Innoopract: The Company Behind RAP

Germany's Innoopract is driving the Rich AJAX Platform project.

SANTA CLARA, Calif.—Innoopract Informationssysteme, or simply Innoopract, is rocking the Eclipse world with its own brand of RAP, the Eclipse Rich AJAX Platform project.

Innoopract proposed and leads the RAP project, which aims to enable developers to build rich Web applications enabled by Asynchronous JavaScript and XML, using the Eclipse development model, plug-ins with the well-known Eclipse workbench extension points and a widget tool kit.

The goals of the RAP project are to allow the development of rich Internet applications that are based on the Eclipse plug-in architecture, allow Ajax user interface development based on a Java component library with the SWT (Standard Widget Toolkit) API and provide a Web workbench similar to the Eclipse platform workbench.

At the EclipseCon conference here, the Eclipse Foundation announced that the first milestone release of RAP is now available. RAP extends the existing Eclipse RCP (Rich Client Platform) by adding a series of frameworks that let developers quickly create Ajax applications.

Based on Eclipse RCP technologies, this new initiative will allow organizations to use a common component model and platform to build both rich desktop applications and rich browser-based applications.

More information on Eclipse RCP technologies can be found here.

In an interview with eWeek in Berlin in November, Jochen Krause, CEO of Innoopract, based in Karlsruhe, Germany, said the RAP project has been moving swiftly since it started.

Moreover, with 1&1 Internet joining the RAP project and contributing development resources and its Qooxdoo open-source, JavaScript-based GUI framework, the project is in full swing, the company said.

A major benefit of RAP is its close alignment to the very popular Eclipse RCP, a framework for quickly building a professional-looking application with a native look and feel on multiple platforms.

Developers familiar with RCP will find developing with RAP very similar. RCP-based applications can be easily extended with a Web-enabled UI. Furthermore, the widget tool kit used to create GUIs in RAP has an API closely related to the SWT API.

RAP uses Eclipse as a server-side programming model and hides most tasks and techniques common to developing Web programming, such as AJAX, JavaScript, XML and others. Interfaces created with RAP are translated automatically at run-time into the Qooxdoo interfaces displayed in the browser. In this way, Qooxdoo supplements high-quality user components, providing RCP-like comfort.

In addition, Krause said 1&1 is relicensing its technology so that it is compatible with Eclipse licenses.

"With RAP, were moving toward the SWT tool kit and extending the way people can use code," Krause said. "Very soon, well have the complete Eclipse Workbench look and feel."

Moreover, RAP represents "the first time you can reuse code between rich clients and Web clients. … We call it RWT, the RAP Widget Toolkit," he said.

Krause said he expects that Version 1.0 of the RAP technology will be available with Eclipse 3.3 in the June time frame.

Innoopracts commercial focus is on enterprise solutions with Eclipse, and it covers three elements: Yoxos, the companys complete production line for the Eclipse platform based on scores of plug-ins; RAP; and services.

"We want to appeal to developers because developers are the ones using the technology in the end, and they have to like it," Krause said.

Moreover, he said the Red Hat model of establishing a distribution of core components and providing support and services around it "will not work in the Eclipse world because Eclipse is so extensive, and there are so many plug-ins that you cant cover them all."

Krause said that, in his view, enterprise deployment means a customer gets a Yoxos portfolio that includes both open-source and commercial plug-ins. "Then developers can put more stuff on top of it," he said. "For example, if they are using MyEclipse (from Genuitec), and they dont want to give that up, we enable them to handle that."

Innoopracts subscription offering features quality assurance, build, test and integrate, delivery, deployment, and update services "We do automated testing, and we developed this with Kent Beck," a renowned Java testing guru, Krause said.

Innoopract also offers solutions for managing plug-ins.

"If a customer says they have a plug-in that steps on the toes of other plug-ins, our system will find out," Krause said. "One of the biggest problems with Eclipse is, you find a plug-in but you dont know all the dependencies. Developers want to share their sets of plug-ins, and were offering the management of diversity."

Innoopract, a founding member of the Eclipse Foundation, became a "strategic member" March 5. In addition, the company is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, Krause said.

"When we started, we started with Java and Web technologies, and that kept us busy for the first couple of years," Krause said. "And seeing all the issues with Web development, we created a thing known as W4T [www windowing toolkit]. We launched that in 2001. People told us we were crazy. Then Google launched something like it, GWT [the Google Web Toolkit], with the same idea of shielding developers from the complexities of Web development."

The company was gaining about half its revenue from services and about half from products at the start.

"And in 97, VC [venture capital] money was around for good ideas, but we didnt want to take VC money," Krause said. "We wanted to earn the money the hard way. It is harder, but you stay in control."

Moreover, Krause said that unlike the U.S. software industry, in Germany it is frowned upon by enterprise customers if a company has taken VC funding to build itself up.

"Then in 2002, the whole Eclipse thing started when we were looking for tooling for our technology," Krause said. "We were among the first 20 companies to join, and at that time we were mostly providing a run-time, and the tool was just to help the run-time. Then in 2003, we realized Eclipse could evolve into an interesting institution."

Krause said joining Eclipse was the best thing he could have done for his company. "I am of the mind-set that we can only be successful if we get good open-source tooling," he said.

Of the Eclipse process, he added: "There is this weird thing that Eclipse is doing to get competitors in one room at one table. It really works. We still compete. We have to; competition is good. But we come together to focus on the platform."

"Eclipse has already conquered the tooling market in record time and changed the mechanism of the software market due to its component-based approach," Krause said in a statement. "We are happy to contribute through our Strategic Membership and through the RAP project by now realizing this potential in the field of application platforms."

RAP enables for the first time server-side usage of the Eclipse workbench concept and OSGi [Open Source Gateway initiative] components for AJAX applications.

"Distribution services are an important complement to the technology produced by the Eclipse community," said Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Ottawa-based Eclipse Foundation, in a statement. "We welcome the move by Innoopract as a leading company in Eclipse distribution and as a long time Eclipse member and contributor to become a strategic member. With Innoopracts technology contributions in the [AJAX] and packaging space, Eclipse is further expanding its capabilities as a platform for software-as-a-service offerings."

Innoopract also is a contributor to the Eclipse Packaging Project; the g-Eclipse project; and Eclipse Plug-in Central, which it donated to Eclipse with two other member companies last May.

The Eclipse Packaging Project will deliver preconfigured and ready-to-install packages of Eclipse components. Each package will contain a different set of functionality covering a particular field of interest.

The first packages will be available in conjunction with the Eclipse Europa release in June at

The g-Eclipse project currently develops an Eclipse-based workbench for grid computing in close cooperation with the European Union and several research facilities. The goal is to develop Eclipse-based tooling standards for using grid computing and facilitate access to existing grid infrastructures.


Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis in programming environments and developer tools.