EclipseCon Wrap-Up

The open source Eclipse Foundation held its first-ever developer conference, where it announced its break from IBM and Sun said it might join after all.

It’s been an eventful fortnight for the open source Eclipse organization, which last week held its first-ever developer conference, EclipseCon 2004, and also announced its reorganization into a not-for-profit corporation known as the Eclipse Foundation.

Before that, on the eve of EclipseCon 2004, Sun Microsystems Inc.—which publicly snubbed Eclipse in December—published an open letter in which it said that the company just might consider joining after all.

During his keynote address at the conference last Thursday, Simon Phipps, chief technology evangelist for Sun, confirmed that his company was still in “secret negotiations” with the Eclipse Foundation. At the same time, Phipps confirmed that Sun doesn’t intend to use or produce an Eclipse product of its own, and argued that Eclipse should consider joining the new Java Community Tools (JTC) organization. “Today, I think the best thing would be for the newly independent Eclipse to join the Java Tools Community and then have Eclipse join the Java Community Process," he said.

Sun’s unwillingness to produce an Eclipse product is not unusual. Although Eclipse has 58 member companies at present, some of them—such as Oracle Corp.—produce no Eclipse products of their own. Instead, Oracle says that it joined Eclipse to ensure that applications written in the Eclipse IDE work properly when deployed in Oracle environments. "We want to help anyone, in any environment, build to the Oracle runtime, even if it's not our tools. So for other IDEs, like Borland's JBuilder and Eclipse, we want to make sure that users who have chosen those runtimes and not ours still have a good experience building to the Oracle Application Server and Oracle database,” said Ted Farrell, chief architect for JDeveloper with Oracle, in an interview last December.

In an open letter published on its Web site the Friday before EclipseCon 2004, Sun said a transition to the Eclipse platform would require a reconstruction of its existing development tools. The Unix giant also claimed that a criterion for membership in Eclipse is the abandonment of its own NetBeans open source integrated development environment (IDE) framework. “Any entry criteria requiring that Sun abandon the NetBeans open source platform directly conflicts with the concept of choice and diversity, the very bases [sic] that gave Eclipse its beginning. If this condition were to change, we would be happy to reconsider,” Sun wrote in its letter.

Skip McGaughey, former Eclipse chair and interim spokesperson for the Eclipse Foundation, admits that he can’t say all that much about Sun’s claims, largely because he’s been the point man for negotiations all along.

At the same, McGaughey stresses, the condition that a company abandon development on its own related technologies is not a requirement for membership in Eclipse. “Any company, anywhere in the world, can join Eclipse with the same membership agreement, and they all meet the same membership requirements." He added, "The bylaws specifically call for … no exclusionary relationship, so we don’t require any company to give up any of their technology to join Eclipse, and we would welcome Sun’s participation.” Negotiations with Sun, he says, “are ongoing to this day.”

McGaughey also positions Eclipse as complementary to the JTC, which some industry watchers have depicted as a rival. “Eclipse is all about code. We write code, and we implemented those standards, so it’s a very complementary thing from the JTC, which is focused on requirements through the specification standards process into the code process. We’re not a standards organization, and we’re not a requirements organization. We write code, that’s all we do,” he says.

McGaughey discussed Eclipse’s recent organizational change, noting that although the former Eclipse organization operated relatively free from IBM’s hegemony, the new Eclipse Foundation is a completely autonomous entity. “IBM has played a major role in contributing developers and resources. … What we’re doing now is we’re expanding that pool of resources and we’re expanding the technology boundaries associated with Eclipse, so as major companies like Intel and HP and SAP come in and assume leadership roles, they contribute dollars and they contribute developers,” he says.

The new Eclipse governing board is structured a lot like the United Nations, with eight permanent members (one of which is Big Blue) and four temporary members.

“At the board of directors, there are eight strategic companies that are on the board, and all of the individual commiters—who are the open source leaders—elect two representatives, and all add-in provider companies elect two representatives, so the total board is twelve,” he explains, adding: “And IBM has one vote, and IBM’s vote is the same as any other company['s].”

A Peek at Eclipse 3.0

McGaughey and other Eclipse officials say the inaugural EclipseCon conference, which was co-sponsored by the Object Management Group, has been a big success.

One of the biggest draws—outside of the chance to put a face to the names of fellow developers and industry representatives who many attendees knew only by e-mail or IM—was a discussion about some of the features in the upcoming Eclipse 3.0 release. Version 3.0 is slated for delivery by June of this year. In this regard, Eclipse platform lead John Wiegand promises that Eclipse 3.0 will be a “big” release.

“There are three big themes that we pushed on. One is improving the user experience by being more scalable, so we can handle large numbers of contributions by customizing the user experience, and also making the introduction to Eclipse a little easier, too, so … we can direct the user, make it easier for a user to take advantage of what Eclipse brings,” he explains, citing improvements to responsiveness and extensive improvements in the Java development tooling as well.

One important addition in Eclipse 3.0 will be interoperability between Sun’s Swing and Eclipse’s Standard Widget Toolkit (SWT) GUI libraries. “We’re seeing interest from people who want to be able to use Swing in Eclipse,” Wiegand confirms. The next version of Eclipse will also ship with a new runtime, he notes.


John Wiegand, the Eclipse platform lead, provided the below information on theEclipse 3.0 plan.

Eclipse SDK 3.0 is tested and validated on thefollowing reference platforms (this list is updated over the course of therelease cycle):

Eclipse Reference Platforms

Operating System

Processor Architecture

Window System

Java 2 Platform

Microsoft Windows XP

Intel x86

Win32

*Sun Java 2 SDK, Standard Edition, version 1.4.2_03 for Microsoft Windows

Microsoft Windows XP

Intel x86

Win32

IBM 32-bit SDK for Windows, Java 2 Technology Edition, Version 1.4.1

*Red Hat Enterprise Linux WS 3

Intel x86

GTK

*Sun Java 2 SDK, Standard Edition, 1.4.2_03 for Linux x86

Red Hat Enterprise Linux WS 3

Intel x86

GTK

IBM 32-bit SDK for Linux on Intel architecture, Java 2 Technology Edition, Version 1.4.1

SuSE Linux 8.2

Intel x86

GTK

*Sun Java 2 SDK, Standard Edition, 1.4.2_03 for Linux x86

SuSE Linux 8.2

Intel x86

GTK

IBM 32-bit SDK for Linux on Intel architecture, Java 2 Technology Edition, Version 1.4.1

Sun Solaris 8

SPARC

Motif

*Sun Java 2 SDK, Standard Edition, 1.4.2_03 for Solaris SPARC

HP HP-UX 11i

hp9000
PA-RISC

Motif

*HP-UX SDK for the Java 2 platform, version 1.4.2.00 for hp9000 PA-RISC

*IBM AIX 5L Version 5.2

PowerPC

Motif

IBM 32-bit SDK for AIX, Java 2 Technology Edition, Version 1.4.1

*Apple Mac OS X 10.3

PowerPC

Carbon

Java 2 Standard Edition 1.4.1 for Mac OS X

QNX Neutrino RTOS [version TBD]

Intel x86

Photon

IBM J9 VM for QNX [version TBD]

*Although untested, Eclipse should work fine on other OSes that support the same window system.

For Win32: Windows 98, ME, NT, 2000, and Server 2003; SWT HTML viewer requires Internet Explorer 5 (or higher).

For GTK on other Linux systems: version 2.2.1 of the GTK+ widget toolkit and associated librares (GLib, Pango); SWT HTMLviewer requires Mozilla 1.4GTK2.

For Motif on other Linux systems: Open Motif 2.1 (included); SWT HTML viewer requires Mozilla 1.4GTK2.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.