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Eclipse rounds up runtime project

One framework, so many platforms

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It's official: Eclipse is moving into runtimes. The Foundation is elevating an OSGi-based project, moving even further outside its original tools remit.

The open source group has announced its eleventh top-level project - the Eclipse Runtime project, or Eclipse RT. Based on the existing Equinox project, it wraps in five other Eclipse projects.

Twenty companies are supporting Eclipse RT, which is led by individuals from Oracle, Innoopract, Code 9 and Sopera.

Equinox is based on OSGi specifications, providing a lightweight, cross-device runtime that has already drawn support from Java vendors, including heavyweights IBM, Oracle and BEA Systems, major telecoms companies and handset suppliers.

The goal of OSGi, used in Eclipse tools through Equinox, is to provide a component-based model and framework capable of spanning mobile and embedded, desktop and server-side runtimes.

The idea is this will potentially simplify the job of developing, deploying and managing Java applications as the same component model can be used across different tiers and the business logic moved between tiers without the need to rebuild the application.

In theory, that lets you build and update software using components that can be mixed, matched, swapped in and out, or called as services.

In many ways, Equinox and Eclipse RT are the industry's latest attempt to reach that long-sought nirvana of distributed, component-based development that we're told will make software theoretically easier to build and deploy because it reduces the need for complex coding, re-coding, assembly and roll out. The particular phrase being bandied this time is - wait for it - component oriented development and assembly, or CODA.

Eclipse executive director Mike Milinkovich pointed to the strengths of OSGi, saying that Java Micro Edition, Standard Edition and Enterprise Edition - "defined" by the Sun Microsystems inspired, and backed, Java Community Process - use different component models. The implication being, this complicates development and management of Java-based software.

That could be one reason why Oracle is taking such a keen interest in Eclipse RT. The OSGi specification potentially simplifies the job of running and maintaining massive pieces of software such as application servers, without taking them offline for major updates. A smaller, modular application server is a product that can also run on devices with footprints smaller than a back-office server and that can be updated via download.

OSGi was being pushed by BEA Systems as the architecture for new versions of its Java-based WebLogic application server under the microServices Architecture (mSA) strategy, before Oracle stepped in to buy BEA.

According to Milinkovich, OSGi means "you can add, update, start and stop components in the server while they are running without taking the server down, which is something you can't do with EJBs."

OSGi is also important to Eclipse. In targeting mobile devices, desktops and server runtimes through the OSGi, Eclipse is - again - working to ensure it remains relevant to the industry, and does not become sidelined as "just" a platform for developer tools. OSGi has been in existence since 1999, but was picked up by Eclipse relatively late - in 2005.

Eclipse RT is the latest re-use of the core Eclipse runtime, used in the tools and more recently the Eclipse Rich Client Project. According to Milinkovich, developers ripped the tools apart to get at the runtime to produce the RCP. The same happened when it came to Eclipse RT, with developers pulling apart the RCP.

In addition to Equinox, Eclipse RT features the Eclipse Communications Framework, EclipseLink, Rich Ajax Platform, Riena and Swordfish

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