Eclipse Effect Will Bring Open-Source Opportunities Into View

At the New York conference late last month, 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.

Headed by Serena Software, a leading ALM ISV, and approved by the foundation on July 27, the ALF project is expected to be completed in the fall of 2006.

“In the future, we see Eclipse becoming a complete development platform with full application development life-cycle 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,” he said.

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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.

“The biggest opportunity for systems integrators, first, is to use free tools,” said Kevin Parker, vice president of market development for Serena Software, San Mateo, Calif. “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. [The framework is] 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 various change management, Integrated Development Environments (IDE), debugging and test tools interchangeably, said Parker. “When integrators bid on a deal, deployment [using an ALF] tool will be easier because you&re not tied to any proprietary standard,” he said.

With ALF, for example, partners will be able to easily integrate Rational or Serena tools with Microsoft Project, the near-ubiquitous project management tool that&s not tied to many application life-cycle management tools.

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.

One open-source consultant said ALF would allow for “deeper, more sophisticated” integration than the interoperability Eclipse currently provides. Still, he&s not certain how much value it will offer integrators. “Tool coordination would be a nice feature but won&t fundamentally change my development process,” said Dave Gynn, application infrastructure practice manager at Optaros, an open-source consulting firm in Cambridge, Mass. “It is too early to know if they will be successful or if this is even a feature users and tool vendors want.”

Borland CTO Patrick Kerpan, however, said the “Eclipse effect” is reverberating throughout the IT world—including the channel—as customers pressure vendors and advisers to add more value and ROI and make their platforms and tools less complex and more 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 EclipseWorld 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.”