Foundation talk: “Eclipse Foundation must be responsive to the new communities”
Welcome back to our series ‘Foundation Talk’ in which we introduce the staff of the Eclipse Foundation. Meet Andrea Ross, Director of Ecosystem Development.
We talked to Andrea Ross, Director of Ecosystem Development, about what Eclipse means to her, what will happen in the future and we turn back time to the moment she joined the Eclipse Foundation.
JAXenter: What are your duties and responsibilities within the Eclipse Foundation?
Andrea Ross: I am responsible for the LocationTech and Science working groups. Each of these is a full-fledged community within the larger Eclipse Foundation community.
In a few cases the software in these groups have links back to the Eclipse platform, but many are independent, and more than a few are written in programming languages other than Java.
The LocationTech working group specializes in developing systems with awareness of relative space and time. There are 18 projects currently, and growing. The group is particularly well known for it’s “big geo” technologies such as GeoTrellis, GeoMesa, GeoWave, and GeoJinni. Each of these implement spatial data types, indexing, and features on top of Hadoop, Spark, Accumulo, Cassandra, and others. The group is also home to the JTS Topology Suite library, which underpins much of the open source geospatial ecosystem. These technologies are used for environmental stewardship, urban planning, safety and security, and other domains that have a real physical impact on people’s lives. I find this very inspiring.
The Science working group specializes in software used for scientific research. This includes projects for data analysis, visualization, simulation, and more. The DAWNSci and ICE projects were the significant projects that helped the group get going, and since then there are a number of interesting new projects. For example, the Triquetrum project provides useful capabilities for managing and executing scientific workflows. The StatET project is a relatively recent arrival, and provides powerful tools for working with the R statistical environment. This group is full of wicked-smart people doing important research, and supporting researchers beyond. Again, it is not hard to see how their work can have a very positive impact on the world.
JAXenter: When did you join the Eclipse Foundation and why?
Andrea Ross: I joined the Eclipse Foundation in 2011. Prior to joining the Foundation, I worked for Ingres (now Actian). Ingres/Actian was a member of the Eclipse Foundation, and participated in a few projects. This meant I’d been in orbit in the Eclipse community and familiar for a while. The venture capital organization that owned a stake of Ingres/Actian bought out the rest, and decided to pursue a possible acquisition. This triggered downsizing the company a great deal including letting every member of my team go (I was a Director in the engineering team). I was offered a promotion to continue, but I chose to leave anyway for personal reasons. Soon after, Mike Milinkovich reached out to me. There were no positions available right then, but a little while later, an opening brought me in and I’ve been at the Foundation since.
Most of my career I worked on a particular product or product line which tended to solve specific problems, but couldn’t go after the really big and challenging ones. My thinking was that the Eclipse Foundation, working with a consortium of organizations, working in the open collaboratively, would offer a chance to crack some of the really tough problems that are too big and challenging for a single organization to solve. I knew this would be really hard, but wanted to give it a try and see what could be accomplished. I felt, and still do feel, that a well-established open source foundation is one of the few places this can succeed. I also wanted to work with and learn from Mike Milinkovich and the people who are now my colleagues. I had a number of choices of what to do after Ingres/Actian, but chose the Eclipse Foundation for these reasons.
JAXenter: Which project(s) do you like most?
Andrea Ross: Phew! That is near impossible for me to answer. My history obviously runs deep with the Eclipse platform and IDE, and the geospatial projects in LocationTech. The big geo projects are perhaps closest to my last job prior to joining the Foundation, so naturally that lets me draw upon past experience more than some, and the people I work with there I admire a great deal.
I am often surprised by amazing technology at Eclipse that I wasn’t already familiar with. For example, at EclipseCon this year, I listened to Torkild U. Resheim speak about Mylyn Docs. It a very powerful and useful library for parsing and writing a number of document formats such as wiki, e-pub, pdf, and more. I could instantly see many useful things that could be done with it. I’ve been learning more about the many modeling projects and community, and I find it similarly impressive.
For me, working with the Science group is a very interesting experience. I’m not sure if outside my comfort zone is the right way to describe it, but it’s not far off. What I mean by this is that most of the other projects I’ve come across, I have done similar work in the past in telecom, database, geospatial, IT, etc. The things from the Science working group are technologies that often I have no clue about when I first meet them. This is not surprising because simulating nuclear reactions, or running a synchrotron are pretty specialized and very complex skill sets. Again, the people I work with in the Science working group are incredibly smart, hard working, and kind people that I admire so it’s a pleasure to work with them.
JAXenter: What does the future of Eclipse (and the Foundation) look like?
Andrea Ross: I feel my work at the Eclipse Foundation has often been near the leading edge of an interesting evolution for the Foundation. When I joined in 2011, we were still very much focussed on the IDE, RCP, modeling, and technologies that remain the flagship for the Eclipse Foundation and community today. It’s not easy for an organization to evolve and adapt to take on new things in new areas, and especially when the flagship is still thriving. Nevertheless, today, we have technologies in an array of new domains such as geospatial/geomatics/GIS, internet of things, automotive, science, and more. My wish for the Eclipse Foundation is for it to keep evolving to be responsive to these new communities and others that will arrive in the future. I feel this will help the Foundation adapt and thrive and continue to bring benefit to the world.
JAXenter: Finally — Eclipse Neon. What is your favorite feature?
Andrea Ross: Sopot Cela did a really great talk about new features in Neon at EclipseCon France in June. I could rhyme off a bunch that I think are great, but instead I’ll talk about the FEEP program. This is a program at the Eclipse Foundation where Friends of Eclipse donations are used to fund development to improve the Eclipse IDE & platform. When I listened to Sopot talk, more than a handful of meaningful improvements were funded by FEEP. I find this exciting. When I started at the Eclipse Foundation, it was very unusual for staff to participate in development. It’s hard for me to look into my crystal ball and predict if this evolution is a really good idea long term. Our community is everything, and we want to support it, not replace it with staff, in my opinion. But in the short term, the improvements were convincing for me that there’s really good stuff happening and maybe a way to ease the tragedy of the commons with open source projects and augment + support what the community is doing.
Thank you very much!