Microsoft finally joins open source Eclipse Foundation

The software giant was a holdout for years, but is now an official member

Microsoft joins open source Eclipse Foundation (CC BY-SA 2.0)

In a move that would have been unheard of a few years ago, Microsoft has joined the open source Eclipse Foundation. The organization for a long time counted Microsoft among its short list of major nonparticipants. But with Microsoft now embracing open source and the opportunities it can bring, the company finally climbed on board.

In a blog post, Shanku Niyogi, general manager of the Visual Studio Team, today noted that Microsoft already has worked with Eclipse to improve the Java experience across Microsoft applications and developments services, including on the Microsoft Azure cloud.

"Today, I'm happy to share that Microsoft is taking its relationship with the Eclipse community to the next level by joining the Eclipse Foundation as a Solutions Member," Niyogi said. "Joining the Eclipse Foundation enables us to collaborate more closely with the Eclipse community, deliver a great set of tools and services for all development teams, and continuously improve our cloud services, SDKs and tools."

Microsoft is not disclosing how much it will contribute financially to Eclipse.

"For Microsoft, this is another indication that they are embracing open source and the open source community," said Mike Milinkovich, Eclipse's executive director. "For Eclipse it is a further validation of the new cloud-based tooling platforms our community is building. Seeing Microsoft's demo of Eclipse Che working seamlessly with Visual Studio Team Services was very cool."

For years Microsoft was seen as an opponent of open source -- but that has changed. Sun Microsystems and Microsoft were the two major holdouts against the foundation, which was spawned by IBM and counts companies such as Oracle as key members.

But Microsoft already offers Eclipse-based tools such as the Azure Toolkit for Eclipse and Java SDK for Azure, Niyogi said. And the company today open sources its Team Explorer Everywhere Plugin for Eclipse on GitHub and offers Azure WebApp support in the Azure Toolkit for Eclipse. Microsoft also will support the Azure IoT Suite in the Eclipse Kura framework for the Internet of things.

"Eclipse has a massive developer ecosystem, and Microsoft wants to make it as easy as possible for them to use Azure and Visual Studio Team System," Milinkovich said, adding that the new Eclipse Che tool platform will help them do that.

In addition, Microsoft has been building Eclipse plug-ins for years. "By becoming a member, those plug-ins will now be installable from the Eclipse Marketplace Client, extending their reach into the ecosystem of Eclipse developers," Milinkovich said.

One analyst thinks Microsoft will leverage Eclipse to promote Azure. "I expect Microsoft will take a more active role contributing to projects that make it easier to deploy workloads to Azure," said Jeffrey Hammond of Forrester Research.

Today's Eclipse move and Microsoft's recent Xamarin acquisition share a common theme: a renewed emphasis on embracing developers regardless of language or IDE, Hammond said. "I assume to goals are to make Azure and Windows more attractive to devs as development and deployment platforms." Participation in Eclipse is another sign from CEO Satya Nadella that things are different now when it comes to cross-platform reach, he said.

Microsoft's joining Eclipse follows the company's latest monumental embrace of Linux, when it unveiled plans yesterday to port its SQL Server database to the platform.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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