Eclipse Unfolds

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2004-11-15 Print this article Print

You seemed to have made a lot of progress in a short time. How did things unfold? So there was a board of stewards meeting on May 28th [2003]. And I proposed a set of next steps. And the first of those next steps was to prepare a business plan which would refine the organizational structure and include a high level architecture for Eclipse that was suitable for collaborative development. The second next step would be to recruit five tier one companies. At that time what we meant by tier one companies were companies that sat on the board of directors and contributed the majority of the financial resources for the organization. The third next step was to recruit three high-quality executive director candidates. There was a step having to do with converting the IBM Common Public License, which Eclipse was using, to a formal Eclipse Public License, which would be needed by the independent activity to engage with the independent legal counsel. And there there were three specific things we needed to do: Create the independent entity, prepare its bylaws and prepare its membership agreement. So there were formal documents we needed to create. And that set of next steps was unanimously approved on May 28th. And we said wed have a series of monthly calls that were open to any stewards who wanted to attend.
And we basically said we had another six months to run until we finished the foundation.
And some of those calls were attended by prospective members, including Sun [Microsystems Inc.] So we were very open about this process. The information I just reviewed with you, Skip and I reviewed with Sun very early on. We were very candid with them with respect to our assessment of the issues, the concerns and what it was we were trying to accomplish. They influenced what we did with their experience with JCP [the Java Community Process] and the sorts of things they thought we would need to do to enable them to join the organization. So the whole time we were doing this we were working with Sun and other companies. And that was fundamental to the resolution or eliminating the perception that Eclipse fragmented Java. Click here to read of the growth of the Eclipse open-source development platform. Was it Rich Green [former Sun software vice president, now at Cassatt Corp.] who was involved? I worked with Rich Green. And they understood from the very beginning that in forming the Eclipse foundation, the most effective means we could think of to eliminating the perception that Eclipse was fragmenting Java was by having Sun join Eclipse and in effect by having Eclipse become a part of JCP. Now in the end I failed at that and its a disappointment. I think it was our best opportunity to get Sun involved. We made it very clear that if Sun were to join Eclipse we would change the name. And that was approved by the stewards unanimously. So was Eclipse named as an attack against Sun? Well, I think the original naming inside IBM that was a factor. How could it not be? I think that in agreeing that if Sun were to join the Eclipse foundation at its forming, that we would change the name. It would be an enormously expensive thing to do, but we felt that that was the one time, at its launch, where Suns joining would offset the costs—both the financial costs and the momentum costs of a name change. And we held out that option until the bitter end—until the day we incorporated the thing. So did you have a possible alternative name? Actually, we didnt. I mean I dont think it would have been difficult to come up with one, but to be honest, until there was more of a sign from Sun that they were likely to join; no one was going to go spend time down that particular avenue. But I dont think it would have been problematic. There were a lot of products that came out of Rational that had the word "unified" in them, which was sort of a penchant of mine. You know, the Unified Modeling Language, the Rational Unified Process. And I might have suggested something like that in this area, but we never had any serious discussions like that. What do you think of the Microsoft Visual Studio Team System announcement? Well, it certainly looks a lot like the stuff we did at Rational. And considering the number of ex-Rational people involved in it I guess Im not surprised. Well, what impact do you think itll have? Does it change the complexion of the tools market? I think that fundamentally its a good thing. The better tools there are out there that support the best practices of modern software engineering, iterative development, component-based development, and an organized approach to requirements management and an organized approach to change management, those kinds of things. Those are good. Having better tools is a good thing. Now, that said, it would be better if the competition in tools was within a common infrastructure such as the one Eclipse provides. Because it avoids having incompatible tools, it makes things integrate; customers dont have these huge learning curves because tool A has a different user interface than tool B, which has a different user interface than tool C. But realistically, Microsoft is always going to have their own development environment. So I think Eclipse represents the great platform independent alternative to Visual Studio .Net. Id love to see Microsoft join Eclipse. Maybe they will someday, maybe they never will. But theyre never going to back off from Visual Studio .Net. Next Page: Effects on the competition.

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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