Next weeks EclipseCon 2005 conference is expected to be something of a lovefest among Java toolmakers, with both BEA Systems Inc. and Borland Software Corp. committing to new and greater support for the Eclipse open source development platform.
According to sources, BEA is expected to announce its membership in the Eclipse Foundation at the conference in Burlingame, Calif., next week, a move many view as both good for BEA and good for the Java tools community at large.
Said one source with ties to the situation: “I think its a very good move, one thats long overdue. Im glad its finally happening. It will allow BEA to stop reinventing and resume innovating, which is something they used to be very good at (and Im confident it will come back).”
Anne Thomas Manes, an analyst with Burton Group Inc., said if BEA joins Eclipse, “My response would be, Its about time! And it will greatly benefit the tools industry. Tools vendors will greatly appreciate only needing to develop an Eclipse plug-in rather than one for every IDE [integrated development environment].”
Increased support from BEA and Borland would mean more broad support for the Eclipse platform, more standardization around a common framework and could hasten the work of the Java Tools Community, which is working to advance standards for what it calls “toolability” and interoperability in the Java tools space.
A source close to Eclipse said, “Eclipse as an industry-standard framework is an obvious win for application developers and tool suppliers, but a challenge for companies that had developed their own frameworks. If Borland and BEA can overcome this and participate in Eclipse at a strategic level, then everyone wins.”
Although Borland, based in Scotts Valley, Calif., and a founding member of Eclipse, has not exposed its plans for EclipseCon, the company said it would be enhancing its support and would be “making significant announcements around our support for Eclipse” at the conference.
Meanwhile, BEA is expected to join Eclipse as a Strategic Developer member, which means the San Jose, Calif., company will pay up to $250,000 annually, lead an Eclipse project and commit a minimum of eight developers to work on the Eclipse platform. Strategic Developer members also are encouraged to lead a top-level Eclipse project.
Sources said there are plans for a project based on BEAs extensible Java compiler framework, known as Javelin. But initial discussions did not indicate that this project would be a top level Eclipse project, sources said.
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However, the Eclipse Web Tools Platform (WTP) Project is a top-level project for Eclipse, and sources said BEA is being considered as potential lead for that project. Right now, the WTP is co-lead by a representative from the Eclipse Foundations staff and a representative from the ObjectWeb Consortium, a European open-source software community.
Although BEA joining Eclipse and Borland enhancing its support is not news, the movement marks positive change, observers say.
“Borland is already a member [of Eclipse] and BEA is already funding a project through a third party called Instantiations [Inc.] to support the Beehive project (an open-source version of the BEA service-oriented architecture framework) in Eclipse,” said Thomas Murphy, vice president of research services at Meta Group Inc.
“BEA doesnt really want to be in the tools space. By going to Eclipse they have a platform that has broad support, [and] they dont have to continue to fill out their suite for lifecycle, etc., because it is already there from other vendors,” Murphy said.
BEA has shown its willingness to participate in open-source initiatives, first with its XMLBeans technology and then with the Beehive technology, which essentially is the open sourcing of the BEA WebLogic Workshop tool framework. BEA transferred an offshoot of that effort to the Eclipse Foundation as part of a project called Pollinate. Meanwhile, BEA donated both XMLBeans and Beehive to the Apache Software Foundation open-source community organization.
At last years TheServerSide Java Symposium, Benjamin Renaud, then deputy chief technology officer at BEA and current senior director of telecommunications products at the company, said BEA was open sourcing the WebLogic Workshop framework to spur tool innovation around it.
Meanwhile, although Borland was a founding member of Eclipse, the company never based its core Java tools framework around the Eclipse platform. Yet, sources said Borland has now set its sights on the overall application lifecycle and may be willing to offer concessions on the IDE side of things. For instance, Eclipse could become Borlands core IDE, or the company could deliver an enhanced version of JBuilder or a JBuilder replacement based on Eclipse, sources said.
Borland could be looking at Eclipse in the same way it views Microsoft Corp.s Visual Studio .Net. “In the same way, rather than trying to compete with Visual Studio, they are going to build around it,” Murphy said.
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“Eclipse has already established itself as the leading [Java] IDE framework,” Manes said. “Its seriously eroding Borlands market share. BEA has spent a lot of money developing Workshop, but I dont think its won much market share to date. I think BEA would be better off implementing their IDE componentry as plug-ins to Eclipse,” she said.
“Its a tougher decision for Borland,” Manes said. “The JBuilder IDE is their crown jewel. But I think Borland could retarget their entire SDLC [software development lifecycle] tool suite around an Eclipse foundation. It will be a lot of work, but I think they need to do it to survive.”
The news of BEA and Borland clinging to Eclipse leaves Sun Microsystems Inc. as an outsider among major Java supporters by its unwillingness to support Eclipse, an effort initially led and funded by IBM. Sun had been in talks with the Eclipse organizations leadership about how the company could support Eclipse or possibly join the organization but decided the effort would be too great and that Sun had too much invested in its NetBeans open-source development platform.
“Alas, NetBeans is nowhere,” Manes said.
“My expectation is that Oracle will be the only one with its own toolset by the end of the year except for some other smaller companies like JetBrains,” Murphy said. “Sun and IBM are going to find some way to come together—they should—or the power of the JCP will be jeopardized and the open-source community will drive de facto standards while the de jure standards matter to a smaller audience.”
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