on servers, rather than smartphones. Before, any developer looking to run Swift code on a cloud server would have to switch languages, kind of rendering the whole exercise moot.

“We are making it easy for developers to start developing their Swift apps in the cloud,” Diaz says.

This extends the work that IBM has already done to get Swift working with the Linux operating system, which powers most of the world’s data centres and big server farms in all industries.

For enterprises, Swift in the cloud means that their app’s code can be as sleek and elegant as any Silicon Valley startup’s. Plus, with Swift’s growing popularity, it means that there’s an increasing supply of top talent who know Swift and love it.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has said that he sees the enterprise as a major part of the company’s business going forward. Taking advantage of the IBM partnership to get Swift into more businesses is a big part of that.

Ginny Rometty
IBM CEO Ginny Rometty Business Insider

IBM already has 100 enterprise Apple apps created through its partnership with Apple, all of them written on Swift. These apps are being used to help sell iPads and iPhones to large enterprises, and sell the apps that run on IBM’s cloud.

The existence of those 100 apps means that IBM has already made a huge investment in the Swift language.

It’s a win-win for both companies: Apple gets a bigger footprint in the lucrative enterprise market, while IBM gets a very attractive programming language option as it looks to grow its own very important cloud business.

This is good because IBM investors and executives alike are betting on the cloud to turn Big Blue around amid shrinking top line revenues.

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