EclipseCon: IBM, Sun Set the Tools Stage

This week's EclipseCon confab is expected to foster hearty discussion on the state of Java tooling.

This weeks EclipseCon confab on the Eclipse open-source development platform is expected to foster hearty discussion on the state of Java tooling, particularly as Sun Microsystems Inc. continues to consider how it can work with Eclipse.

Grady Booch, an IBM Fellow with the companys Rational division, said he will deliver a keynote Wednesday that will track the history of the tools market, ranging from command line tools to integrated development environments (IDEs) to extended development environments (XDEs) to collaborative development environments (CDEs). Booch said Eclipse plays into this progression, as it is the base of IBMs tools future.

Rationals mission within IBM has come to "truly be IBMs development brand," Booch said. He said the unit is looking at things such as process, model-driven development, change management and quality by design.

"Ive been looking at the next three-to-five years," Booch said.

Highlighting his keynote in an interview with eWEEK, Booch said in the history of tooling, "the early tools were monolithic, command line tools that were like banging rocks together." That changed with the advent of research out of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), which produced languages such as Mesa and Cedar that included modern software development features like garbage collection and dynamic typing. Then came more advanced languages like Ada and Smalltalk, "which brought some novel ideas to the development space because you could live inside a running application and probe around it – and you had access to all the artifacts. Then there was Turbo Pascal, which changed the world for the PC developer," followed shortly after by Visual Basic, Booch said. Rational built its early tools around the Ada language "because it was the best language of its time to bring modern software development features to bear."

Booch acknowledged that many hardcore developers prefer to code in a favored editor such as Emacs. However, "Eclipse has been gaining attraction form the Emacs world and is taking developer share from Emacs," he said.

IDEs began to take on more aspects of the development spectrum. And "with the advent of tools spanning the lifecycle we see modeling being used," said Booch, who is a key author of the Unified Modeling Language (UML). The addition of modeling support integrated into the Rational IDE was the basis of the companys XDE product.