Eclipse, IBM, Java Tools and All That Jazz

Opinion: The Eclipse Foundation is asking IBM to scale back its support as IBM promotes its Jazz collaborative software engineering technology. But the two are not related. Or are they?

I came back from last weeks EclipseCon conference of Eclipse developers with even more respect for IBMs vision of creating a community around the core application development software the company open-sourced years ago. Why? Because the Eclipse community just continues to grow and the EclipseCon conference just seems to get better,

This years event in Santa Clara, Calif., was perhaps the best yet in terms of raw information released, and the quality and number of sessions and exhibitors. But I think the most exciting EclipseCon so far was the first one, the one in 2004 held in Anaheim in Disney territory, because it established Eclipse as an independent entity apart from IBM and everybody was excited about where the organization was headed.

Well, folks are still excited even though the organization has reached such a level of maturity that in June Eclipse is planning to release its second annual release train, known as Europa, which will feature at least 22 projects. Europa more than doubles last years Eclipse release train, known as Callisto, which only had 10 projects.

Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation, said, "We believe the annual release train is the single biggest chunk of open-source software going out at one time."

Meanwhile, as the organization has grown, so has its need to become even more independent from IBM, Milinkovich said. With that in mind, Milinkovich said he has begun the process of weaning Eclipse off of IBMs technological teat. Indeed, Milinkovich said he has asked IBM to pull back some of its resources on the core Eclipse Platform project so that other leading member companies could provide bodies to do some of the engineering that IBMs been handling.

/zimages/7/28571.gifThe Eclipse Foundation is at a crossroads, having to deal with rapid growth and weaning itself off the IBM support systems. Click here to read more.

Milinkovich said in some projects IBM still represents up to 80 percent of the core development team. That, he said, is not good for Eclipse, and as executive director, his call was to move for change.

That prompted a response from some member companies who took a cynical view. Indeed, admitting that his viewpoint was cynical and meant to generate discussion, one representative of an Eclipse strategic developer company, said, "It looks like IBM used Eclipse to get rid of its competition, and now its moving off to focus on its Jazz" platform.

But the move is Milinkovichs—the Eclipse organizations, not IBMs. Milinkovich is a straight shooter. And he always has been since the day I first contacted him … back in May of 2004 when I found out he had been selected as the executive director of the newly formed Eclipse Foundation and I had to call him at home for confirmation. He didnt confirm, but he also didnt deny. He played it straight, just like hes run Eclipse.

Meanwhile, Jazz is IBMs project to bring collaboration deeper into the software development life cycle by adding collaborative features to the various roles and steps of the development process. In its simplest form, Jazz integrates the functionality of collaborative tools like Lotus Sametime into the development scheme to better enable distributed development teams to work together.

And thats all good. Developers welcome that, as can be evidenced by standing-room only crowds whenever Jazz has been the subject of talks and demonstrations such as at EclipseCon, JavaOne and the IBM Rational Software Development Conference last year and again at EclipseCon this year.

But add to that the fact that the individual Java developer tools market is dead or quickly dying—effectively done in by Eclipse. And greater evidence of that can be seen in Exadels recent decision to open-source its tools under Red Hats umbrella. Of course, Genuitec and JetBrains will (and can) argue that point, as they both make money selling Java tools—Genuitec by selling Eclipse-based tools and JetBrains by selling proprietary tools.

And add that theory on the Java tools market to some fuzzy messaging around Jazz, and you get some concerned developers.

"Im concerned about what IBM is planning with Jazz," said one developer at EclipseCon. "Its cool technology, but theyre saying they want to build their own community around it. That doesnt sound like a good thing for Eclipse—to have two open-source communities? I know they dont want to hurt Eclipse because its their tools model and if they weaken Eclipse it will be bad for IBM. They have a hard problem to solve."

But as much as that Eclipse aficionado may be making much ado about very little, IBM has not been very clear on what its overall plans around Jazz are. What the company has said is that it would open-source a core portion of the technology, that it will try to foster an Eclipse-like ecosystem community around it and that Jazz will become parts of IBM Rationals toolset by the end of this year or beginning next year.

In a quick post-EclipseCon chat with Danny Sabbah, general manager of the IBM Rational business unit, he said Eclipse developers have no reason for concern about Jazz. The open-source community IBM envisions around Jazz "is not at all competitive—its complementary and it extends Eclipse. It moves Eclipse into a server-side play, and it uses Eclipse as its core."

Yet, Sabbah would not go so far as to say just what IBM will open source, or how or where it will do it. "Were sorting all of that out," he said. "There is a portion that will be a commercial entity, and there is a portion that will be donated to open source to establish standards."

Moreover, Sabbah said the tools market is alive and kicking.

"The tools market is not dead at all," Sabbah said. "Im running a billion-dollar business around tools. Its weak linear thinking to say Eclipse killed the tools market. Eclipse was a boon to the tools market."

And, hopefully, Jazz will extend that. "Were taking Eclipse from a view of supporting an individual developer to supporting a group of developers," Sabbah said.

Other key issues, among many, from this years event included the unleashing of Open Services Gateway Initiative (OSGi) as a major theme in the Eclipse community and the subtle, but resounding announcement that Skip McGaughey, the founding chairman of the Eclipse Consortium (back when it was known as that in 2001), is leaving the organization in May.

/zimages/7/28571.gifClick here to read more about OSGi.

In addition to that, Milinkovich added his annual roundup of statistics from the conference. There were 665 gallons of coffee consumed at the event, 7,362 drink tickets issued, 347 miles walked by Eclipse personnel, 4,900 hours of on-site labor done by conference staffers, 783 simultaneous online users at the peak of usage, 322 megabytes of presentation files, 368 sessions, 58 recommended tracks, a $2,867.32 bar tab run up by conference award winners and their friends, 36 exhibitors, 447 different companies who sent people to the show, and 1,353 attendees.

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