Eclipse sings open-web tune: No framework, no problem
Eclipse Foundation executive director Mike Milinkovich wants to make one thing perfectly clear: Project Orion is not Eclipse.
Milinkovich even seems to brush off those inside his mighty organization who say they don't understand why Eclipse is doing Project Orion. If you don't get Orion, "it just means you're not the right audience for Orion," he tells The Reg.
In the 10 years since IBM helped establish Eclipse in 2001, Eclipse made its name as a framework for tools from IBM, Oracle, CA, and SAP.
The organization's project expertise lies with tools for server-side Java, BI, data-centric applications, and the desktop. But Eclipse has sprawled as more and more projects have been added: from seven million lines of code in 2006 to 33 million lines in last year's release. Not something you could fit into a browser.
So what is Orion if it's not Eclipse? And why is Eclipse turning its attention to the mobile web and app stores?
According to Milinkovich, tools that plug into Orion via the browser can make changes to code or artifacts on the server and have them reflected across all devs working on a project.
This is reminiscent of the shtick IDE makers like Borland Software used to spin: collaborative team development to justify the sale of big, fat IDEs on the client with a team server on the back end to check-in and check-out code, manage progresses, and "improve productivity".
Death by bloat
Marketing types spun this line, CIOs and heads of app dev bought in to it, and those doing the coding got stuck with horrible IDEs that they hated and invariably didn't use them.
Eclipse helped kill companies like Borland and forced a realignment in the tools market because its Framework code was open source and freely available. It ended the lock-in companies had tried to exert over developers and partners via their closed-source and bulky IDEs.
Collaborate not isolate
"For large part, the value proposition for Orion is to use it as an integrated platform for existing and future tools," Milinkovich said. "Today... there's no single platform that provides developers with the ability to unify them into a single workflow or user experience - that's the gap Orion is trying to fill.
"If you've got an exiting web based tool you can integrate it with Orion very simply - all you need is a URL to write glue code so it appears on the Orion toolbar immediately."
So why is Eclipse embracing web development and leaving the enterprise and the framework that made it both feared and loved in enterprise circles behind?
According to Milinkovich, it's about bringing tools for the open web together.
This means the data cannot be easily withdrawn, say by a user looking to move on from their service, nor can it be accessed by rival service providers. That data might be somebody's personal contact details, photos they've uploaded, status updates or it might just be music files.
Milinkovich said he doesn't see any contraction in building the web using APIs and HTML5 - you can support HTML5 and still think APIs are important. "But I think standard APIs are going to be an important part because it's been an important part of every wave of technology. Without interoperability that well known APIs provide, you don't have an industry platform, you don't have a foundation that the industry can grow on," he said.
Why is Eclipse jumping into the free-web debate now?
Just like Eclipse before it, Orion was kick-started by a donation of code by IBM - still the Foundation's biggest single backer after all these years in terms of engineers on projects.
Time will tell whether Eclipse can move outside of IBM's shadow on the open web.
Also, whether the philosophy of Orion can attract a development community that partly differentiates itself against the kind of place where Eclipse is coming from - the enterprise, server-side Java and C++ development.
While Orion is not the same Eclipse technology, which has grown spaghetti like over the last decade, Milinkovich feels Eclipse has much to offer in building a community and ecosystem.