Eclipse Europa release train arrives

Open-source effort will simultaneously unveil technologies from 21 projects via the multinational Europa release train

The Eclipse Foundation announced Wednesday its Europa release train, which features technologies from 21 open-source projects.

Europa, which will be available for download on Friday at, features software updates in areas ranging from the base Java development platform to SOA, dynamic languages, and business intelligence.

"That represents 17 million lines of code, and that's being supported by 25 different organizations with committers working in 19 different countries," said Eclipse Executive Director Mike Milinkovich. "It's very much a multinational, worldwide scenario for pulling all these projects together."

In releasing so many project updates on the same day, Eclipse reasons that it reduces complexity for adopters and removes latency in waiting for projects to ship, Milinkovich said. Eclipse offers base open-source technologies in hopes that vendors build commercial products that leverage this software and tack on value-added capabilities. Developers also can use the tools as-is. Last year's Callisto release train had just 10 projects.

With Europa, Eclipse has made it easier to download projects through development of four customized packages. These are geared to the needs of Java IDE users, J2EE developers, Eclipse Rich Client Platform and Plug-in developers, and C and C++ developers. "They can come and basically get a one-click download," Milinkovich said.

Eclipse's joint release of multiple projects assists ISVs who have their own release schedules to follow, said Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions. Even with the uniform release date, Eclipse still must release APIs more frequently than once a year, said Gardner. Developers have to keep this mind, he said.

A user also liked the release format.

"I really admire what they're doing with the coordinated release," said Patrick Paulin, an Eclipse user and self-employed consultant with his firm, RCP Quickstart.

"As a user of multiple projects, it really helps me to coordinate, to not have to worry about which versions work with [which] versions, that I can migrate all the things that I need all at one time," Paulin said.

Windows Vista support in Europa was cited as a benefit by Paulin. Specifically, the Standard Widget Toolkit and Rich Client Platform, which are both part of Eclipse Platform 3.3, will enable development of applications that can run on Vista.

Among the technologies shipping is Buckminster 0.1, geared for large, distributed software development projects. "What Buckminster is about is a set of frameworks and tools for automating software builds, assemblies, and deployments," Milinkovich said.

The STP (SOA Tools Project) 0.6 release debuting in Europa provides a Business Process Modeling Notation modeling tool. "It's a way to draw out your business processes in an Eclipse-based editor," said Milinkovich.

Developers using STP also can create and deploy SOA applications on top of Java API for XML Web Services (JAX-WS) and Service Component Architecture (SCA) runtimes.

Gardner cited Eclipse's SOA effort as a highlight of Europa.

"I think that there is going to be an opportunity for a graphical approach to SOA and modeling, and like any other aspect of the tools market, people expect [tools] to be open source, and they expect them to be free," Gardner said.

Also available in Europa is Dynamic Languages Toolkit 1.0, which provides a generic framework for building tools for dynamic languages, such as Perl, Ruby, and PHP. A Ruby IDE is included as well.

With the Business Intelligence and Reporting Tools 2.2 project, Eclipse adds support for dynamic crosstabs and output to Microsoft Word and Excel formats. Version 2.2 enables Web services to act as a data source. With these capabilities, more sophisticated reporting functionality can be integrated into Java applications.

Version 3.3 of the base Eclipse Project, which hosts the Java IDE, also features a Control 3 quick-access function, providing a context-sensitive dialog to do code completion. Hyper-linking in the Eclipse debugger enables easier use.

Eclipse Project also features Equinox, which is a core runtime defining a plug-in model for Eclipse. It is based on Open Services Gateway initiative. In this release, Equinox can be used as an application container on a server through HTTP, thus serving as a small application server.

Eclipse Communications Framework 1.0, another part of Europa, provides a generic framework to connect communications protocols like XMPP (Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol) and Skype.

Eclipse's Dash 1.0 technology, also known as Eclipse Monkey, enables developers to use JavaScript to customize the IDE. Developers can add function, such as build automation, said Milinkovich.

Aspect-oriented programming is featured in Europa via release 1.5 of AspectJ Development Tools project. The Eclipse Modeling project, meanwhile, has been bolstered in Eclipse Modeling Framework 2.3 with support for Java 5 generics. This capability allows for development and management of more complex and flexible data models, Eclipse said.

The Mylin 2.0 project, previously named Mylar, provides a way to lower the complexity of the Eclipse workbench. "What Mylin does is just show you the bits and pieces that you need," Milinkovich said. "It's a task-oriented user interface."

The name was changed because Eclipse could not trademark the name Mylar, Milinkovich said.

Eclipse has based its release train naming convention on the moons of Jupiter. Moons cause an eclipse and Jupiter has more than 40 moons, Milinkovich said.

The full list of Europa projects can be found here. Although noted in the same box, Eclipse Modeling Framework Project and Eclipse Modeling Framework Query, Transaction, and Validation are separate projects.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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