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Five Years On: The Future of Eclipse

Even IBM admits it didn't expect its Eclipse open source project for building enterprise Java tools would grow as fast as it did.

But five years after 10 curious developers downloaded projects from the Eclipse.org platform that IBM financed with $40 million worth of its own code, the integrated development environment  platform counts about 150 members, and over 750 committees deployed on 66 projects.

Today, the Eclipse IDE is considered by many developers as one of the most popular IDEs.

Eclipse officials recently presided over one of the most ambitious Eclipse releases in it five year history: The Callisto release, which adds up to 10 projects, more than seven million lines of project code, 260 developer committees, and 15 different ISVs.

Internetnews.com recently interviewed members of the Eclipse community, including officials with IBM, BEA, Intel, Zend, Wind River, Serena and the Eclipse Foundation. The questions: what's working, what's not, what's next and why they think open source Java isn't necessarily as important as you might think.

So Why Do It?

So why would IBM toss in $40 million worth of software and support for an effort that, ultimately, could help its competitors?

For starters, timing is everything. After the original idea behind Eclipse began in the late 1990s, the timing felt right to build an ecosystem that could actually support open standards between competing companies.

Lee Nackman, vice president of product development and customer support in IBM's Rational software division, said independence was a big theme. After all, early membership growth was encouraging, but IBM also realized at the time that plenty of people in the industry still saw it as Big Blue's club.

By January of 2004, Eclipse was re-organized as an open source foundation and an independent organization.

This became a key turning point, and critical to its success, said Mike Milinkovich, executive director, Eclipse Foundation.

Page 2: What Works, What Doesn't, and What About Sun?