Eclipse Reorganizes Into Independent Entity

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2004-02-03

Eclipse Reorganizes Into Independent Entity

ANAHEIM, Calif.—The Eclipse Board of Stewards Monday announced Eclipses reorganization into a not-for-profit corporation known as the Eclipse Foundation.

The organization initially formed after IBM released the Java-based Eclipse Platform into the open-source community, Eclipse is now an independent body that will drive the platforms evolution to benefit the providers of software development offerings and end users. The announcement came at the first annual EclipseCon conference here.

The new organization is in the process of setting up its new board, selecting an executive director and establishing roadmaps for projects under way. Foundation officials said Eclipse has established a board of directors drawn from four classes of membership: Strategic Developers, Strategic Consumers, Add-in Providers and Open Source project leaders. Strategic Developers and Strategic Consumers hold seats on this board, as do representatives elected by Add-in Providers and Open Source project leaders. Strategic Developers, Strategic Consumers and Add-in Providers contribute annual dues. The founding Strategic Developers and Strategic Consumers are Ericsson, Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM, Intel Corp., MontaVista Software, QNX, SAP AG and Serena Software. In the coming weeks, the board will announce its selection of a full-time executive director to lead the Eclipse management organization.

Eclipse spokesman Skip McGaughey, former chairman of the organization and an IBM employee, in a statement said, "This is a significant step forward in the evolution of Eclipse. For the open source development community, were establishing a strong support base that will strengthen the projects and expand a powerful reusable architecture. This creates long-term opportunities for reuse, interoperation and innovation that enable both providers and consumers to take development tool technology to the next level in functionality integration and usability."

"We believe that the new independent entity will make Eclipse much stronger, more open and more customer-focused," said Rich Main, director of Java development environments for SAS Institute Inc., of Cary, N.C., and an Eclipse member. "Because of Eclipses importance as a Java development environment, this can only serve to make the whole Java platform stronger."

Next page: Independence an "important step."

Page Two

Mike Taylor, president and chief executive of Instantiations Inc., of Portland, Ore., said independence for Eclipse will be a "really important step to the growing up of the movement" to promote an open-source development environment to compete with the Microsoft .Net environment. And independence will mean "the criticism about undue influence from IBM is out the door."

When Sun Microsystems Inc. acknowledged it was mulling over an invitation from Eclipse to join the organization IBM formed and that counts Oracle Corp., HP, Borland Software Corp. and SAP among its members, one thing Sun officials said they were concerned about was the perception of influence by IBM over the process, even to the name of the organization—Eclipse, viewed as an attempt to shade out Sun. In December Sun announced it was not going to join Eclipse but would continue to enhance its own NetBeans open-source development platform.

However, in a recent briefing with the press in San Francisco, Sun Fellow and Vice President James Gosling said the Unix and Linux systems company is still considering joining the company and that talks between Sun and Eclipse continue. And an open letter from Sun to Eclipse last week reiterated the Unix systems companys interest in working with Eclipse.

Read "Is Eclipse in Suns Future?"

A source close to Eclipse acknowledged this, but said one window has closed on the negotiations. Sun had proposed that one prerequisite of it joining Eclipse was that it change its name to something Sun viewed as less offensive. Eclipse officials were open to a name change, and would have changed the name, sources said.

"If they joined before the incorporation process started in December, Eclipse would have changed its name," a source close to Eclipse said. Sun could still join, but at least for now the Eclipse Foundation will be the name of the independent entity. Any changes would be up to the new board, which will form in two weeks.

Next page: Commitment to a commercial product.

Page Two

McGaughey, executive director of Eclipse, said the new organization will work and look a lot like the Apache Foundation. Members of the organization will have to commit to providing a commercial product that supports Eclipse within 12 months of joining, he said.

In addition, McGaughey said there will be different levels of membership in the independent organization. Membership in the new Eclipse will no longer be free for commercial entities. The entry-level members, to be known as the Plug-In tier and which will consist of Eclipse add-on vendors, will pay $5,000 a year. There will be two levels of Strategic Partners, who must commit developers and pay up to $250,000. In addition, there will be individual committers, or individuals elected to develop code for Eclipse and who will have write-access to the code base, McGaughey said. There will also be Associate memberships, which will include academia, open-source organizations and non-profits. There will be no membership fee for individual committers and associate members.

McCaughey acknowledged that talks with Sun continue and that an invitation to the company remains open. In addition, he said Eclipse is considering whether to join or how to work with the recently formed Java Tools Community (JTC), an effort led by Sun, Oracle and BEA Systems Inc. to promote tools interoperability.

Click here for more about the Java Tools Community.

Although the new board will have to decide what the organization does, "Im optimistic that this is going to be a very positive thing," McGaughey said.

Andrzej Delegacz, a database analyst with the Virginia Commonwealth University Health System in Richmond, said, "Eclipse is a big thing in Java programming, but not just Java. It has the chance to become a common platform for other languages as well." An independent entity is better from "an open source community point of view," he said.

Meanwhile, McGaughey will relinquish his executive director title and go back to work at IBM, where he was on loan from. He said the new Eclipse board will elect a new director from four candidates that have been culled from the group; "a non-IBMer," he added.

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