Red Hat CTO: Can Eclipse End Java Apartheid?

In his keynote at EclipseCon 2004, Michael Tiemann, Red Hat CTO, said the Eclipse open-source development platform has reached a critical point in terms of developer attraction and industry impact. Tiemann charcterized the Java community as being "m

ANAHEIM, CALIF.— The Eclipse open source development platform has reached a critical point in terms of developer attraction and industry impact, and now having an independent organization to run it will only increase its impact, said Michael Tiemann, chief technology officer at Red Hat Inc.

Tiemann, speaking in a keynote address at the EclipseCon 2004 conference here, said, "I believe the Eclipse tipping point has just begun. Were still at the beginning of what things can benefit from it. It creates a global, distributed and open platform for being able to apply Moores law to software."

As is often the case with Tiemann, he peppered his talk with political analogies and even likened some of the issues in the open- source community to the civil rights movement.

Tiemann also spoke of the divisiveness between the Java community and the open-source community, claiming that to be one reason Sun Microsystems Inc.s NetBeans open-source development platform has not taken off and been accepted by as many developers as has the Eclipse open-source development platform.

Regarding the open source and Java community, "Its been like oil and water trying to bring those two together. Some people would rather live in a house of freedom than live in a cell with amenities," Tiemann said.

He added: "In my travels I have found the Java community to be marginalized by the Java apartheid —meaning if you are programming in Java you have to shun all other communities."

So for the IBM-led Eclipse Consortium to spin off into the independent Eclipse Foundation is "an important bridge between these two communities," Tiemann said. This way open-source developers are free to use better tools, make better tools and to benefit from integration.

Bringing the Java and open-source communities together "will break the barriers" of allowing only one set of development practices to be used in certain communities, he said.

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"Like Martin Luther Kings vision has been good for a number of communities, Eclipse will be good for software development." Regarding Eclipse versus NetBeans, Tiemann said, "The JCP [Java Commu-nity Process] has asked for a very restrictive kind of loyalty and NetBeans has had the most comfortable padded cell you can find. But Eclipse has been free."

Tiemann said when former Eclipse chairman and current Eclipse spokesman Skip McGaughey came to recruit him to be one of the founding stewards of Eclipse, "he asked me what do you want to see? I said I want to see something more than Java. C and C++ are big deals to me. And Eclipse is now a very strong multi-language environment." Tiemann said Eclipse also has implications for security because it provides the opportunity for implementing policy into files. "Tools that provide the kind of assistance that Eclipse can provide can give the open source community a tool for implementing the kind of policy required" for multi-level security systems, he said.

Gazing into a virtual crystal ball, Tiemann said that a year from now "I see Eclipse being used as a policy qualifying tool." Yet, in three years, he said he believes "Eclipse is going to be the entry point of most computer science students... Well see a large demand pickup."

In five years, "Eclipse is going to be the thing that makes people realize the genius of Emacs," Tiemann said.

Eclipse is generating its own personality in the open-source community, he added. "Well see Eclipse build its own brand," he said. "The open-source community felt rejected by Java. If Eclipse does do something different, its to provide a home for Java in the open-source community and to provide a home for Java developers."