Eclipse Foundation Evolves Open Source Framework
by Rikki Kirzner, Partner
The Eclipse Foundation was formed in February 2004 when IBM placed its Eclipse Platform into open source. Since then Eclipse has evolved into an open source framework designed to give tool vendors and developers a platform on which they can build high value capabilities. The goal of Eclipse today is to make software development more manageable, predictable, and efficient by giving developers the ability to choose the languages, platforms, and vendors they prefer.
Hurwitz & Associates views Eclipse with admiration sprinkled with a few grains of impatient discontent. We have to admire Eclipse for what the organization has managed to accomplish in the past 12 months. To date there are over 90 companies participating in the Eclipse community along with 380 committees working on a variety of technologies, solutions, and standards, and just under 40 projects in development. Many of the leading tool vendors are contributing their products as plug-ins to the Eclipse framework. Their efforts have made the Eclipse framework one of the most widely used Java development environments worldwide.
Some of the recent and notable vendor contributions include Borland’s commitment to devote a full-time development team to help expand the platform. Borland is building application lifecycle management capabilities to Eclipse that include its modeling tools and some of its Microsoft cross development solutions. IBM will be adding tools for building Apache Derby database applications and leads the Eclipse Voice Tools Project to give developers a standard way to write speech applications. BEA Systems co-chairs the Web Tools Platform and is proposing a new Language Development Tools project. BEA is also in the process of merging its own open source AspectWerkz project with the Eclipse AspectJ project. Mentor Graphics has contributed its Nucleus EDGE software, an embedded tool suite that allows developers to build, compile, debug and deploy embedded applications.
Our impatient discontent centers around what still has to occur before the framework can achieve the full vision of a platform in which developers can mix and match best of breed solutions to create their own customized IDE. Much of what is required to pull together a complete suite of development tools is still in development or in the planning stages. Chief among these is the Microsoft technologies and tools. Microsoft is considering extending at least the free Visual Studio SDK to the Eclipse platform since many of its customers are supporting the Eclipse platform. Visual Studio does support integration throughout the Visual Studio stack and many of Microsoft’s partners are considering how to plug their Microsoft products to Eclipse.
The analogy that best describes the current situation is that of building a house. The framework is done and you can find most of the pieces you need to make the house livable. There are plumbing pipes, joints, electrical connections, power lines, switches, wallboards, plaster, nails, hammers, roof shingles, rafters, and, appliances, etc. The frustration comes in the fact that you have to know where to look to find everything you need. Once you found those items, for the most part, you will need to assemble it yourself. Unfortunately, along the way you will discover not everything to make your home truly livable is available, yet.
Nevertheless, Hurwitz & Associates believes that Eclipse is attracting the right companies and technologies that will allow it to scale to its vision. Its leadership has done a stellar job in overcoming the objections that this organization was just an IBM platform in disguise or that it couldn’t survive as a Java platform without Sun’s active participation. Eclipse’s achievements to date prove beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Eclipse is gaining momentum and traction that will enable the organization to not only promote a universal development platform for software development but to provide the generic building blocks and APIs upon which developers will be able to add new functionality. As long as it continues on its current path, we expect the Eclipse Platform to exceed its original vision as not only a development framework, but as a new breed of open source integration platform for other tools and technologies.