Eclipse Launches OSGi-based Runtime Project

Announced at its annual EclipseCon event, the new initiative is aimed at creating open-source runtime technology based on Equinox.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The Eclipse Foundation is announcing a runtime initiative based on Equinox, the organization's implementation of the Open Services Gateway Initiative technology.

In an interview with eWEEK, Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation, said the group is "announcing a runtime initiative by taking a number of projects and starting a new top level project," to be known as the Eclipse Runtime project or Eclipse RT.

At its annual EclipseCon conference of Eclipse developers here March 17, the Eclipse Foundation launched its new initiative to develop and promote open-source runtime technology based on Equinox, a lightweight OSGi-based runtime.

Milinkovich said that although Eclipse is known for its widely used development tools, the new community expands the Eclipse portfolio of open source projects to include runtime technology that provides more flexible approach to building and deploying software on mobile, desktop and server environments.

Equinox is based on the OSGi standard, a consistent component model that spans platforms and architectural tiers. OSGi is used for mobile and embedded devices, desktop applications and server applications hosted on a wide variety of operating systems, including Linux, Windows and Solaris. Other component models tend to be operating system specific or a tied a specific deployment tier, he said.

OSGi presents a dynamic module system for Java platforms. The OSGi framework is split up into different layers: the execution environment, which is the virtual machine; the module layer or module system for the Java platform; a lifecycle layer; and a service layer.

The new Eclipse initiative is "a continuation of what's been going on with OSGi," Milinkovich said. He said there has been "no consistent component model that spans both tiers and platforms," noting that .Net spans tiers but not platforms, and Java spans platforms but not tiers, "because Java SE [Standard Edition], ME [Micro Edition] and EE [Enterprise Edition] all have different component models," Milinkovich said.

With its new thrust, Eclipse is taking the component model and extending it to the runtime "so that the underlying platform itself is built using components, and then so is your solution," he said. "It's very analogous to what we did in the IDE [integrated development environment] space."

The project's goal is to "look at flexible deployment options and take application components and deploy them to the desktop, rich Internet applications or the server. So your decision becomes a deployment-time decision instead of a design-time decision," Milinkovich said.

James Governor, an analyst with RedMonk, said OSGi fuels the concept of the "stackless stack."

In a blog post from February, Governor said OSGi "has massive potential. It is an industry changer. Anytime an initiative from the cell phone and device world is enthusiastically adopted by major middleware vendors, you think it has to be worth examining. [In OSGi], component-based development is a common idea, but component-based production is a whole different ballgame."

OSGi also enables modules of Java classes "to be loaded on-demand. There is no need to load the entire Java stack to run an application - just the runtime services it actually requires," he said.

In addition, as part of its EclipseCon announcements, the Eclipse Foundation directors created Eclipse RT as a new top-level project designed to foster, promote and house Eclipse-based runtime efforts, Eclipse officials said.

"I have been working for quite some time to establish runtime technology at Eclipse and I am very happy that we have significant support from major companies and adoption from the community," Jochen Krause, CEO of Innoopract, of Karlsruhe, Germany, told eWEEK. "One of my big goals is to ensure the seamless integration of all runtime technologies produced at Eclipse. This will help to make Equinox a prime runtime stack."

The Eclipse Foundation also launched a new Equinox community portal on the Eclipse Web site. The portal is aimed at promoting and educating developers on Equinox, OSGi and related Eclipse runtime projects. Developers are able to download tutorials, video casts and webinars to educate them on the new approach for building software.

More than 20 companies have indicated their support and participation in the Equinox community.

Neil Bartlett, a London-based developer for a major investment bank, said Equinox has changed the software he writes.

"Banks write a lot of their own software, but it is very 'siloed' - each line of business develops its own platforms and frameworks, there is a lot of duplication of effort," Bartlett said. "What we really need is a model of reusable components with well defined dependencies and versioning. This is exactly what Equinox/OSGi provides, and unlike earlier efforts - such as J2EE [Java 2 Enterprise Edition], CORBA [Common Object Request Broker Architecture], etc. - it actually works."

Equinox imposes discipline on the development process, Bartlett said. "It requires some effort, for example, to bring in a third party library as a new dependency. Initially this can seem a drag on development but the end result is code that is far easier to deploy, manage and reuse," he said.