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ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

An IBM-backed Java tools initiative could be yanked back into Sun Microsystems Inc's sphere of influence, to heal a potential community rift, through efforts lead by Oracle Corp,

writes Gavin Clarke

.

Redwood Shores, California-based Oracle, who it was announced this week joined the Eclipse.org board, told ComputerWire yesterday it will attempt to bring Eclipse in line with Sun's "definition" of Java.

IBM joined Eclipse just over a year ago to accelerate development of a framework and integrated development environment (IDE) that Java application development tools can easily plug into. This year Eclipse expanded to focus on IDEs for C/C++ and COBOL.

Eclipse, though, is built on Java Standard Widget Toolkit (SWT) while Sun, and a majority of Java vendors, use the rival Swing toolkit and Java foundation classes for IDEs and tools.

Eclipse's decision to use SWT garnered criticism that the organization's ultimate goal is really to enrich IBM's WebSphere development platform, by building an ISV ecosystem around the product. The framework potentially allows third parties to easily plug-into WebSphere without undertaking special customization work.

As a result, noticeable Eclipse absentees include Java inventor Sun, pushing its own NetBeans tools framework and IDE, and BEA Systems Inc. Until recently, Oracle down-played the need to join Eclipse.

However, Oracle - like BEA and Sun - must ensure an ecosystem of ISVs around its own IDE and application server. The company recently submitted a proposed API to the Java Community Process (JCP) for a single-standard plug-in for Java application servers to easily connect with Eclipse-based tools.

Ted Farrell, Oracle's architect and director of strategy for application development tools now sitting on the Eclipse board, said continued divergence of the Eclipse community from Sun, BEA, Oracle and these companies' own partners could fragment the Java tools market - a dangerous possibility in the face of concerted attack from Microsoft Corp.

Referring to Eclipse's recent membership expansion, that also included Hewlett-Packard Co and SAP AG among others, Farrell said: "That's great for Eclipse. But that doesn't mean Eclipse becomes the de facto standard."

Eclipse doesn't see its role as a standards body, but Farrell said conversations with members indicated they want to get closer to Sun's SWT. "[Members] want to drag Eclipse back in-line with Sun... SWT versus Swing has put some tension in the organization."

Eclipse chairperson Skip McGaughey said that Eclipse members decide which technology should be used, as Eclipse is an open source organization. He added: "Eclipse does implement standards and supports the implementation of standards."

Undeterred, Eclipse.org announced it has expanded its Java and C/C++ work with projects tackling application life cycle management and a COBOL IDE.

McGaughey said by bringing application lifecycle management into the Eclipse framework, customers can reduce the cost of integrating their tools while ISVs can reduce development costs. The framework is designed to provide common interfaces and repositories, among other features, for compatible tools.

Application lifecycle management has dominated headlines this year with the acquisitions of TogetherSoft SA by Borland Software Corp and IBM's proposed $2.1bn purchase of Rational Software Corp.

Vendors now believe it is no-longer sufficient to offer just application development, but that they must enrich their programming environment with tools for design and modeling, code storage and checking, and rollout.

Eclipse's new application lifecycle management projects includes Project Hyades, to integrate a range of Automated Software Quality (ASQ) tools and processes with Eclipse - ASQ includes static code analysis through automated functional testing and deployment performance testing. Eclipse member companies IBM, Parasoft, Rational, Scapa Technologies and Telelogic have organized the project.

"The emphasis is on a complete lifecycle coding environment," McGaughey said.

The Koi Project , meanwhile, supports collaborative development between team members, lead by Java specialist Instantiations Inc. The Object Management Group (OMG's) Model Driven Architecture, meanwhile, forms the basis of the Eclipse Modeling Framework.

Eclipse also took a new direction this week, with plans for a fully functional COBOL IDE on Windows, Solaris and Linux. The organization said it wants to extend its work in wizards for developing applications that use particular library or database or messaging APIs, or extensions to other languages.

© ComputerWire

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