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Eclipse Takes 'Best' Shot at Framework

Best practices information is the cornerstone of all good software development. Getting best practices information and processes, though, has long been a proprietary exercise. Until now.

The Eclipse Process Framework (EPF) promises to be the first open source initiative build out of a framework to help developers and organizations manage and distribute software best practices.

The EPF effort began at the end of 2005 as an open source project within the Eclipse Foundation. IBM kick-started the effort with 300,000 lines of code and 15 percent of the content found in its Rational Unified Process (RUP) product.

Today EPF hits the third development milestone on its way to a full release in September.

The EPF is both a set of best practices, as well as an actual tool in the form of the EPF Composer, which will enable users to both author and publish processes.

Per Kroll, manager of methods for IBM Rational at IBM, and lead on the EPF project, explained to internetnews.com that the goal with Milestone 3 (M3) is to further stabilize the structure of OpenUP, and the tooling build.

OpenUP is the open source version of the unified process platform within EPF.

Chris Sibbald, senior systems engineer of lifecycle solutions at Telelogic and a committer to the EPF project, explained that the M3 milestone also freezes the architecture of the process content in terms of what are all the process elements and how are they are all connected.

Telelogic, which offers competitive products for IBM's Rational product line, is donating some of its best practices as part of the EPF effort.

"We've been around for 20 years and we've accumulated a lot of best practices and we're helping our customers," Sibbald told internetnews.com. "But if we can capture that in a consistent manner and integrate that with tools that provide process guidance, there will be a huge benefit to our customers."

Telelogic has been offering best practice processes on a customized basis through consulting rather than a framework. Sibbald expects the EPF to be easier.

"The fact that it's a standard framework using a standard meta model, it's easier to share information across projects. It's easier to configure, publish and browse and link into your daily work when needed," Sibbald said.

EPF represents something that has not been done by the open source community.

"Every vendor to this point has had their own process content delivery mechanism, but this is as far as I know the first open source initiative to provide this type of framework support," Sibbald said.

IBM's Kroll stated that, "there is no real competition for EPF."

The open source model fostered by Eclipse is inclusive, and the strategy is to include a broad community of participation.

"We already have broad support for this model, with 27 committers and more than a dozen supporting organizations," Kroll said. "We see the support increasing every month."

In fact the EPF is now ranked No. 7 out of 60 projects in terms of activity at Eclipse and claims more than 7,000 downloads so far.

"With an increased focus on agile development, governance, compliance, etc., more and more people see the value of process," Kroll said.

"Also, there are a lot of organizations and developers with a lot of relevant experience in the process domain, and EPF provides them with the community and environment allowing them to collaborate effectively with their peers."

Two milestones still remain for the EPF before its expected September release.

"The next iteration is going to be a quality check to make sure that everything is concise and correct," Telelogic's Sibbald said. "Then we'll be turning our attention to launch planning."