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Happy birthday Eclipse Foundation! : 5 noteworthy initiatives from the past decade

Lucy Carey
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Established in 2004, the Eclipse Foundation has become a shining testament to what truly open-source development can achieve. Here are just a few highlights.

Running through the roster of Eclipse Foundation projects old and new, you can easily chart the rise and fall of development trends over the past decade. Since the not-for-profit, vendor-neutral Foundation was established by IBM in 2004, it’s swelled from 19 projects and 50 members to 247 projects and 205 members, who have formed collaborative working groups around industries and technologies ranging from geospace to aerospace and the Internet of Things (IoT).  

Although it was initially open sourced by IBM  to foster adequate market share for a fragmented Java tools market to stand against Microsoft’s Visual Studio franchise, Eclipse has long ceased to be a byword for just one language. As John K.Waters notes, the “totally-not-Java” CDT Project, which provides a fully functional C and C++ IDE, has been adopted as “the de facto standard development of embedded systems.”

Moreover, its community growth has paralleled the rise of the age of the developer, with the people at the forefront of app deployment now firmly at the mission control deck when it comes to steering what technologies are put into place.

Most recently, the Eclipse Foundation has emerged as a ‘centre of gravity’ for the brave new world of interconnected devices – and some of the projects currently in development may just well end up as the key cogs in a one-day universal network of M2M devices.

So happy birthday Eclipse Foundation – and here’s to another decade of open collaboration. Though there’s an endless selection to sift through, we’ve cherry picked five noteworthy Eclipse initiatives to mark this milestone anniversary :  

1) Orionan IDE, for web devs, in the web:

The objective of this project was to create a bespoke IDE for web development – in the web, stocked with tools for developing with JavaScript, CSS, and HTML. According to Co-Lead and Committer Ken Walker, “The components differ from many other Eclipse projects primarily because they’re written in JavaScript, CSS, HTML5 and target modern browsers such as Firefox, Chrome, Safari and IE10. This is the initial target for Orion, web developers.”  Ultimately, the team behind Orion want “to make the web itself the development environment, instead of trying to bring existing desktop IDE concepts to the browser”. It’s not intended as a browser-based replacement for Eclipse, but as a new project for web devs, stamped with all the hallmarks of Eclipse.

2) LocationTechkeeping pace with the rise of the mobile device :

Back in 2008, smart phones were taking their first steps to world domination. And the key differentiator between them and the ruling classes of laptops and PCs? Location, location, location. With the rise of increasingly affordable, more powerful portable devices, our attitude to the way we access and generate data has fundamentally changed. Today, it’s all about real time data – not asynchronous processing.  The LocationTech Technology (LTT) project, geared towards germinating, nurturing, and promoting location aware efforts in the LocationTech community, aims to meet these new expectations. By targeting “clients” and “servers” across embedded devices, desktops, and enterprise systems, LTT projects provide those intermediate software services which enable applications to be “more easily and concisely constructed across these environments”.

3) PolarSysmaking tools that will endure :

Although not officially announced until 2011, the development of Eclipse Industry Working Group PolarSys goes back to 2005. The interest of this group is to define, with key players from industry, tool vendors, and academics, a common, integrated and sustainable technological platform for software-critical systems, which meets the industry’s needs. Through this move for federation of shared components, the days when companies are forced to ‘reinvent the wheel’ time and time again will hopefully be numbered. Additionally, with this encouragement of open innovation comes better methods and tooling, certification to simplify the process of tools qualification in painful certification processes, and support that spans generations, allowing Embedded Systems and tools to be maintained for over 40 years.

4)  Vert.xtestament to the power of the community :

Vert.x is described by Tim Fox as ‘the framework for the next generation of asynchronous, effortlessly scalable, concurrent applications’. But what sets it apart is its receptiveness to other languages. It’s an event-driven application framework and runs on the JVM, which then exposes the API in Ruby, Java, Groovy and JavaScript. The choice is indeed yours – you can even mix and match. Although it began life as an external project, we’ve chosen to include it here, as it’s a great example of what makes the Eclipse community so appealing. When the decision was made to port Vert.x across to Eclipse in January 2013, Fox noted that, “For the project to continue to flourish with a vibrant community it’s important that the project is hosted in a neutral organisation where the aims of any one commercial entity cannot steer the project. We believe the project is owned by the community and it’s up to the community, led by the project lead, to determine the course of the project.”

5) Paho, Mihini & Konekiunderpinning the IoT:

Many contemporary Eclipse projects are geared towards getting the IoT off the ground. In an interview with eWEEK in 2013, Ian Skerrett, Eclipse Foundation Director of Marketing, emphasised that the foundation is, “set on establishing an open-source software ecosystem for M2M and Internet of Things (IoT) development.” He added that, “If there really is going to be an Internet of Things where all these different devices and things are talking to each other, there really needs to be some open standards in place…We want to be the home for those standards.” Enter  Paho, Mihini and Koneki, three active Eclipse IoT projects which are helping to turn the buzz around the inevitable dawning of a world of interconnected objects into a reality. To find out more, check out this JAX video, which describes the Eclipse Foundation’s work with Paho, an implementation of MQTT, the lightweight, scalable, messaging system for connected devices and the Internet of Things.

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Image by Omer Wazir

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