Eclipse forms independent board

The open-source project founded by IBM becomes an independent organization and announces a new board, including IBM, Intel, SAP, Ericcson and smaller companies.

Martin LaMonica Former Staff writer, CNET News
Martin LaMonica is a senior writer covering green tech and cutting-edge technologies. He joined CNET in 2002 to cover enterprise IT and Web development and was previously executive editor of IT publication InfoWorld.
Martin LaMonica
3 min read
Open-source tools initiative Eclipse will finally taste independence from founder IBM.

As expected, Eclipse on Monday announced that it has reorganized to become a not-for-profit corporation with a newly formed board of directors, a move that has been anticipated for several months. New board members include representatives from Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, Ericsson, MontaVista Software, QNX Software Systems, SAP and Serena Software.

One of the first orders of business for the board is to choose an executive director in the coming weeks, said Skip McGaughey, an IBM executive who will step down as chairman of Eclipse. The announcement was made in conjunction with the EclipseCon conference this week in Anaheim, Calif.

IBM started Eclipse in 2001 with a donation of $40 million and software that acts as a "framework" for combining programming tools. The Eclipse software allows third-party companies to build add-ons, or plug-ins, that work with the Eclipse application, allowing programmers to mix and match tools from different providers.

arrow The head of the Eclipse open-source tools initiative shares the group's goals.
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Since its formation, Eclipse has gained significant industry momentum among software providers as well as software engineers, including Java developers. Splitting off from IBM could potentially broaden Eclipse's influence by making it easier for other software providers, including IBM competitors, to participate in the open-source effort, analysts said.

But an independent Eclipse group faces significant challenges in continuing to expand its influence in the Java tools industry, said John Rymer, an analyst at Forrester Research. The new group, which will be dominated by corporations, will need to maintain the open-source culture, where volunteer programmers often contribute code and ideas to open-source projects, he said.

The new executive director "will have to hew to the (open-source) culture and make changes but not lose what they've already done," Rymer said.

The new Eclipse board will also need to consider how it will work with ongoing Java standardization efforts in the Java Community Process and whether to collaborate with the Java Tools Community, a group formed to promote interoperability of Java development tools.

Java creator and steward Sun Microsystems sent a letter last week to members of Eclipse, urging the group to work with other Java software companies to ensure that Java standards do not fracture and cause incompatibilities. Sun dropped a months-long effort to join Eclipse in December.

One analyst called Sun's letter "political posturing." Sun is deeply invested in its own NetBeans open-source Java development effort. IBM, meanwhile, is basing its entire tools strategy on the Eclipse code.

"(Sun) is testing the waters to see how independent things are," said Thomas Murphy, an analyst at Meta Group.

Eclipse's McGaughey said the coming weeks and months will comprise an important period for Eclipse, because it will demonstrate whether IBM's influence over the open-source project will drop off, as planned. "The industry is requiring that a lot of those concerns (in Sun's letter) be addressed," McGaughey said. "We have to demonstrate our independence."

In separate news, three software providers that build plug-ins to the Eclipse software plan to announce on Tuesday the creation of a portal called Eclipse Plugin Central Alliance. The Web site, created by Innoopract, Instantiations and Genuitec, will serve as a central point and directory for third-party Eclipse-based tools, the companies said.