Maybe it wasn’t a Kumbaya moment, but EclipseCon 2008 brought together some pretty strange bedfellows to the party. Namely that Microsoft showed up this year and promised support of a couple Eclipse projects, while Sun agreed to make one of Eclipse’s projects the reference implementation for one of the Java EE standards.
Of the two sightings, Microsoft’s was more dramatic, with Open Source lab director Sam Ramji delivering a keynote that was covered well by eWeek’s Daryl Taft, with interesting perspectives from Iona’s Eric Newcomer plus a blow-by-blow session description from Intalio’s Jonathan Crow. The headlines were that Microsoft promised to support the Eclipse Standard Widget Toolkit (SWT) visual controls on Vista’s Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), meaning Eclipse developers could develop GUIs natively on Vista. The other announcement was that Microsoft would support interoperability between Cardspace and Eclipse’s Project Higgins covering identity management on the web. What was interesting was what Ramji didn’t say or left open, such as the possibility of Microsoft joining Eclipse (no answer), and interoperability with Silverlight, which would be natural because it’s Microsoft’s emerging cross-platform rich Internet client (or Adobe AIR killer).
We’d share Newcomer’s conclusion, “The recent steps toward improved interoperability support and improved relationship with open source communities may strike some as insufficient or incomplete, but to me they represent a significant change in tone and strategy for Microsoft.” Newcomer and others, as cited in Galen Gruman’s recent Infoworld article, consider a sign of pragmatism that is likely attributable to Ray Ozzie’s influence. In fact, we first saw evidence of this back in late 2005 when Microsoft and JBoss jointly announced work to improve performance on Windows and interacting with SQL Server – which happened to be roughly six month’s into Ozzie’s reign. And more recently, Microsoft has been working jointly with Zend to improve performance of PHP on Windows.
The bottom line of course is that supporting Eclipse on Windows means more Windows. And the same goes with JBoss and Zend. At the end of the day, Microsoft is still protecting its core franchise, just being a bit smarter about it.
The other end of the coin was Sun’s endorsement of the EclipseLink project as the reference implementation of the Java Persistence Architecture (JPA), one of the pillars of Java EE. (The technology competes directly with JBoss’s Hibernate.) The die was cast a year ago when (1) Eclipse joined the Java Community Process (JCP); (2) Oracle ramped up its Eclipse membership, joining the executive board; and (3) Oracle got Eclipse backing to turn its TopLink Java persistence technology into top-level Eclipse project. So while there was little surprising about the development, it marked a minor milestone.
As we noted last week, Eclipse is entering a far more complex phase of its existence. For instance, projects like Swordfish, the new SOA runtime (which is part of Equinox), could intrude onto turf already occupied by Apache ServiceMix, or other open source ESBs.
No longer defined by the IDE, the spreading of Eclipse’s mission means that members and neighbors aren’t necessarily drinking all the Kool Aid. For instance:
1. IBM was heavily identified with Eclipse’s origins, but today it is far more selective as to which projects it supports, and for instance, it has not associated itself with the Serena-led Application Lifecycle Framework project.
2. While JBoss is making its tooling Eclipse-compliant, its tools are not hosted on Eclipse.org, and it’s not supporting Eclipse’s venture into run time.
3. Oracle has made loud noises about EclipseLink, but it’s having nothing to do with the IDE around which the organization was founded.
4. Sun and Microsoft are now mentioning Eclipse in normal speech, with Microsoft going as far as ping pong diplomacy.
In other words, as Eclipse gets broader, its mission is in the eyes of the beholder.