Eclipse Foundation: 10 Years Down, Many More to Come

On its 10th anniversary, the Eclipse Foundation looks back at its origins and ahead to new projects focusing on the Internet of things, cloud development and more.

The Eclipse Foundation celebrated its 10th anniversary this week, moving from a consortium of companies championing a Java integrated development environment (IDE) to a multi-faceted organization that continues to set the tone for open-source software development with competing corporate entities providing governance.

Originally created as a consortium when IBM released the Eclipse Platform into open source in 2001, the Eclipse Foundation was formed as an independent, not-for-profit and vendor-neutral organization and announced on Feb. 2, 2004. Since that time, the Eclipse Foundation has grown from 19 projects and 50 members to 247 projects and 205 members, said Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation.

Eclipse's collaborative governance model has led to the creation of a number of collaborative working groups in industries and technologies such as aerospace, automotive, geospatial and the Internet of things (IoT).

“This is a major milestone for the Eclipse community,” Milinkovich told eWEEK. “We’re pretty proud of what we’ve done as an independent foundation.”

Eclipse originally focused on providing an extensible platform for building desktop software development tools. However, the Eclipse community has grown to cover a wide range of technologies, including rich client platforms, modeling, Web-based development tools, Java server runtimes, and frameworks, protocols and tools for the Internet of things.

“I would say that the formation of the original Eclipse Consortium was a watershed event in the arena of software technology,” said Mike Taylor, president and CEO of Instantiations, a founding member of Eclipse. “It led directly to the formation of the Eclipse Foundation, which may be one of the most successful and high impact open-source software efforts in history. Millions and millions of people and companies have based their software development and applications on Eclipse. For this community to have hung together and created such stunningly effective software for so many years is the real tribute to the technology. It hasn’t always been a smooth ride, people and companies sometimes tend to bicker and/or push their own agendas. However, the Eclipse technology base has transcended all that.”

Eclipse substantially changed the Java IDE and software development tools industry, becoming the dominant Java IDE and application lifecycle management (ALM) tool platform for software developers. In addition to its Java dominance, Eclipse has become the de facto standard for C and C++ IDEs in the embedded and silicon vendor industry.

“In 10 years, Eclipse has gone from what the site once called ‘an IDE for everything and nothing in particular’ to what one might now call ‘an extensible framework for everything and nothing in particular,’” said Todd Williams, vice president of technology and co-founder of Genuitec, a founding member of Eclipse. “That might seem like a small change in wording, but the impact is immense. I think the first seminal turning point for the technology at Eclipse was the realization that Eclipse could be used for more than IDEs, an idea which became the Rich Client Platform project. This gave Eclipse a lot of breadth in the desktop software market, well past the original target of IDEs.”

Milinkovich said starting in 2006, Eclipse was the first open-source organization that has demonstrated the ability to ship annual releases on time to the day each and every year for the past 10 years.

In addition, Eclipse was the first open-source organization to demonstrate that market competitors such as IBM, BEA, Borland, Sybase, Oracle, SAP, Google, and others could collaborate successfully in governing an open-source community, Milinkovich said.

“We demonstrated that you can have large companies and many direct competitors in the governance of a community, and we set the bar for IP [intellectual property] management in an open-source organization,” he said.

Eclipse has established a set of best practices for open-source IP management that has led to pervasive use of Eclipse open-source technology in commercial products. Eclipse has scanned more than 2,000 third-party, open-source libraries to assure their IP cleanliness.