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Eclipse Targets Runtime With New Project

To further its runtime efforts, The Eclipse Foundation today announced the new Eclipse Runtime (RT) top-level project to consolidate its overall efforts into a cohesive core.

Eclipse is perhaps best known for its open source Eclipse IDE project, though Eclipse in recent years has become known for a lot more than just tooling. It has also become a home for open source Java runtime projects as well.

At the heart of Eclipse RT is the existing Eclipse Equinox project, which is already included in all of Eclipse's individual runtime efforts. Joining Equinox in the top-level project will be the Eclipse Rich Ajax Platform (RAP), the Swordfish SOA runtime project and the Riena enterprise desktop effort.

"The net benefit of putting all this together is really that we'll have more of a center of gravity around runtimes at Eclipse," Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation, told InternetNews.com. "We'll have better coordination across the projects that are interested in runtimes by having a single project management committee, and there will be tighter integration overall."

The Equinox model is critical to Eclipse as it serves to create a common platform for Java runtimes across Eclipse's open source efforts. Equinox is a component-based model that Milinkovich noted provides some important differences over competitors such as Microsoft's .NET.

"We believe the component model is unique because it is consistent across both platforms and across tiers," Milinkovich explained. "If you look at Microsoft .NET you can run it across tiers like on devices, desktop or servers, but it's not cross-platform since they've focused on Windows."

He added, "Java is great for cross-platform, but Sun made the decision years ago that ME, SE and EE were separate and different component models so there is consistency across platforms but not tiers."

According to Milinkovich, the Equinox approach provides a common model that is consistent across platforms and tiers. The common model will enable new types of applications for software as a service and mashups as well as help to support agility in IT, he says.

Some companies have already committed to being part of the Eclipse RT, but the key goal for Eclipse will be all about commercial adoption. "We consider [commercial adoption] to be an indicator of success and a key measure will be seeing how this is picked up and used in multiple commercial offerings." Milinkovich said.

Considering that both IBM and Oracle have already committed personnel to the Project Management Committee (PMC) for Eclipse RT, commercial adoption may not necessarily be a problem.

"The involvement of various companies through the PMC is not in any way a commitment that they will use any product from Eclipse in their own offerings," Milinkovich cautioned.

Eclipse's big release cycle is still several months off at this point. Though individual Eclipse projects can be unveiled separately, in recent years the Eclipse "release train" has coordinated the release of numerous projects and is the main vehicle for Eclipse releases. Last year's Europa release train included 21 different Eclipse projects.

For 2008, Milinkovich noted that so far things are on track, and he's expecting 23 or 24 different Eclipse projects to be part of the Ganymede release train.