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Mike Milinkovich’s Year in Eclipse

It’s been another busy year for the Eclipse Foundation, with their biggest simultaneous release so far, Juno, the launch of a new web-based IDE, Eclipse Orion 1.0 and controversy over the performance of Eclipse 4.2.

We sat down with Executive Director of the Eclipse Foundation Mike Milinkovich to discuss the past, present and future of Eclipse.


JAX: What are your personal highlights for yourself and Eclipse throughout 2012?

For me, the two most important milestones in 2012 were shipping Eclipse 4.2 as the platform for the Juno release, and shipping Orion 1.0. Both of these events are about the future of the Eclipse community. Eclipse 4.2 is a significant re-factoring and redesign of the Eclipse platform which has been more-or-less stable since 2004.  Orion is a completely new tooling platform for the web, which offers the ability to work on your code from a browser. Both of these represent the future of the Eclipse community and ecosystem.

A third important milestone was SAP shipping its Netweaver Cloud offering based on the Eclipse Virgo project. Having a major vendor basing such a significant product on Eclipse runtime technologies is a great endorsement of the work that the Eclipse RT community has been doing for several years.


JAX: How proud were you to see the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) recognise Eclipse with the prestigious Software System Award?

The ACM Software Systems Award was an amazing and well-deserved recognition of the original Eclipse team. It is hard to over-state the impact that Eclipse has had on the industry since it was introduced in 2001. It has completely changed the software development landscape by providing an extensible and open source tooling platform. To win this award it’s not enough to simply dream big. You need to build an industrial-quality implementation and see worldwide adoption of your technology. John Wiegand, Dave Thomson, Greg Adams, Philippe Mulet, Julian Jones, John Duimovich, Kevin Haaland, Stephen Northover, and Erich Gamma were the leaders that made that happen.

On a personal note, it was very gratifying to see many of my former OTI colleagues and fellow Carleton University alumni winning such a prestigious award.


JAX: How did EclipseCon/EclipseCon Europe go this year?

Incredibly well. EclipseCon Europe in particular was the biggest and best ECE yet. The feedback that we got from the attendees was that EclipseCon Europe 2012 was the best EclipseCon ever. I am already looking forward to EclipseCon in Boston in March, and EclipseCon Europe in Ludwigsburg in October.

In 2013 we’re adding a third EclipseCon. EclipseCon France will be held in Toulouse in June. We are expecting another great Eclipse community event.


JAX: Eclipse Juno was the biggest release train yet, with 72 projects. Just how big a challenge was this logistically for the Eclipse Foundation?

The release train process itself runs extremely well under the leadership of David Williams. The fact that we run so much of this as a distributed process, where each project is responsible for its own work, is what makes the simultaneous release even possible. Some refinements that we’ve put in place like the final quiet period, have made the logistics of getting the mirrors ready and the downloads set up, have made the Eclipse Foundation’s logistics much more manageable than they were say five or six years ago. Probably the biggest challenges are around the IP review process managed by Janet Campbell and the release review process managed by Wayne Beaton. Those two and their staff definitely worked hard to make Juno possible.


JAX: It’s fair to say performance issues with the 4.2 platform have dogged this release. What have you learnt from the situation?

That our community is and will always be demanding. Which is a good thing. All of us involved in Eclipse are committed excellence, and our community keeps us honest. But I am definitely happy – even in retrospect – with the decision to release Juno based on the new Eclipse 4.2 platform. After two years of betas, we were not getting the level of detailed feedback that we needed to continue to improve the Eclipse 4 platform. Yes, we ended up with some controversy. But in the end we are getting a faster and better Eclipse with a more extensible, simple and modern architecture.


JAX: How are the issues being addressed in Kepler?

We’re not waiting for Kepler. These issues are being addressed now. In fact, the team took the unprecedented step of releasing an interim update on December 13th which addresses a great deal of the performance issues. For those who are experiencing performance issues, I highly recommend reading wiki.eclipse.org/Platform_UI/Juno_Performance_Investigation and downloading the Eclipse UI Juno SR1 Optimizations referenced there. Eclipse users can expect to have all of those performance improvements included in the Juno SR2 release which will ship in February.


JAX: Orion recently went 1.0 - can you explain what Orion is, the thinking behind launching it and whether this represents a completely new frontier for Eclipse?

Orion is definitely a completely new frontier for the Eclipse community. And I chose those words carefully, because the Orion project actually has very little to do with what people know today at Eclipse’s technology. To a certain degree, Orion is also intended for a different audience, as we expect many of Orion’s users to be web developers who have little or no experience with the Eclipse IDE.

Orion is a new codebase that provides an open source web tooling platform. As an editor it competes handily with tools like Cloud9 IDE and CodeMirror. But it is significantly more ambitious than that, in that its real goal is to provide an extensible tool integration platform which works with all of the major browser platforms. Orion provides a simple URI-based approach to integrate web tools into a workflow.

It is difficult to explain Orion to an Eclipse audience, because without a demo it is hard to get past the preconceived notion that it must be just like Eclipse in a browser. It’s not. Orion uses the normal idioms of web navigation, and the browser as its platform to deliver a very different set of navigation and development workflow patterns. I highly encourage people to try it out at orionhub.org.


JAX: How is Eclipse Kepler shaping up for June 2013?

As I said earlier, the simultaneous release process works extremely well. So far the process is operating smoothly. One major new project coming in Kepler which deserves mention is Stardust, which is a toolset and runtime for business process management. Check it out at eclipse.org/stardust.


JAX: We’ve seen plenty of news regarding M2M at Eclipse over the year - how pleasing is it to see these projects blossom, and what plans are afoot for 2013? Will M2M play a big part?

Watching new communities and projects come to Eclipse and become successful is without a doubt my favourite part of the job.

Machine-to-machine, or the Internet of Things as you also sometimes hear it referred to, is a major new technology trend which over time is going to impact all of use. Web-enabled devices are going to be a very large part of our existence in the near future. I personally believe that it is critical that the technology which drives M2M be completely open. This is both for philosophical and ethical reasons as well as business reasons. Ethically, if we as humans are going to be observed and measured by these communicating devices we need to be able to know the code that’s in them, and where the data is going. From a business perspective, the Internet itself is an example of how a radically free and open architecture has created massive opportunities. The future Internet of Things needs to be at least as open as the Internet we know today.

I am expecting big things from the M2M community at Eclipse. We already have an interesting collection of tools, frameworks and protocols, and I believe there is much more to come.


JAX: Looking forward to 2013, key goals for the Eclipse Foundation?

2013 is going to be a busy year! On the plate for the Eclipse Foundation are CBI, LTS, and continuing work to grow our working groups.

The Common Build Infrastructure (CBI) is a new service that we are offering Eclipse projects. Since the beginning, Eclipse projects have been responsible for creating and managing their own builds. This has meant that we have a wide variety of build technologies and solutions within the Eclipse community.  The CBI will provide every Eclipse project an opportunity to have their builds managed as a service by the Eclipse Foundation. We’ve invested a lot in getting the Eclipse platform project moved to CBI, and in 2013 we hope that the majority of Eclipse projects are utilizing this service.

The Long Term Support (LTS) program will offer Member companies the ability to leverage a single, shared infrastructure for maintaining Eclipse project releases. Currently Eclipse projects only do three service releases: SR0, SR1 and SR2. This basically translated to nine months of maintenance for Eclipse releases. Given that many enterprise software companies offer years of support for their Eclipse-based products, plus the increasing use of Eclipse runtime technologies, this gap has been a significant issue for the Eclipse ecosystem. By building a LTS forge the Eclipse Foundation will be providing an important service to its community and commercial ecosystem.

Eclipse working groups such as PolarSys, M2M, Automotive and LocationTech have made a lot of progress in 2012. Next year we expect to see more companies and projects participating in these IWGs.

So as you can see, 2013 will be enormously busy for the Eclipse Foundation, and for our community. I’m looking forward to the challenges that next year will bring.


JAX: Thanks, Mike!

Chris Mayer

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