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News analysis: Has Eclipse gotten too big?

The Eclipse Foundation has seen a rapid expansion of its original mission in open source tooling.

Starting out with an open source Java IDE in 2001, Eclipse, which holds its annual EclipseCon 2006 trade conference in Santa Clara, Calif., next week, now has its hands in seven "pillars" -- open source efforts in enterprise development, embedded development, SOA, application lifecycle management, rich Internet applications, Rich Client Platform, and application frameworks. Commercial companies can use these technologies as the basis for commercial products.

The flow of information from Eclipse about various projects and new members is growing. Different projects are at different levels of being proposed or approved. But has Eclipse in fact taken on too much too soon? Not if you ask Eclipse co-founder Lee Nackman of IBM or industry analyst Carey Schwaber of Forrester Research.

"One of the ways that you get innovation is you let all the flowers bloom," said Nackman, vice president of Rational Product Development and Customer Support at the IBM Software Group. Nackman was involved in both the formation of Eclipse by IBM and in spinning it out as an independent organization in 2004.

Some Eclipse projects will be successes and others will not, he said.

"I would be worried if every project that was started at Eclipse was a big success, because that would say to me that they're not trying enough things," Nackman said.

Eclipse projects such as its IDE and Rich Client Platform have proven successful already; the jury is still out on endeavors such as its Web tools and ALM initiatives, Nackman said.

Eclipse now has 60 open source projects in the works, said Ian Skerrett, Eclipse director of marketing. But the organization has 130 member companies to spread around the work, he noted. "It's the companies and organizations that are really taking and doing the expansion and providing the resources to work on these projects," Skerrett said.

In fact, Skerrett said, some see Eclipse as the chief rival to Microsoft's .Net initiative.

The expansion of Eclipse is reasonable, Forrester’s Schwaber said. "The Eclipse platform is more versatile; it's good for more than just the IDE."


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