'Eclipse Effect' Will Drive Open Source Channel Business

At the New York conference this week, Eclipse Foundation Executive Director Mike Milinkovich said the evolution of the Eclipse Java IDE into a full-fledged application lifecycle management (ALM) platform will spur more commercial activity on the open source development environment over the next 12 months.

Led by leading Application Lifecycle Management ISV Serena Software and approved by the foundation on July 27, the Application Lifecycle Framework project is expected to be completed in the fall of 2006. Customers including Countrywide and UBS sit on the ALF board.

"In the future we see Eclipse becoming a complete development platform with full application development lifecycle capabilities. It's still early, but tool integration is only one of the areas that will grow in importance," said Milinkovich, noting that ALF will serve as the glue that will enable interoperability between various tools and create a network effect benefiting ISVs, vendors and channel partners.

"Vendors can add value on top of this stack, build tools on top of Eclipse and the value of the Eclipse ecosystem will grow," Milinkovich said during his keynote to a small audience of Eclipse developers at Roosevelt Hotel.

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ALF is only one of 45 open source projects sponsored by the Eclipse Foundation. Eclipse is an open source project originally launched by IBM that is now backed by more than 100 vendors in the computer industry including Borland, BEA, Sybase, Oracle and Novell.

The Eclipse 3.1 open source development environment was released in late June. Aside from ALF, other frameworks for team collaboration, data management, application modeling, service-oriented architectures (SOA) and systems management have also been approved by the Eclipse foundation and are now underway, officials said.

The recently approved application lifecycle framework (ALF) project could be very significant because it frees customers and partners from being forced to choose between selecting a single vendors' entire tool platform, or using best of breed tools from various vendors said Kevin Parker, vice president of market development for Serena Software, San Mateo, Calif., who presented at the conference on Wednesday.

In an interview with CRN at EclipseWorld, Parker said solution providers and systems integrators are well positioned to take advantage of the application lifecycle framework, noting that Cognizant is on the board of ALF.

"The biggest opportunity for systems integrators, first, is to use free tools," Parker said. "But there are many other opportunities to put together Eclipse with other components and build tool chains that mix and match open source and commercial components. It's the plumbing, and the glue."

The framework will consist of a Web services registry and event registry and will enable customers and partners to use change management, Integrated Development Environments (IDE), debugging and test tools interchangeably, he said. "When integrators bid on a deal, deployment [using an ALF] tool will be easier because you're not tied to any proprietary standard," Parker added.

With ALF, for example, partners will be able to easily integrate Rational or Serena tools with Microsoft Project, which is used nearly ubiquitously in the industry but is not tied into many application lifecycle management tools, the Serena executive added.

Eclipse is becoming increasingly important as open source application development expands on top of open source platforms and application servers, one solution provider said. "We view Eclipse as one of our foundation cornerstones for agile development," said Ed Pimentel, CTO of AgileCo, an open source solution provider in Atlanta.

Several leading commercial development tools now leverage Eclipse including IBM's Rational testing tools, Borland Together, SAP NetWeaver and Serena's ChangeMan Dimensions and Professional. Symbion and RIM are also evaluating Eclipse for future development.

One open source consultant said ALF would allow for "deeper, more sophisticated" integration than the interoperability Eclipse currently provides but he is not certain it will add much value to integrators. "The ALF framework that Serena is leading is more of a development tools co-ordination framework than it is an application development framework. If they are successful in building the framework and developers adopt it, it will be easier to orchestrate multiple tools from different vendors and/or open source projects together," said Dave Gynn, Application Infrastructure Practice Manager at Optaros, an open source consulting firm in Cambridge, Mass.

"Tool coordination would be a nice feature but won't fundamentally change my development process," Gynn added. "It is too early to know if they will be successful or if this is even a feature users and tool vendors want."

During his keynote at the conference on Tuesday, however, Borland CTO Patrick Kerpan said the "Eclipse Effect" is reverberating throughout the IT world, including the channel, as customers pressure vendors and advisors to add more value and ROI and make their platforms and tools less complex and interchangeable. He added that partners and customers are congregating around the open source development environment in the hope that it delivers what open source platforms and infrastructure offer today -- more choice.

"This is the Eclipse effect. There's a good chance Eclipse is becoming a de facto enterprise application framework," Kerpan said during his keynote. "The market abhors single choices. There's an option value on Eclipse – customers don't know the payoff but they put a high value on the 'optionality' it buys them for the future."