Consortium Formed to Guide IBM’s Open-Source Developer Project

Eclipse, the new open-source developer tool platform IBM committed over $40 million of software to in early November, is entering the next phase of its evolution with a newly appointed board of directors from a consortium of big-name providers, including Borland and Rational Software, as well as IBM.

The consortium consists of eight companies in total – Borland, IBM, Merant, QNX Software Systems, Rational Software, Red Hat, SuSe Linux AG, and TogetherSoft – each of which have committed to enable at least a portion of their solution set for the Eclipse platform. As such, the initial members of the Eclipse consortium all have representation on the project’s board of directors, giving them a modicum of control over and above the 30 or so other tools providers that have expressed support for the Eclipse project so far.

At a press conference Thursday, most of the consortium members said they expect their next-generation releases to be configured to run on Eclipse. IBM and SuSe have already enabled solutions for the new platform.

According to Marc Erickson, a program manager for IBM working closely with the Eclipse consortium, the biggest benefit of Eclipse is that it lets tools developers concentrate on their core competency. “It’ll reduce the learning curve and it’ll allow the tools developers to focus on their targets,” he says. “If I’m a modeling developer, I want to focus on modeling, not the underlying technology that makes the modeling tool work.” Eclipse provides the base level features, like debuggers and integrators, that are horizontal across all vertical segments.

Primarily, Eclipse is designed to streamline the process for creating, integrating and deploying application development tools for use across a range of computing technology. It provides a common set of services and establishes the framework, infrastructure and interactive workbench used by project developers to build application software and related elements. Configured to run on Windows, Linux and QNX developer workstations, Eclipse allows developers to integrate tools from different vendors and use them together.

A brainchild of IBM, Eclipse is based in part on Big Blue’s VisualAge for Java product line. And, in fact, it will replace that brand under the IBM DeveloperWorks’ umbrella. Although, IBM will continue to support VisualAge for Java.

Stefan van Overtveldt, program director of WebSphere technical marketing for IBM, says going forward the three main components of the VisualAge for Java line will be available as part of the Eclipse platform itself or as part of WebSphere Studio Application Developer, which is a suite of solutions IBM has built to run on top of Eclipse.

VisualAge for Java Professional will be available for free download with Eclipse Workbench, one of the primary features under the Eclipse platform. Meanwhile, VisualAge for Java Advanced will now be part of WebSphere Studio Application Developer, as will some of the features of VisualAge for Java Enterprise. And van Overtveldt says IBM will be releasing a new Eclipse-enabled product in the first quarter of 2002 to cover the remaining capabilities of VisualAge for Java Enterprise.

The Eclipse platform can be used to create and manage Web site elements, process automation definitions, object models, image files, C++ programs, pervasive enterprise class Java applications and embedded technology. Written entirely in Java, Eclipse comes with plug-in construction toolkits and examples. The platform implements a mechanism that discovers, loads and integrates the plug-ins developers need for manipulating and sharing project resources. When Eclipse is launched, the user is presented with a workbench-based integrated development environment composed of the user interfaces of available plug-ins.

In many ways, Eclipse is similar to the NetBeans platform on which Sun has built its Forte for Java line of developer tools. In fact, the Eclipse project has prompted some negative reaction from Sun insiders, who feel the effort is a direct spin-off of NetBeans. “[IBM] is forking off an existing open project that does a lot of the same things,” says Drew Engstrom, product line manager for Sun’s Forte for Java line.IBM agrees. “Eclipse is a clear superset of what is in NetBeans,” says van Overtveldt. However, he says, “Sun has never really taken the step to make [NetBeans] an industry-wide platform.” van Overtveldt says Eclipse has been opened up to the whole Java developer community, and has been received with excitement by everyone except Sun.

The working draft for the 2.0 release of Eclipse is currently available for download in open source under the Common Public License1 at According to IBM, over 100,000 copies of Eclipse have been downloaded since the platform was made open source on Nov. 7

About the Author

Matt Migliore is regular contributor to He focuses particularly on Microsoft .NET and other Web services technologies. Matt was the editor of several technology-related Web publications and electronic newsletters, including Web Services Report, ASP insights and MIDRANGE Systems.