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Commentary: Eclipse, a developer's dream?

The implications of IBM's announcement to donate $40 million in software tools to the public domain, through an organization called Eclipse, are not only significant, but also far reaching.

By Joseph Feiman and Mark Driver, Gartner analysts

The implications of IBM's announcement to donate $40 million in software tools to the public domain, through an organization called Eclipse, are not only significant, but also far reaching.

See news story:
IBM makes $40 million open-source offer

Eclipse will likely spell the end of the "VisualAge for Java" integrated development environment--at least in its current form--by introducing a new WebSphere Studio family based on Eclipse.

The Eclipse platform provides greater interoperability by offering common services for plug-ins from all participating companies. Companies can use Eclipse free of charge to build their products. And its open-source nature will enable enterprises to integrate tools from multiple companies into a single development environment.

The challenges of Eclipse as a product foundation lie in the degree to which it involves both components and integration. The more a participating company's product is broken into components, the easier it is to integrate with Eclipse. But many companies with monolithic tools would limit themselves to just an "invocation from Eclipse"--an unessential type of integration.

Another challenge will be the new customer experience: Eclipse would require training and accommodation to new principles and features.

The advantages of Eclipse as a product foundation include its allowing plug-and-play participation for some tools. The potential for creating a complete tool kit for the project is there: analysis and design tools, integrated development environments, quality assurance, Web content management, and servers--all in one.

Also, WebSphere Studio family members will be IBM's implementations of Eclipse specifications, but the native code has no WebSphere-specific code. Other companies--even major competitors such as Sun Microsystems, BEA Systems and Oracle--are free to add their own components and products.

The challenges of Eclipse as a project will be found in partnerships: IBM has to make sure that participation by its partners is not just lip service, as partnerships will likely be the most critical factor in Eclipse's success. Without real partnerships, IBM would struggle to turn Eclipse into the foundation of a top tool kit. In addition, partners are not bound to be exclusively loyal to IBM. IBM has to make its consortium, Eclipse, the most appealing and rewarding one.

The advantage of Eclipse as a project is that it is first to market with a community property and strong offer.

Eclipse is an ambitious project and an ambitious product foundation. If it succeeds, it will revive the concept of best tools combined in a single workbench--an application developer's dream. Eclipse must guarantee the real partnership of many company and make components a key aspect of participants' tools to make them "pluggable" into the workbench.

IBM customers should start shifting from VisualAge for Java to WebSphere Studio but also evaluate participating companies' "pluggable" products expected to come to market in the second or third quarter of 2002.

(For a related commentary on Red Hat's open source e-commerce offering, see

Entire contents, Copyright © 2001 Gartner, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein represents Gartner's initial commentary and analysis and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Positions taken are subject to change as more information becomes available and further analysis is undertaken. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof.