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IBM and Oracle to get physical over Eclipse SOA projects

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Exclusive There's gonna be some tough talking at next week's annual EclipseCon, as two of the industry's biggest vendors hammer on smaller organizations to merge Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) tools projects.

IBM and Oracle representatives - backing Eclipse's BPEL designer project - are expected to square off with representatives from Iona, Sybase and ObjectWeb - who are pushing the rival Eclipse STP (SOA Tools Platform) Project - to propose a merging of the teams' initiatives. A face-to-face confrontation will cap off a flurry of e-mails that have bounced back and forth between the two, warring parties. EclipseCon, taking place in Santa Clara, will serve as the venue for the spat between the bullies and the upstarts.

IBM and Oracle claim that by pursing STP the smaller organizations risk splitting the Eclipse community over business processes choreography and SOA. Iona, Sybase and ObjectWeb, though, have rejected a wholesale merger and instead called for "common sense" to prevail, saying IBM and Oracle misunderstand STP.

The crux of the debate, so-far conducted through the pages of an Eclipse mailing list, rests on whether there is a need for a seperate open source business process execution language (BPEL) environment for SOAs (hence STP) or whether BPEL capabilities should be threaded into the entire Eclipse framework (BPEL designer).

IBM and Oracle branded STP a dangerous move towards "verticalization." "[STP] should not be in the business of providing vertical applications which will by their nature compete with other efforts either underway or future," IBM's Kevin McGuire and Oracle's Michael Chmielewski said in a joint email to STP.

McGuide and Chmielewski raise the specter of separate user interfaces, modeling tools and Java integration with BPEL. They also point out, rather helpfully, that the Eclipse opens source BPEL project already has a "product quality model" being shipped in IBM's WebSphere Integration Developer 6.0.

Not surprisingly, some Eclipse members believe IBM and Oracle are working against the idea of an open source SOA tools framework because it would potentially threaten their closed-source SOA and integration products and services.

One Eclipse insider told The Register IBM and Oracle had "sat on" the BPEL designer project - which is still at the incubator stage - while STP was approved as a formal top-level Eclipse project earlier this year. BPEL designer's first release is due on October 1.

STP member Carl Trieloff added weight to this view, when he wrote to McGuire and Chmielewski: "When I started putting the STP project together I reached out to the BPEL project and requested to work together from the word go, but had no response."

IBM and Oracle now seem intent on regaining control over the SOA and BPEL process inside Eclipse having passed the ball to STP. McGuire and Chmielewski proposed turning Eclipse's BPEL component into a client for STP while replacing STP's BPEL to Java (B2J) architecture - which would be used to translate BPEL into executable Java classes - for the Eclipse BPEL model. That model, of course, would be written on the IBM/Oracle-backed BPEL designer architecture.

The STP backers, not surprisingly, smell a corporate trap. In a politely worded email they explained that STP was created in order to provide a place where all tools involved in SOA assembly and provisioning can come together "in a coherent and meaningful manner," with a "diversity of approaches to policy expression, interface vocabulary and implementation language."

"If we can convince these committers that it is in everyone's interest to merge with the BPEL project then I think that would be a reasonable outcome. [We] don't think that it is for the PMC to demand that they do so, this needs to be evaluated and discussed and hopefully sense will prevail," the vendors said.®

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