IBM’s Open-Source Developer Tool Platform Moves Forward

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 Eclipse board of directors, giving them a modicum of power over and above the 30 or so other tools providers that have expressed support for the Eclipse project so far.

As of now, most of the consortium members expect to Eclipse-enable their products with their next-generation releases. Only IBM and SuSe currently have tools that run on the new platform.

In theory, 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. Eclipse, which currently runs on Windows, Linux and QNX developer workstations, allows developer 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 developed 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 diverse objects like 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.

The working draft for the 2.0 release of Eclipse is currently available for download at -Matt Migliore