IBM upgrades open-source development environment

IBM next month plans to announce the second version of the Eclipse development platform that it donated to the open-source community last year.

The new version, which had a beta release on June 28, will feature support for the latest Java Development Kit from Sun Microsystems Inc. and the JavaDoc specification for generating code documentation, according to Bernie Spang, director of Websphere Studio marketing at IBM.

Other new features include improved support for software management and version control products, such as those from Computer Associates International Inc. in Islandia, N.Y., Merant PLC in Hillsboro, Ore., and Rational Software Corp. in Cupertino, Calif., Sprang said.

But possibly more important than new features is that Eclipse is continuing to evolve and gain momentum, analysts said.

"IBM's ultimate goal is to establish Eclipse as the second viable competitor to [Microsoft Corp.'s] Visual Studio," said Mark Driver, an analyst at Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn.

But Driver said Eclipse isn't likely to get support from major vendors such as Oracle Corp. or BEA Systems Inc. in San Jose for competitive reasons. Instead, the platform is gaining favor among many small vendors "who have nothing to lose," he said.

From a user standpoint, the main benefit of Eclipse is the ability to work from a single interface with a wide range of tools made by the vendors who have elected to plug their products into the platform.

David Thatcher, president of Advanced Network Systems Inc., an Annandale, N.J., consulting and development firm that does work for retailers and manufacturers, said his company used Eclipse to migrate production planning applications written in Cobol from an older Hewlett-Packard Co. server running a proprietary operating system to a new HP server running Unix.

Thatcher said his developers found a Cobol compiler from LegacyJ Corp. in San Jose that worked with Eclipse, and then they wrote plug-ins to get their own migration tools to work with Eclipse. The four developers working on the project could then use both tools from the same user interface.

"It definitely saved us months of work and probably thousands of dollars," he said.

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