Dearth of Tools Hampers Linux

Is an IDE the missing link that's keeping Linux from being widely deployed in the enterprise?

An IDE could be the missing link thats keeping Linux from being widely deployed in the enterprise.

At least thats what SuSE Linux AG and a growing number of other Linux vendors contend. In an effort to turn that around, Linux providers, which have lacked a deeply integrated tool suite of the type Windows developers enjoy, are turning to third-party tools to merge with their distributions. The goal is to help developers more easily write applications for Linux.

SuSE is planning to bundle IBMs open-source Eclipse integrated development platform with its Linux distribution in March.

Markus Rex, vice president of development for SuSE, said the company unveiled the first beta of its development kit this month but will not deliver it to users until later this quarter. The kit will ship as three or four CDs and include SuSEs Linux distribution and "almost a complete set of every open-source development tool you can find on the Net—and this includes Eclipse," Rex said.

The integrated development kit will target the UnitedLinux distribution, backed by Conectiva S.A., The SCO Group, SuSE Linux and Turbolinux Inc.

Developers at last weeks LinuxWorld had mixed reactions to the need for such an IDE (integrated development environment) and to which one might serve developers best. But most agreed that for Linux to catch on with new developers, the major Linux distributors will have to do more with visual tools.

"Why dont any of the Linux distributors come out with a full-strength development environment?" asked Richard Soley, CEO of the Object Management Group, a software development and interoperability standards organization based in Needham, Mass. "Seems like an obvious missing piece."

Ron Clevenger, a founding partner of Software Prose Inc., in Fountain Valley, Calif., said full-strength tools have been lacking in Linux. "Theres a richness in [tools for] Windows and Unix thats lacking in Linux," Clevenger said.

Meanwhile, Luis Villa, a quality assurance engineer at Boston-based Ximian Inc. and a member of the release team for the open-source GNU Network Object Model Environment project, said that although an IDE for Linux has been talked about, he doesnt see it as a pressing need for most Linux developers.

"Most Linux developers are comfortable with Emacs," Villa said. "But it would be a big help with the next generation. It would be a useful step in bringing in new blood."

Villa said integrating a platform such as Eclipse "certainly cant hurt." However, "I know people who come over from the Windows world, and the first thing they say they miss is Visual Studio," he said.

In fact, Red Hat Inc.s chief technology officer, Michael Tiemann, testified in federal court during the Microsoft antitrust case that Microsofts integrated development platform provided the company a significant advantage in terms of developer mind share and that Microsoft unfairly leveraged that advantage.

Red Hat, in Raleigh, N.C., didnt comment for this story before it went to press. However,, which maintains the Debian GNU/ Linux operating system, is looking at including Eclipse in its tool set, said a representative of the Debian Project at LinuxWorld, who asked not to be named.

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