Mike Milinkovich became executive director of the Eclipse Foundation in June after 20 years in the software business. Most recently, Milinkovich was vice president of Oracle AS Technical Services at Oracle Corp. Milinkovich has held key management positions at Oracle, WebGain Inc., The Object People Inc. and Object Technology International Inc., which became a wholly owned IBM subsidiary. Milinkovich spoke with eWEEK Senior Editor Darryl K. Taft via phone from his base in Ottawa.
What prompted you to accept the job as executive director of Eclipse?
My whole career has been about walking the line between business and technology. I was fascinated with the role at Eclipse because it allows me to deal with both of those in very deep ways. I get to work with some of the brightest technical minds in the software industry, working on projects that millions of developers use. On the business side, I am very interested in the enormous amount of innovation happening in open source. The opportunity to take a role at Eclipse was just too interesting a challenge to pass up.
What have you accomplished during your tenure?
There are three major areas: growth in our open-source projects, growth in membership, and progress in administration and governance. With our open-source projects … we have created three new top-level projects for Web tools, test and performance tools, and business intelligence and reporting tools. At the same time, we have also proposed and/or created a number of very exciting technology incubators such as Pollinate, the Eclipse communications framework, and the embedded rich-client platform.
On the membership side, we have brought in more than a dozen new members since May. It is a great mix of companies large and small. We have established the Eclipse councils for requirements, planning and architecture. Eclipse is the only large open-source community that is trying to have all of its major projects share a common vision and road map. These councils are the mechanism we are using to accomplish that goal. It is still a bit of an experiment.
What was your biggest challenge coming in to the job?
Dealing with the rate and pace of growth at Eclipse. We are basically starting from scratch in many areas but, at the same time, are supporting hundreds of developers, hundreds of commercially available Eclipse-based products, and providing downloads and access to millions of users.
Whats your biggest challenge going forward?
Dealing with growth. Eclipse is growing at an enormous rate on all dimensions. But the staff of the Eclipse Foundation is currently five people. We are not going to be able to do everything that Eclipse needs on our own. It is only by relying on the energy and passion of Eclipses supporters that we can be successful.
How has Eclipse evolved since it became an independent organization?
Now that the world sees that Eclipse is clearly independent, the status has led to rapid growth in both the projects and the membership. We believe that there were quite a few developers and companies who were waiting to see if the Eclipse Foundation would successfully establish itself as an independent entity. That is now behind us, and we are gaining enormous traction as a result.
Has Eclipse learned anything from the Java Community Process?
Eclipse had the benefit of looking at the experiences of many different organizations, and we definitely learned a great deal from the JCP. We view them as a very important standards organization, and we implement many of the JSR [Java Specification Request] specifications within various Eclipse projects. I would say that two of the things we learned from the JCP are the importance of openness and transparency and the advantages of ensuring that no organization has more than one vote.
Is Sun Microsystems Inc. joining Eclipse a dead issue?
The idea of Sun joining Eclipse is certainly not dead from the Eclipse perspective. Our door is always open.
How do you see the Eclipse ecosystem shaping up against the Microsoft [Corp.] ecosystem that theyre shooting for with Visual Studio 2005 and Visual Studio Team System?
As the old saying goes, “Imitation is the finest form of flattery.” Eclipse started working on its ecosystem three years ago, and its growth and energy speaks for itself. I expect that if Microsoft focuses on community building that they will be very successful. Eclipse stands out as the only credible non-Microsoft tooling platform, but I personally dont feel that we compete with Microsoft or Visual Studio. Usually, developers pick the tools based on the platform they are targeting. So the decision to use Visual Studio or Eclipse is rarely made by directly comparing the two technologies or their ecosystems.
Whats the significance of Eclipse 3.0?
Eclipse 3.0 was a very important milestone for Eclipse for a number of reasons. It was the first time that we shipped a number of different projects at the same time. In June, we released the Eclipse platform and Java development tools—what most people think of as Eclipse 3.0. But at the same time we also shipped new versions of our C/C++ development tools and our test and performance tools.
Second, the Eclipse platform shipped a couple of very significant enhancements that moved Eclipse to being a platform for applications construction and integration as well as tooling. The Eclipse Rich Client Platform is a wonderful technology that provides application and product developers with the ability to create, deploy and manage rich-client applications on multiple platforms. Third, Eclipse is now becoming a mature, stable platform. We expect Eclipse 3.0 to be the basis for commercial and open-source projects for a long time to come.