Eclipse Mixes in Secret Sauce for Developer Success

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2006-09-08

Eclipse Mixes in Secret Sauce for Developer Success

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—The Eclipse Foundation succeeds as broad-based open-source organization because of its "secret sauce" for uniting a wide variety of companies and organizations to build a platform from which they all can profit.

So claims Mike Milinkovich, the foundations executive director.

In a keynote speech titled "Why Eclipse Matters" at the EclipseWorld conference here on Sept. 7, Milinkovich said this secret sauce is "the essential nature of why Eclipse is interesting. … But the real answer is Eclipse has discovered the secret sauce for getting organizations together that want to build open source."

And Milinkovich then shared his recipe for the secret sauce: "Spicy business realities, grill up some great technology, and season with a fanatical community," among other ingredients, he said.

Click here to read about 10 open-source projects being updated by Eclipse.

But perhaps the best ingredient is a level playing field to foster collaboration, Milinkovich said.

Indeed, the key to this secret ingredient is that Eclipse is the "best existing model for getting multiple organizations to work together on the development of product-ready open-source software," Milinkovich said. And the level playing field enables that.

"This is really the best of both worlds—the openness, transparency and meritocracy," he said.

Moreover, Eclipse is different from most other open-source initiatives, Milinkovich said. Most other open-source communities are established as charities, such as the Apache Foundation and the Perl and Python language efforts, he said. And these efforts are beholden to donations of others or had significant endowments like Mozilla and the Open Source Applications Foundation. Even Linux has the Open Source Development Lab and, he said.

But "Eclipse is the only organization with an openly governed, diverse corporate membership and hosts and fosters a community," Milinkovich said. He called this community the "keepers of the secret sauce" and quipped that the sauce could be used to beat back "Samurai Burger," where the workers at the fictitious entity might be compared with employees of Sun Microsystems.

Also in his keynote, Milinkovich said the fourth quarter of this year will see the first versions of some key new Eclipse projects that are exiting the incubation stage. One such project is Mobile Tools for Java, which is being led by Nokia. This is an effort to build a tool set for Java developers building mobile applications; it will be available in October.

Another first version coming before the end of the year is the Embedded Rich Client Platform project, also known as eRCP, Milinkovich said. This is an effort to shrink the Eclipse RCP solution to be able to run on mobile devices.

Also later this year, Eclipse will release the first version of the PHP IDE (integrated development environment) for Eclipse. The PHP IDE effort is being led by Zend Technologies, with cooperation from IBM. "Eclipse is about more and more platforms than Java," Milinkovich said.

A new survey shows that developer adoption of the Eclipse Rich Client Platform has nearly tripled since last year. Click here to read more.

Milinkovich described the Eclipse Foundation as an open-source community focused on building the universal development platform of frameworks and exemplary tools.

Among the spicy business realities that led to Eclipse is that "the software business model is fundamentally broken," in that software development cost structures have no correlation to creating value for customers, he said.

Instead, "the business model for open source is shared implementations of stuff," Milinkovich said.

But vendors still need to compete, he added. However, they should "compete on what matters," he said. "Define what your competitive differentiations are; focus your energies there and acquire everything else from open source."

Indeed, developers should "compete on products, collaborate on platform," he said.

Next Page: Eclipse: "No. 1 alternative to Microsoft" in dev tools space.


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Milinkovich said Eclipse stands as "the No. 1 alternative to Microsoft in size and scope" in the development tools space.

However, the community plays a major part. "The value of the community is proportional to the number of functioning relationships between the people and groups within the community," he said.

As a case in point, Milinkovich said there are more than 70 Eclipse project leads, more than 740 committers, 25,000 Bugzilla users and more than 2 million Eclipse users.

And adoption of the Eclipse platform is worldwide. The United States is the leading adopter, with 19 percent of the overall adoption of the Eclipse platform. China follows with 14 percent; Japan and Germany both have 9 percent; France has 5 percent; Brazil has 4 percent; and India, Canada and Korea each have 3 percent, Milinkovich said.

Eclipse provides an "architecture of participation" and offers low barriers of entry to newcomers, he said. Also, new add-ons are first-class citizens.

"What is ingenious about Eclipse is that everything within Eclipse is a plug-in," he said. And "its laissez faire; you can never, ever pick a winner."

Eclipse plans to release annual project updates. Click here to read more.

Milinkovich showed an open-source maturity model developed at Carleton University, in Ottawa, that shows open-source adoption going from 0 to 5. At 0, a company is in the "denial" phase. At 1, the company is in the "user" phase. Level 2 is the "collaboration" phase, 3 is the "champion" phase, 4 is the "strategist" phase, and 5 is the "aggressive" phase.

"In our experience it roughly takes a year to move an organization one level up," Milinkovich said.

Another key ingredient in the Eclipse Foundations secret sauce is governance. Governance matters, Milinkovich said. "Everyone is equal at Eclipse," he said, indicating that no one company has veto power.

Other key elements include quality and predictability, he said. While quality matters, predictability spurs adoption, he said.

"For the last three years in a row, Eclipse has shipped more and more software at the end of June—this is absolutely not by accident," he said.

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