Eclipse Spotlights AJAX Projects, Braces For Europa

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More than 1,300 attendees registered for this year's event, which brings together developers and Eclipse stakeholders to set the year's agenda for the open-source developer tools platform. The conference, which kicked off Tuesday, also gives the Eclipse Foundation the chance to highlight popular emerging projects, such as the Dynamic Language Toolkit (DLTK).

DLTK aims to provide a foundation and IDEs for dynamic languages like TCL, Ruby and Python. Ruby, in particular, is enjoying a renaissance thanks to its suitability for Web programming. TCL support will be the project's first milestone for the DLTK 0.7 release that's nearing completion. Cisco, which has thousands of developers using TCL, contributed foundational code and is driving the project.

Ruby and Python support will come in DLTK 1.0, scheduled for inclusion in the Europa Simultaneous Release that will go live June 29. Europa is the second annual "Big Bang" of coordinated Eclipse releases. The concept made its debut last year with Callisto, synchronized updates for 10 key Eclipse projects. Europa is slated to include at least two dozen.

"We're engineering our own denial-of-service attack," Eclipse Foundation Executive Director Mike Milinkovich quipped in an EclipseCon press conference.

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Partners say the synchronized releases are a big boon, allowing them to set release schedules for their own Eclipse-dependent products. But the strategy subjects the Eclipse Foundation to some of the woes afflicting commercial vendors -- in particular, the organizational challenge of keeping projects on track to hit highly publicized release dates. Milinkovich said Eclipse's releases will always be loosely coupled.

"It will never be a monolithic release," he said in an interview. "Microsoft's Vista is kind of the poster child for how not to ship software today. Once you make it that large and monolithic, it's impossible to ship on a coherent schedule."

DLTK is sharing the stage at EclipseCon with two projects focused on AJAX, the much-buzzed-about bundle of techniques for building rich Web applications. Led by IBM, the Eclipse AJAX Toolkit Framework (ATF) aims to provide tools and a unifying framework for the profusion of AJAX toolkits available, such as those from Dojo, Zimbra and Rico.

While ATF is a fledgling project -- it's working on its 0.2 release -- ISVs are already pouncing. IDE developers Nexaweb and Genuitec are incorporating ATF into their Nexaweb Studio and MyEclipse products.

"This is incredibly innovative technology that allows us to create innovative products and demonstrates that Eclipse is well-positioned to be the standard for AJAX IDEs," Nexaweb CTO Coach Wei said in a prepared statement.

Eclipse is also throwing its AJAX runtime into the ring with the Eclipse Rich AJAX Platform (RAP). The early-stage project recently hit its second milestone release and remains in the "validation phase" of establishing its goals and community. But it has lofty aims. Milinkovich envisions a runtime that will allow developers to build applications without worrying about whether they'll be deployed online or offline.

"One of the things we're striving to achieve is to defer that decision as far into the development cycle as possible," he said. "Right now, you have to choose at design time."