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ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

IBM is throwing a gauntlet down to rivals by proposing a single, standard plug-in that lets application servers easily connect into the Eclipse.org framework and workbench.

An interface would potentially mean BEA Systems Inc, Hewlett-Packard Co, Oracle Corp and Sun Microsystems can plug their application servers into Eclipse.org
without time-consuming integration work. None of these companies are currently part of Eclipse.

IBM said the plug-in would also enable Microsoft Corp's Windows-operating system based application server to snap-into Eclipse.

IBM's proposal, though, potentially throws down a challenge to rivals because the Eclipse framework is already integrated into the company's own WebSphere
application server.

It is unclear whether rival application server vendors - especially BEA - would want to associate their products with that of their number one enterprise Java competitor.

Three vendors are actually building their own separate frameworks, which could rival Eclipse. BEA's WebLogic Workshop, scheduled for July, is a web services development framework supported by Borland Software Corp and Rational Software Corp. These companies are expected to hook their respective JBuilder Java and Unified Modeling Language (UML) tools into WebLogic Workshop.

Sun is fostering its own framework - NetBeans. Ninety vendors support NetBeans with plug-ins. These include Caldera Systems Inc, BEA and Iona. A further 30
have built integrated development environments (IDEs) using NetBeans, including Compuware's OptimalJ.

Microsoft, meanwhile, is rabidly opposed to Java - the language used to build Eclipse. Instead, the company has extended its own framework - the .NET Framework and Visual Studio.NET into which more than a score of programming languages can be plugged.

IBM executives admit Eclipse is a way to extend WebSphere. Third-parties' tools built on Eclipse should operate inside the WebSphere environment as it too is built on Eclipse.

Rivals' hands could be forced by ISVs. Already, 150 ISVs have joined Eclipse since IBM announced backing in November 2001. IBM, too, is pushing the rhetoric of ease-of-use development. By integrating an application server with Eclipse, developers receive a fast and simpler programming experience as code can be built and tested on an application server without leaving the IDE.

Integrated development and testing would flesh-out Eclipse's bare bones. Thes bones are: a user interface, compiler and debugger for Java, and 14 plug ins. Those already supporting the basic technologies are IBM, Macromedia Inc and QNX Software Systems Inc.

Scott Hebner, WebSphere software platform director of marketing, said IBM's plug-in would promote innovation. He said IBM was not worried about giving away technology - by offering software to Eclipse, it becomes part of the open source community. Hebner said IBM's move would help promote standards.

"We are not worried about giving away the crown jewels, because it leads to innovation higher and higher up the stack," Hebner said.

© ComputerWire. All rights reserved.

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