IBM to spin off Eclipse tools project

Open source consortium is restructuring into a nonprofit organization

The Eclipse project is being spun out from IBM Corp. At its EclipseCon conference in Anaheim, California, next month, the open source consortium plans to announce that it has restructured itself into a nonprofit organization, with a new board of directors and a new governance model designed to encourage other industry players to get involved in the project.

As part of the restructuring, Skip McGaughey, the IBM staffer who is the consortium's current executive director, will step down from his position. The newly formed Eclipse board will select a new executive director -- one who is not from IBM -- within the next few weeks, McGaughey said.

Papers have been filed to incorporate Eclipse as a 501 (c) nonprofit corporation in the state of Delaware, McGaughey said.

Under the new structure, IBM will no longer be the primary financial contributor to Eclipse. Instead it will instead receive contributions from commercial members who will each provide between $5,000 and $250,000 in funding per year, and who also will begin contributing more developer resources to the project, McGaughey said.

IBM expects to provide "less than one eighth" of Eclipse's funding for 2004, McGaughey said. He declined to say how that compares to 2003, but said IBM historically has been the "primary contributor."

IBM launched the Eclipse project two years ago, hoping that it will form the basis of an industry standard, open-source Java development platform. IBM has succeeded in encouraging vendors such as Borland Software Corp., Oracle Corp, and SAP AG to build their software on top of Eclipse, but has so far been unable to entice BEA Systems Inc. or Sun Microsystems Inc. into the fold.

Sun flirted with the idea of joining the consortium last year but dropped out of negotiations in December, saying it had been unable to reach agreeable terms with the Eclipse board.

"Sun has cited the close ties with IBM as a concern," said Stephen O'Grady, an analyst with the research company Red Monk LLC. "Most of the folks with an interest in Eclipse would like to see it be a little bit less dominated by IBM."

By opening up the executive governance IBM has taken a step in the right direction, but it still must put non-IBMers in charge of the various Eclipse software projects, O'Grady said. "The remaining deciding factor will be project leadership," he said. "Once we start to see that shift, I think that will start to open some doors."

The new structure is a "very significant" change, according to Paul Roth, chief technology officer with CommerceQuest Inc., a Tampa, Florida-based software company whose Traxion business process management software is based on Eclipse. "To really see Eclipse take the position in the industry it's capable of taking, IBM needed to let go of the reins."

The structural changes do not appear to have had an impact on BEA, however.

"It doesn't really change anything," said Dave Cotter, director of developer marketing with BEA. His company's customers and software development community have yet to express much interest in the project, according to Cotter, and BEA is not considering joining Eclipse at this time.

Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

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