Eclipse Grows, Thanks to Users

Plans are afoot to expand the open-source development platform in several ways, including an SOA project.

NEW YORK—The Eclipse Foundation is looking to branch the Eclipse open-source development platform into several key areas, including life-cycle support, modeling, embedded systems, data management and systems management, a top official of the organization said.

Speaking at the EclipseWorld conference here, Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation, said that in addition to projects in all of these areas, Eclipse also will be forming a project to work on SOA (service-oriented architecture).

"Were looking for somebody to head up that project," he said.

Indeed, key drivers for the future of Eclipse include the life-cycle coverage project headed by Serena Software Inc., as well as continuing to flesh out the tools infrastructure, fostering a predictable and quality-oriented open-source community, building out an application infrastructure, and promoting a commercially successful ecosystem, Milinkovich said.

And a key part of the Eclipse application infrastructure is the foundations RCP (Rich Client Platform), which enables the creation of rich client applications.

Milinkovich defined RCP-based rich client applications as the open-source equivalent of Microsoft smart client applications, which combine the richness of a desktop environment and the lightness of a browser-based application.

Milinkovich said RCP "rules" because "the Web is not for everything." He said he views RCP applications as replacements for .Net smart client applications. In fact, he said there already exists an Eclipse plug-in for Microsoft Corp.s upcoming Vista version of the Windows operating system.

"Instead of a Microsoft-only solution, you can build atop Eclipse RCP," he said. IBMs Workplace Client is the most mature example of an RCP-based application, said Milinkovich. And he said he expects to see many more come along.

For instance, Macromedia Inc., an Eclipse member since June, said it plans to deliver a next-generation rich Internet application development tool based on Eclipse. Code-named Zorn, the new product will enable development teams to easily build and deploy applications that deliver more effective, memorable and usable experiences by leveraging the powerful capabilities of the Macromedia Flash Platform, the company said.

Milinkovich said he welcomes Macromedias expertise and membership as Eclipse continues to push its RCP project.

Meanwhile, Milinkovich said the Eclipse licensing model enables opportunity and also allows developers to give back to the community.

/zimages/1/28571.gifRead more here about the history of the Eclipse platform.

Although Eclipse is an open-source initiative, "We want to build a symbiotic relationship with commercial software companies," Milinkovich said in an interview following his keynote. "We dont want to see a situation where nobody is making money building software anymore."

In fact, speaking as he displayed a slide entitled "Eclipse Economics 101," Milinkovich said, "This is not about taking commercial opportunities away from vendors; this is about providing them with a platform to build on top of… Eclipse is a level playing field."

Milinkovich paid homage to the creators of Eclipse. "It all starts with the projects," he said. "And it wouldve never happened without IBM and their seeding the project." IBM founded the Eclipse effort and donated code and funding to kick off the effort.

Milinkovich said Eclipse is "an entire stack where eat your own dog food starts right at the bottom." He said the platform gives vendors a time-to-market advantage as well as a stable platform to build on.

However, "Power to the user is a big part of Eclipses success as well," he said.

Users have helped to find and stamp out thousands of bugs in the Eclipse code, Milinkovich said. In Eclipse 3.0, users helped find 10,000 bugs, and in the just-released Eclipse 3.1, users helped find 9,000 bugs throughout the development process of the latest release of the platform.

Meanwhile, according to industry analyst estimates, Eclipse has garnered about 55 percent adoption among Java developers. "But no matter how you look at it, Eclipse-based tools are the number one Java tools bar none," Milinkovich said. Eclipse-based tools providers include Oracle Corp., Borland Software Corp., IBM, SAP AG, Hewlett-Packard Co., Wind River, QNX, Intel Corp. and a host of others.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read about the growing success of Eclipse.

The Eclipse Foundation has 101 members and next month will announce two new members, Milinkovich said. There are 68 add-in providers and more than 900 Eclipse plug-ins, and the number of committers to Eclipse projects has increased from 220 to 470 over the last year, he said.

"Any time you have two million developers rallying around a specific platform theres an opportunity there for somebody to sell something and make some money," Milinkovich said.

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