Eclipse IDE: due for a trim?

A leader of the open source tools group believes the Eclipse IDE needs its functionality pared down, citing difficulty in finding capabilities in the currently overloaded platform

As the Eclipse IDE moves forward, its functionality will need to be trimmed down to deliver larger sets of value, an Eclipse project leader said Thursday during a panel session at the EclipseCon 2008 conference in Santa Clara, Calif.

Oliver Cole, of OC Systems, who leads the Eclipse Test & Performance Tools Platform project, made the prediction in response to question about where Eclipse would be in two years. Afterward, he elaborated on what he described as an IDE that now simply has too much to digest.

"We started off as an integrated development environment and now it's become an integrated everything environment. The trouble is finding what you want in it," Cole said.

There will be a focus on the valuable parts and lots of it will not be valuable, he said. It cannot be predicted yet how this will all unfold, according to Cole.

Eclipse is set to work on the next major version of the IDE, Eclipse 4.0, or e4, which is due in two years. Cole did not believe all the paring could be done in the e4 timeframe.

Not everyone on the panel agreed with Cole, though.

"I'm not sure I believe it’s going to drop off in functionality," said John Duimovich of IBM, who leads the Eclipse Tools Project.

In other predictions, more commercial adoption of Eclipse was anticipated by the panel, along with more non-IT participation. Other developments expected included branching out into scripting and the C language realms and more contributions from the corporate world.

Eclipse usage is growing on mobile systems, said Eclipse Executive Director Mike Milinkovich. "Eclipse is getting more and more in embedded mobile," he said.

Meanwhile, at the OSGi Dev.Con conference being held concurrent with EclipseCon, an official of Paremus Thursday detailed the company's work on the Newton project, an open source effort for deploying distributed applications, including in SOA.

Newton leverages OSGi and Service Component Architecture (SCA). Paremus has big ambitions for the project. "We want to provide an operating system for distributed systems, something that handles the full lifecycle the way an operating system handles things for a single machine," said Robert Dunne, developer architect at Paremus, of London.

"[Newton is] mainly OSGi-based but uses SCA to describe global structure," Dunne said.

"The main benefit [of Newton] is it manages the full lifecycle of distributed applications based on a single description," he said.

Verson 1.2 of Newton was released two weeks ago, featuring full support for Spring Dynamic Modules for OSGi. This capability enables use of the Spring programming model to write OSGi modules, Dunne said. Spring programmers in turn get the dynamic dependency offered by Spring. If services in a program change, OSGi can react to that while Spring cannot, Dunne said.

Paremus also offers a commercial version of Netwon, called Infiniflow, with capabilities such as better administrative tools and GUIs, said Dunne.

Newton can be downloaded here.

Also at EclipseCon this week, Teamprise announced availability of Teamprise 3.0, featuring client applications that provide Java and cross-platform development teams with access to the application lifecycle management features of Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 Team Foundation Server.

Features in version 3.0 include a plug-in for the Eclipse IDE, an Explorer-style GUI application, and a command-line client. The three applications communicate with Team Foundation Server. Enhancements include full integration with Team Build and support for Check-in Policies, Teamprise said.

A new pricing plan for version 3.0 enables users to purchase individual clients based on needs. Previously, clients were available only as part of the bundled suite.