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IBM To Offer Paid Support For Eclipse

The promise of open source development is free software. The pain of open source software is often that you have to rely on free community resources to support it.

That's no longer the case with Eclipse, thanks to IBM .

Starting in the fourth quarter of this year, IBM will be providing a paid commercial support offering for Eclipse users, even if the users are not using IBM platforms.

Scott Hebner, vice president of marketing and strategy for IBM Rational, told internetnews.com that there are two main types of developers that use Eclipse.

There are the veteran users who are used to the open community support model. And there are the new developers who aren't experienced and aren't comfortable with the community support model.

It's the new users that the commercial offering targets.

"We think that as Eclipse adoption grows there is going to be a need to have a mixed environment of the open-community support models, as well as traditional support models," Hebner said.

The Eclipse Foundation released version 3.2 of the Eclipse IDE at the end of June as part of release cycle called "Callisto," which includes nine other projects.

Gary Cernosek, offerings manager for analysis, design and construction at IBM Rational, noted that IBM would not be providing support for the entire Callisto release but for the core foundational elements of it.

"Part of our strategic intent for this offering is not just to directly support Eclipse developers, but we're also doing some experimentation," Cernosek said. "We want to see from real customers what they need for Eclipse support."

The new IBM support offering for open source Eclipse isn't intended to undercut IBM commercial Rational Eclipse-based offerings, which are not free.

"Customers that need the power and sophistication of Rational App Developer or Rational Software Architect -- they already understand the business case for investing at that level," Cernosek said.

"If customers are using Eclipse and doing so successfully, it means that, at least for the moment, they don't need that level of tooling. That also means they can't get support," Cernosek added.

"We've recognized that as an opportunity to say that for developers that don't need to upgrade to the sophisticated level of tooling, you can still get the other side of the coin. You can get the support."

IBM has been using Eclipse as part of various Rational applications for the past two years. Until now, however, IBM has not directly supported Eclipse users outside of Rational engagements.

Some of the reasoning behind that has to do with the adoption of Eclipse, and some of it had to do with a past "distrust" of open source.

"In 2004 the marketplace wasn't quite ready for naked Eclipse," Cernosek said.

"Open source was getting some attention, but by and large our most traditional customers did not trust open source unless it was hidden under the hood of our products.

"What's happened over the past two years is that Eclipse on its own doesn't need to be connected with a vendor IBM or otherwise."

According to IDC data provided by IBM, there are now more than 2.3 million users of Eclipse open source distributions worldwide.

"It's a paradigm shift," Cernosek said.

"Instead of starting with a large package of capabilities and only using a subset, a lot of customers are saying I'll start with base Eclipse and then just work myself up from there."