SAS Adds Momentum to Java Tools Movement

SAS' director of Java development environments discusses what Eclipse means for the Java tools space.

Members of the Eclipse Foundation and others interested in the future of the Java-based open-source development platform, and in Java tooling in general, are gathering at EclipseCon 2004 in Anaheim, Calif., to assess the state of the technology and other issues such as the organizations relationship with Sun Microsystems Inc. and its NetBeans open-source development platform. One keen observer, if not a participant in the discussions, is SAS Institute Inc.s director of Java Development Environments, Rich Main, who answered a handful of questions for eWEEK Senior Editor Darryl K. Taft. SAS is a member of Eclipse as well as the Java Tools Community, and Main is actively involved in both.

As a member of Eclipse, will SAS be at EclipseCon? If so, will you be making any announcements there?

Yes, SAS will be represented at EclipseCon. I will be speaking as part of a panel of Eclipse stewards discussing tools interoperability. I believe that another SAS employee will be giving a poster presentation on Eclipse.

What are your thoughts on the importance of Eclipse as an independent entity?

We believe that the new independent entity will make Eclipse much stronger, more open and more customer-focused. Because of Eclipses importance as a Java development environment, this can only serve to make the whole Java platform stronger. This was SAS motivation for actively participating in the Eclipse independent entity and legal subcommittees.

We felt that it was important to be involved in drafting the development process, the new Eclipse public license and the intellectual property policy. We wanted to make certain that there was a mechanism to collect end-user customer input as part of the process of creating the Eclipse roadmap. It was critical for us to participate in order to ensure that the new Eclipse would remain as innovative as in the past while also allowing and encouraging greater community participation—especially as it pertains to the enterprise business intelligence space that is so important to our customers.

What does it mean for Java developers and for the tools space?

The obvious answer today is that Eclipse is meaningful because it provides a powerful, extensible development environment that simply lets developers get their work done. However, going forward, the real benefit will come from leveraging tools like Eclipse to make development, deployment and maintenance of Java-based solutions easier and more cost-effective. In doing so, we also need to make sure that the underlying Java platform is well-designed to support such development tooling. This is where I believe that Eclipse and the Java Tools Community have a tremendous amount of synergy—with the ultimate focus of delivering a Java runtime platform and an array of competitive tooling that solve our customers real-world business problems.

Do you think Eclipse will join the Java Tools Community? Whats the likelihood based on what you know?

I certainly cannot speak officially for Eclipse—such a decision will be left up to a vote of the new board. However, based upon the discussions that I have had with other Eclipse stewards, I believe that there is a high likelihood that the new Eclipse Foundation will join the Java Tools Community. And not just Eclipse itself, but also quite a few of the individual member companies within the Eclipse consortium, as well. Many of these companies have a vested interest in improving Java standards.

So, while there is a current perception in some quarters that the Java Tools Community is competitively positioned against Eclipse, they are in fact very complementary groups. Eclipse is focused on implementing world-class development tools. The Java Tools Community is focused on improving the underlying Java standards on which tools such as Eclipse are built. The Java Tools Community will bring Java tool vendors and end users together to identify the current Java development pains and to define ways that we can solve them by driving requirements into the various Java standards. In this respect, I see the Java Tools Community as being very complementary to Eclipse because it gives the Eclipse community a way to communicate their specific needs to the JCP.

Finally, what are some of the areas where you see room for innovation around Eclipse?

SAS is focusing in on putting our world-class analytics and business intelligence capabilities into the hands of Java developers. This will allow them to build enterprise-class business intelligence applications. Java is a strategic platform for us because our customers deploy their critical enterprise solutions on a wide array of hardware and software platforms—Java is everywhere that they want to be.

For us, the Java development platform and application framework aspects of Eclipse are very attractive. We plan to deliver our business intelligence application development tooling as plug-ins to Eclipse, and we are also investigating the potential of Eclipse as an application framework. This is why standards are so important to us. In order to be comfortable that Eclipse can also be everywhere that our customers want to be, we need to make sure that the underlying Java standards are well-defined and that they support development of the kind of features that Eclipse must provide in order to satisfy our customers needs.