Eclipse: Sun still welcome to join

With enterprise application development largely dividing into two camps -- the Java-derived Eclipse faction on one side and Microsoft's .Net on the other -- it would seem that Java founder Sun Microsystems would align itself with the Eclipse Foundation. But Sun remains outside Eclipse, although an open invitation remains to participate in the open source tools organization.

Sun remains committed to its own NetBeans open source platform, announcing new initiatives pertaining to it while Eclipse sells out its annual EclipseCon technical conference here this week. Attendance is at 1,400 persons, according to Eclipse.

Negotiations to have Sun join Eclipse in 2003 fell apart. Sun at the time said it was not offered "an equitable share in mutual development."

"There's no conversations going on but they are always welcome to join Eclipse," said Eclipse Foundation Executive Director Mike Milinkovich on Tuesday.

Sun is sticking to its guns.

"Sun believes that competition for the Java tools ecosystem is healthy for Java developers. We continue to advocate and support the NetBeans project and IDE. Sun has no plans to join Eclipse at this time," Sun said in a prepared statement also released on Tuesday.

Milinkovich touted Eclipse as being the industry counterpart to Microsoft. "From the tools perspective, it is very clearly evolving to two ecosystems: Microsoft and Eclipse," Milinkovich said.

Eclipse has been tightly linked to Java but the organization is more than Java, he said. "To a large degree, Eclipse is still very associated with Java, despite the fact that [we have been] very strong in C and C++ for a long time," Milinkovich said.

The PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor) Web scripting language also is on Eclipse's agenda, with a PHP IDE project announced this week, led by Zend Technologies and IBM.

"I'm really excited about the PHP tools for Eclipse," Milinkovich said.

IBM for its part announced several other developments at EclipseCon on Tuesday. The company is piloting a support program for developers using Eclipse as its primary development environment. The program is for customers using both open source Eclipse and commercial Eclipse-based tools such as IBM Rational software.

The company also unveiled Rational Data Architect, an Eclipse-based tool to help architects understand information assets, map assets to each other and create database and integration schemas. A new e-forms tool being announced, Workplace Forms Designer 2.6, lets forms designers to build XML e-forms for automating business processes. It, too, is built on Eclipse.

A help interface plug-in for Eclipse is being announced, providing a multilingual, cross-platform, open source help system. "It's an offering to allow you to quickly build an Eclipse help system-based application to deliver online content," said John Kellerman, manager of Eclipse strategy at IBM.

The technology is available on IBM's alphaWorks Web site.

Compuware at EclipseCon 2006 introduced version 4.1 of its OptimalJ tool for model-driven Java development, featuring Professional Edition and Developer Editions built on the Eclipse platform. The Professional Edition also supports the rival NetBeans open source tools initiative.

At the SD West 2006 conference last week, panelists at one session cited deficiencies in application modeling. But Compuware officials stressed that while modeling poses a paradigm shift, it does increase productivity. Development via modeling can "almost cut in half the amount of time it takes to deliver a Java application," said Mike Burba, marketing director at Compuware.

Also featured in Version 4.1 is improved UML modeling through the incorporation of MagicDraw UML from No Magic. Development teams can visualize designs as UML 2.0 diagrams in a few steps; class and use cases can be imported to OptimalJ domain models for application architecture and code generation.

OptimalJ 4.1 also improves traceability by introducing the Use Case model to the Domain Model workspace to provide easier synchronization between requirements, design models and code. This enables traceability throughout the application lifecycle and allows developers to evaluate the impact of application changes, Compuware said.

Compuware is seeking to get involved in the proposed Eclipse Modeling Top Level Project, which purports to extend OMG Model Driven Architecture to Eclipse. IBM and Borland Software are leading this project.

OptimalJ 4.1 ships this week, with the Professional Edition priced at US$18,000 per seat.

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