Sun Mulls Joining Java Eclipse Effort

An independent organization could entice Sun to join the IBM-sponsored Eclipse open-source development platform effort-a move that could have a dramatic impact in the Java tools space.

In an about-face that could have a dramatic impact in the Java tools space, Sun Microsystems Inc. has indicated it might be willing to join the IBM-sponsored Eclipse open-source development platform effort—but only if momentum to spin off the effort into an independent organization continues.

Eclipse already seems to be moving from an IBM-led organization to an independent one. The inclusion of Sun in the Eclipse group would be a major move in the Java development space, bringing the two largest Java development organizations together. It would also bolster the Java community against Microsoft Corp.s .Net architecture and Visual Studio .Net development tools.

Rich Green, vice president of Sun developer tools and Java software, in Santa Clara, Calif., made overtures toward the Eclipse effort in an interview with eWEEK last week, saying he favors a standard that open-source development platform developers can access to build Java applications and Web services.

The Eclipse effort was started in 2001 as an alternative to Suns Java-based NetBeans open-source tools platform. The name was chosen to signify an effort to overshadow Suns efforts in the area.

Eclipse vs. NetBeans

Eclipse supporters

  • IBM, Borland, Red Hat Inc., Intel Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., SuSE Inc., SAS Institute Inc., Fujitsu Ltd., Hitachi Ltd., SAP AG

NetBeans supporters

  • Sun, BEA, Compuware Corp., Embarcadero Technologies Inc., Iona Technologies Inc., Novell Inc., Parasoft, Systinet Corp., HP/Compaq
Green, however, said he does not see the two efforts as conflicting and said that with the "hint that Eclipse might be changing their structure and maybe separating from IBM," Sun would be interested in working with the organization.

Joining Suns new Project Rave developer program with Eclipse would put more developers toward the 10- million-developer goal Sun officials have set for the Java ranks.

Skip McGaughey, chairman of Eclipse and an IBM official on loan to the organization, said the Eclipse board of stewards has been working to transition to an independent organization for the last six months and will probably take another three months before it can completely spin off from its IBM sponsorship.

Once the transition occurs, McGaughey said, he expects Eclipse membership to increase. Speaking on whether independence could affect the groups membership, McGaughey said, "I think so, yes. There are a couple of companies that are industry leaders, such as Sun and BEA [Systems Inc.], that we would like to see join Eclipse."

McGaughey said that in March of last year, the Eclipse board of stewards voted to invite Sun and BEA into its fold, "and weve been working since then to try to bring them in."

Part of the transition to an independent organization will include the selection of a board of directors—separate from the board of stewards—to run the organization as a business entity, McGaughey said.

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