Eclipse Seeks Sunny Future

Q&A: The head of the Eclipse Foundation says Eclipse is hitting its stride as a tools integration platform.

Mike Milinkovich heads the Eclipse Foundation, the industry consortium that maintains the open-source Eclipse application development platform. IBM spun Eclipse out as an independent entity in February 2004, and the organization hired Milinkovich as executive director later that year. Milinkovich, who is based in Ottawa, spoke with Senior Editor Darryl K. Taft about his tenure and the Eclipse Foundations future.

Whats been your biggest challenge to date as executive director of Eclipse?

Balancing. The Eclipse community is unique in that it explicitly marries an open-source project community to an industry-led consortium focused on the profitable use of the technology. It was a brilliant idea that has been the source of most of Eclipses large success. But it does involve a constant balancing act to keep all of the diverse viewpoints within the community working together harmoniously. Luckily, I have both a technical and a business background, so I can at least relate to the viewpoints of all the parties. Translating has been a big part of the job.

By nature, I am not much of a diplomat, so Ive done a lot of learning on the job over the past couple of years.

Now that Eclipse has been wildly successful at the IDE [integrated development environment] level and beyond, what direction is the foundation heading in now?

We view Eclipses success to date as primarily being around a tools integration platform, not solely as a [Java] IDE. The fact that Eclipse is a platform is what drives the growth and success of the eco­system. I would point out that this places a burden on the projects at Eclipse, as creating a platform is a lot harder than simply writing a tool. But that extra effort is what enables the eco­system, so its worth it.

Today we are witnessing Eclipse truly hitting its stride as a tools integration platform. We are shipping a lot more language IDEs than just Java, with support at Eclipse for C/C++, PHP, Ruby, Tcl, and even COBOL and FORTRAN. We are shipping tooling platforms for Web and Java EE [Java Platform, Enterprise Edition] applications, SOA [service-oriented architecture], testing and performance, reporting tools, and lots more. Basically, you can find Eclipse-based tooling frameworks to support almost every element of the life cycle.

Starting three years ago when the Rich Client Platform [RCP] shipped as part of Eclipse 3.0, we have seen Eclipse transition from a tools integration platform to also being an application integration platform for the desktop. Eclipse RCP has been very successful, and we expect to see even more growth going forward.

Looking into the future, we see the Eclipse community headed very rapidly into the direction of developing an application integration platform for servers and devices as well as clients. Eclipse is evolving and maturing to become an open development platform that supports run-times, frameworks and tools across devices, clients and servers.

/zimages/3/28571.gifTo read about the new era for the Eclipse Foundation, click here.

What are some of your favorite projects, and why?

Thats a really hard question to answer because, with so many projects at Eclipse, there is a lot to choose from. Plus, of course, as the executive director, I clearly love all our projects equally. But there are a couple of projects which I think have an attribute or two which are particularly interesting.

Our C/C++ development tools [CDT] project is clearly an Eclipse success story on many fronts. First of all, the adoption of CDT has been enormous. Especially within the embedded development world, it is emerging as the de facto standard for C/C++ IDE.

Secondly, CDT is one of the most diverse, transparent and community-led projects at Eclipse, which is a real testament to Doug Schaefer, the project leader.

Equinox is another great project—it forms the basis for virtually every project at Eclipse, as it focuses on the run-time implementation for Eclipses OSGi [Open Services Gateway initiative]-based plug-in architecture. Some of the most exciting new technologies under development at Eclipse are driven by Equinox. Examples include provisioning and server-side run-times.

Mylyn [formerly Mylar] is exciting because it is so innovative. Developers are constantly seeking ways to increase their productivity, and the task-oriented user interface enhancements that Mylyn provides for the Eclipse workbench is a huge win for Eclipse de­­velopers. With Mylyn, the Eclipse IDE is clearly the most productive development environment out there.

And finally, I always like to talk about Higgins, the identity management development framework at Eclipse. I have a personal interest in the protection of privacy and identity in todays Internet world, and what Higgins is developing will hopefully drive many improvements for all of us as consumers and private individuals who interact every day over the Internet. As a person, I find Higgins very exciting. As the executive director of Eclipse, I love the way Higgins is introducing Eclipse technologies to a whole new set of companies, communities and people.

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