December 7, 2001

IBM, partners launch Eclipse.org, invite developers to get involved

Author: JT Smith

- By Grant Gross -

IBM's decision to Open-Source a $40 million software tools development platform code-named Eclipse is starting to gather momentum, with IBM and a handful of partners launching an Open Source project at Eclipse.org.

Along with seven other tech companies -- including Red Hat, SuSE and Borland -- IBM launched Eclipse.org late last week, and IBM officials are already excited by the response they've received about the release of the Eclipse platform in early November.

According to IBM, the software was averaging 4,000 downloads daily in the first month of its release. "We're blown away by the response of the community so far," says Scott Handy, director of worldwide Linux solutions marketing for IBM.

Also, this week, IBM announced it is shipping its first tool for Linux based on the Eclipse platform, which Handy compares to a "work bench." The first tool for that work bench is the beta version of WebSphere Studio Application Developer for Linux (a Windows version is already available). According to a press release from IBM, its WebSphere Studio tools are the first commercially available tools built on Eclipse. IBM plans to release a Linux version of WebSphere Studio Site Developer in the first quarter of 2002.

Handy explains the Eclipse platform like this: "This is actual technology that [developers] can reuse and port their tools on top of -- so Eclipse is a work bench -- as a plugin. Tools will become plugins to this technology, and can reuse a lot of code in the underlying framework."

Handy predicts the release of Eclipse as an Open Source platform will have far-reaching effects on the programming tools industry. "It really does two things to the industry," he says. "One is because of the re-use, a lot of the tools will be able to, in a much simpler fashion, work together. They will all use the same underlying way to communicate with each other ... and we can all talk, because we're all talking the exact same language."

Handy predicts third-party companies will find it easier to pitch their tools to developers. "A whole 'nother industry that it really opens up is the ability for especially a small shop, or a small developer, to just create a little plugin that adds value to somebody else's tool. They can take their extreme value-add of knowing an industry or a segment really well and create a plugin that will work with our tools, or Borland's tools, or both."

Handy says the creation of Eclipse.org, and its governing board made up of the eight founding companies, was an important step in getting the project moving. He says IBM is glad to have some of its competitors in the tools market on the board.

"We really wanted to level the playing field in the tools market, and allow everybody to participate," Handy says. "Some would even consider some of these companies our competitors in the tools space, and they are, but we want to cooperate in industry initiatives."

The board will give some structure to the Open Source project, he adds. "The board gets to vote on the direction of the technology. Now, we've let go. This is no longer an IBM technology, it's an Open Source technology."

Simon Thornhill, Borland's vice president and general manager of rapid application development solutions, says the Eclipse.org project helps companies like his work with others to establish standards for Open Source development tools.

"Borland is strongly committed to supporting Open Source development," Thornhill says. "As we continue to develop, enhance, and freely distribute the Borland FreeCLX Open Source Framework for Linux, we plan to support Open Source tool efforts such as
Eclipse that are complimentary to the framework and our shared goals of open
source development."

While the original board is made up of eight companies, Handy says he expects that the Eclipse.org project won't continue to be dominated only by corporate interests; he's expecting that smaller companies and individual developers will get involved and drive the direction of the project as well. The makeup of the board can change, he says, and he hopes Eclipse will look something like the Linux project, with both companies and independent developers contributing.

"Good ideas go a long way," he says. "What usually happens is ... a few developers who really understand the technology and have the best ideas will bubble to the top. Getting to that top contributor spot is earned, it's not a right."

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