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New Eclipse project to marry the desktop IDE and the cloud takes flight

Lucy Carey
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Proposal submitted for project “Flight”, which aims to provide infrastructure for integrating dev tools across desktop, browser, and servers.

Software development is gradually pivoting towards the web – and in many ways, the cloud has now come to resemble the desktop IDE. In response to this trend, two members of the Eclipse community, Martin Lippert (check out his talk Browser & Cloud – The Future of IDEs? in the video at the bottom of the page) and Orion developer John Arthorne, have proposed a new project: Flight.

Currently, there seems to be some cognitive dissonance between approaches for cloud and desktop-bound IDEs. Existing cloud-approaches require devs to haul their work into the cloud for development, leaving useful existing tools behind that don’t exist in the cloud.

Ultimately, the overarching goal for Project Flight is to end this practice by providing an extremely flexible platform and infrastructure capable of allowing new cloud-based tooling components to be built highly decoupled from each other, which simultaneously bridge the gap to existing desktop IDEs.

It’s not about reinventing the wheel and re-implementing a desktop IDE with all the bells and whistles into the browser, nor does it plan to re-implement the majority of the existing language tooling already there in the Eclipse universe. What it will do is re-apply the capabilities of what’s already there to cloud based services.

Not only would this new emerging platform and infrastructure allow for independent components to be produced – it could also provide connections to the most popular development environments. The focus will be on the integration of legacy tools, not on the re-implementation of a full-fledged desktop IDE.

There will be cloud-based tooling for a “limited” set of languages on top of this infrastructure, which will serve to demonstrate how language tooling could be implemented for the cloudy tooling architecture.

The foundations for Flight will be laid with Java and JavaScript tooling, which will work on top of this cloud-based infrastructure. It’ll be put into effect by re-cycling parts of JDT and Orion for implementing cloud services. In the future, additional services for other languages may follow.

In contrast to Project Orion, which focuses on the client side, Flight will have its sights fixed on the server side. The team view the architectures of Flight and Orion “strongly complementary”, and envision that one day, the best idea may be to combine these technologies under a common top-level project. To this end, Flight will combine Orion’s browser-side integration technology as much as possible, and reuse Orion project developed JavaScript tooling.

The potential of this ambitious project is obvious: With Flight, the omnipresent gap between the traditional and the browser IDE would effectively be sealed. The mission is now on for Lipper and Arthorne to comprehensively integrate the tools for the desktop, browser and server.

Browser & Cloud – The Future of IDEs? from JAX TV on Vimeo.

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