Oracle joins Eclipse

Oracle Corp. on Tuesday plans to announce a two-tiered strategy for promoting standardization in the tools space: The company is joining the IBM Corp.-led Eclipse tools initiative and introducing a proposal for a single API to access multiple vendors' Java-based interactive development environments (IDEs). The dual proposals were seen by one analyst as a way to link the competing Eclipse and NetBeans IDE camps.

Oracle will announce it is joining the eclipse.org board of stewards. Eclipse is an IBM-led tools initiative to provide a universal platform for tools integration, said Ted Farrell, architect and director of strategy for Oracle application development tools, in Redwood Shores, Calif.

"The reason we're [participating in Eclipse] is to ensure that users of Eclipse have the right tools and resources to build applications for the Oracle run-time," meaning Oracle's application server and database, Farrell said.

"Right now, we're obviously committed to Oracle9i JDeveloper and we put effort into making sure Oracle9i JDeveloper is the premier development environment for the Oracle run time, but we understand people have choices," said Farrell. Oracle is looking to provide extensions to Eclipse to help users write to the Oracle application server and database, he said.

Eclipse has featured vendors such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard Co., but Oracle had not participated in the effort. "The problem with Eclipse is [participants] have deviated a bit from the standards," backing, for example, the SWT [standard widget toolkit]" instead of the AWT (abstract widget toolkit), according to Farrell. By joining Eclipse, Oracle hopes to have a positive influence on the Eclipse board related to standards, he said.

"We don't believe there will be one tool for the industry but we do want to make sure that Eclipse users are represented in building applications for the Oracle platform," Farrell said.

An Eclipse official, Skip McGaughey, chairperson of Eclipse on assignment from IBM, said Oracle's participation is "a step forward for the entire Eclipse organization, meaning another major vendor is supporting the open source project.

Other board members include IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Borland, and Rational. Microsoft and Sun Microsystems have not participated in Eclipse.

Oracle on Tuesday also is announcing it is submitting a JSR (Java Specification Request), specifically JSR 198, to the Java Community Process (JCP), a multivendor initiative that oversees Java development, to have the community develop an API for standard access to Java IDEs from multiple vendors.

"Right now, every vendor's Java tools have their own proprietary APIs into their [own] IDEs. So this JSR is a proposal to come up with a standard API that is the same across all the different vendors' [IDEs] and anyone wanting to implement the standard could implement this API," Farrell said.

With the API, developers can more easily write extensions to Java IDEs. "Right now, they'd have to write extensions for every [vendor's IDE]," Farrell said.

The API would need support from tools vendors such as Oracle, Borland, IBM, and Macromoedia, Farrell said. Sun's Mark Herring, senior director of marketing for Sun One Java Web Services and Tools, said that JSR 198 definitely would come to fruition.

An analyst said Oracle's moves with the JSR and Eclipse are an attempt to unite the Eclipse and NetBeans IDE camps.

"It's interesting to see Oracle [officials] putting themselves in this position of trying to bring the two proprietary communities that are relevant here, NetBeans and Eclipse, together and cause a standard to be created," said analyst Mike Gilpin, research fellow at Giga Information Group, based in Cambridge, Mass.

Uniting the two camps "could be challenging, but not impossible," Gilpin said.

Oracle's Farrell said NetBeans and Eclipse have had the same problem in that both are targeted toward one vendor: IBM with Eclipse and Sun with NetBeans. Oracle's JSR proposal is an attempt to provide a standards body-approved API that NetBeans did not, Farrell said.

NetBeans is a Java-based open-source effort for an IDE. Herring said the NetBeans interface would have to be changed to accommodate the Oracle-proposed JSR"We'll have to change the way that other products interface into NetBeans once this JSR is finalized," Herring said.

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