EclipseCon: IBM, Sun Set the Tools Stage

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2004-02-02

EclipseCon: IBM, Sun Set the Tools Stage

This weeks EclipseCon confab on the Eclipse open-source development platform is expected to foster hearty discussion on the state of Java tooling, particularly as Sun Microsystems Inc. continues to consider how it can work with Eclipse.

Grady Booch, an IBM Fellow with the companys Rational division, said he will deliver a keynote Wednesday that will track the history of the tools market, ranging from command line tools to integrated development environments (IDEs) to extended development environments (XDEs) to collaborative development environments (CDEs). Booch said Eclipse plays into this progression, as it is the base of IBMs tools future.

Rationals mission within IBM has come to "truly be IBMs development brand," Booch said. He said the unit is looking at things such as process, model-driven development, change management and quality by design.

"Ive been looking at the next three-to-five years," Booch said.

Highlighting his keynote in an interview with eWEEK, Booch said in the history of tooling, "the early tools were monolithic, command line tools that were like banging rocks together." That changed with the advent of research out of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), which produced languages such as Mesa and Cedar that included modern software development features like garbage collection and dynamic typing. Then came more advanced languages like Ada and Smalltalk, "which brought some novel ideas to the development space because you could live inside a running application and probe around it – and you had access to all the artifacts. Then there was Turbo Pascal, which changed the world for the PC developer," followed shortly after by Visual Basic, Booch said. Rational built its early tools around the Ada language "because it was the best language of its time to bring modern software development features to bear."

Booch acknowledged that many hardcore developers prefer to code in a favored editor such as Emacs. However, "Eclipse has been gaining attraction form the Emacs world and is taking developer share from Emacs," he said.

IDEs began to take on more aspects of the development spectrum. And "with the advent of tools spanning the lifecycle we see modeling being used," said Booch, who is a key author of the Unified Modeling Language (UML). The addition of modeling support integrated into the Rational IDE was the basis of the companys XDE product.


Also, not long after the shift from command line to IDEs, development tools moved off onto another plane, "which was development as a team sport," Booch said.

Then with the message of development as a team sport, "weve begun to see trends toward CDEs." Booch said he most clearly saw the benefits of a CDE while working on a classified government "engagement," where he was able to peer through a browser and see all the artifacts the team had been working with and could communicate with the developers via the system.

"A lot of the problems that face us in software development are not technical but human," Booch said. "We have instant messaging, we have Web meetings, and we have software like [Lotus] Sametime. There may be something here we can add to IDEs and to software development in general, like provide social graces for instant messaging or for awareness of presence. Whats missing is bolting those things together."

Economic forces are driving these changes, Booch said. "We have to deal with teams of teams [of developers] and outsourcing is a reality," he said. "CDEs represent a means to extending development."

Booch said the computer-aided design space has managed to include many collaborative features into its software.

"Whats so exciting is with Eclipse being an open-standard IDE we can base a lot of our work on it," as IBM takes its tools forward, he said.

"CDEs represent not so much a revolutionary thing, but its the blooming of 1,000 flowers," Booch said. "The time is now because the products have aligned in so many ways," including IBMs WebSphere, Rational, Lotus and Tivoli product lines, as well as the open-source Eclipse platform.


Meanwhile, with Sun sending off a letter to the Eclipse community last week calling for more unity and diversity in the Java tools space, the conference is expected to be grounds for debate on the issue.

Michael Bechauf, vice president of NetWeaver standards at SAP AG, will moderate a panel at the conference entitled: "Tools Interoperability – Benefit or Burden?" Bechaufs panel is expected to include discussion on the Java Tools Committee (JTC), a recently formed Sun-backed group that supports tool interoperability. SAP is a member of the JTC, as well as the Java Community Process (JCP) and Eclipse.

And in what has become one of the most anticipated talks of the conference, Simon Phipps, chief technology evangelist at Sun, will give a keynote presentation on "The Business of Open Source."

One of the reasons, perhaps the primary reason, Sun gave in its letter to Eclipse was that Sun did not want to abandon work on its own open-source development platform, known as NetBeans. So it is expected that Phipps would address this.

However, in an interview with eWEEK, Phipps was coy regarding what he would say. "Well, I dont intend to be in any way hostile to Eclipse," he said with a chuckle.

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