“The Rich Client Platform has potential for software companies and IT departments”

Mike Milinkovich
Mike Milinkovich

Although the Eclipse organization has gained considerable momentum since its creation just over two years ago, it remains unclear at what levels its 50+ members will participate in the new body. Could you expand on the members’ participation?

Milinkovich: Eclipse is a community-driven organization and we have active involvement from many different companies of all sizes. Involvement can take many forms such as active participation in our marketing committee, building plug-ins or contributing development resources to open source development. There are several levels of membership in Eclipse. The bulk of our membership is comprised of Add-In Providers. Example members of this type include Instantiations, Genuitec, Innoopract, Borland and Oracle. Add-In Providers are typically software companies or platform companies which extend Eclipse by building commercially available plug-ins which work with Eclipse. At the Board level we currently have five Strategic Consumers (Ericsson, HP, Monta Vista, SAP and Serena) and four Strategic Developers (Actuate, IBM, Intel and QNX). Strategic Consumers are companies who have made a significant investment in building products on top of Eclipse. For example, Eclipse forms the basis of the SAP NetWeaver Developer Studio. Strategic Developers are companies who in addition to making product investments based on Eclipse are committed to significantly participating in Eclipse’s open source development projects.

Sun Microsystems and BEA Systems were among the Java vendors that declined to join the new Eclipse organization. Is there optimism that these and more vendors will choose to participate as Eclipse demonstrates its independence and the quality of its technology?

Milinkovich: Absolutely. I would welcome their participation in Eclipse wholeheartedly. BEA helped initiate the Pollinate project at Eclipse, so they clearly see the value of the Eclipse community and its presence in the market.

In the past, it was primarily an IBM-funded effort. As IBM’s role significantly diminishes in terms of running the organization, how will the members’ roles change?

Milinkovich: Our members are finding that the more they participate in Eclipse, the more they gain from their membership. The Eclipse ecosystem is quickly becoming one of the most valued networks in the software market. It is a community where organizations can more easily integrate, inter-operate and quickly create and share value – both commercially and in open source.

What compels companies such as Intel, Ericsson, SAP and SAS to join the open source organization?

Milinkovich: Business value. Eclipse’s technology enables them to create innovative products more rapidly, more predictably and with greater quality. Although our software is freely available to anyone, once companies make serious commercial investments on the technology base it makes sense for them to participate in the community. Strategic Developers such as Actuate have come to realize that open source provides an excellent way to define an open platform for a particular technology and to benefit by providing leadership in an open source project.

The Eclipse Foundation announced general availability of the royalty-free 3.0 release of the Eclipse Platform earlier this year. Could you elaborate on some of the enhanced features and where Eclipse now extends its technologies?

Milinkovich: I think that one of the most interesting new features of Eclipse 3.0 is the Rich Client Platform (RCP). The RCP enables Java developers to do something which up until now has been very difficult: build compelling client-side applications in Java. But better yet, these applications are platform portable, use the platform look and feel and can be deployed and managed from a central server. We at Eclipse feel that the RCP has enormous potential for both software companies – one example is IBM Lotus’ use of the technology for its Workplace Client strategy – and IT departments looking for solutions for building, deploying and managing rich client applications in a heterogeneous world.

We also made a considerable investment in the ‘out-of-the-box’ user experience of Eclipse. The goal was to make the initial user experiences as streamlined and intuitive as possible. The feedback we have had is that R3.0 has accomplished this goal. The way we did this was two fold. First we implemented an extension that allowed for pre-configured views and perspectives based on a user´s role. The idea is to only show the features that are relevant for a particular responsibility or role. Second a new look and feel was added that gives the end user a lot more flexibility in organizing the workbench. Features like floating toolbars and views, and supporting tear-off views and dockable toolbars were added.

Could you talk about the Eclipse Hyades application verification and optimization project and its level of adoption? Also Eclipse announced the Test and Performance Tools project to provide an open development platform supplying frameworks and services that are used throughout the software lifecycle. What capabilities will the infrastructure provide to the software industry?

Milinkovich: First off, Hyades has now been re-established as its own top-level project at Eclipse called the Test and Performance Tools Platform project. This is a significant event because it puts our efforts in this area at the same level as (for example) the Eclipse Platform and the Web Tools Platform projects. The project offers a great deal of capability in the areas of test creation, test plan execution, test execution history, performance profiling and post-deployment application monitoring. The technology is very interesting because it has been built from the ground up to deal with distributed systems, which is really how most applications are built today. If you look at most of the products in the test space, they have their roots in the client-server world. The Hyades technology represents a large jump forward into dealing with modern systems design.

The other key point is that Test and Performance provides an extensible framework for building testing and monitoring products. Like the other projects at Eclipse, the Hyades technology provides a platform for enabling additional products or technology to be built on top of it. Test and Performance is gaining significant adoption. The project is now led by Intel, with participation from Scapa Technology, IBM Rational, Compuware and SAP amongst others. IBM Rational recently announced that it will be basing its future test and performance products on the technology. Scapa has been doing so for some time. We expect other announcements in the not-to-distant future.

What is the status of the Business Intelligence and Reporting Tools (BIRT) project and what are some of the other benefits of open-source efforts? When is the vote scheduled on the BIRT project?

Milinkovich: We are very excited about BIRT, as it is our first foray into the world of business intelligence, and our first top-level project focused on creating tools for end-users. BIRT is currently in the proposal stage. Our community-based development process calls for a period of comment and review, followed by a Board vote to approve the project’s charter. The project charter defines the scope of the project, the development process to be used by the team and rules for engagement. BIRT was approved by the Eclipse board on September 30.

What do you hope to accomplish in your new role?

Milinkovich: My definition of success is centered on community building. Eclipse is now a driving force in the IT industry. It is based on the notion of creating a community which creates and shares value while being committed to the open source principles of openness, transparency and meritocracy. My main objectives are to see continued growth in three areas: (a) the open source projects and in continuing to build a community of developers who see Eclipse as a great place to focus their talents, (b) the ecosystem of open source projects and commercial interests who base their development on the Eclipse platform and (c) widespread adoption of the Eclipse technologies throughout the IT industry.