Eclipse Foundation director: Open up, Microsoft

Eclipse Foundation executive director Michael Milinkovich believes Microsoft should put its money where its mouth is and open up a few of its licenses.

Over the past year, Eclipse Foundation executive director Mike Milinkovich has seen his organization's numbers double as open source applications -- especially ones relating to Java -- have taken off in the mainstream.

Eclipse is an open source and modular integrated development environment based on Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Java language and provides application developers with programming tools. Some key members of Eclipse include BEA Systems, IBM, Computer Associates International, Nokia, Sybase, Zend and SAP.

In this interview, Milinkovich addresses the growing pains of Eclipse; how a PHP/Java competition within Eclipse is good for the group as a whole, and why Microsoft should put its money where its mouth is and open up a few of its popular licenses.

You attended last week's Open Source Business Conference where Jason Matusow, director of Microsoft's Shared Source Initiative, suggested that open source software was not as open as supporters would like to believe. As an open source advocate, what were your thoughts on his keynote?

Mike Milinkovich: I think that Microsoft saying open source is not open is like the pot calling the kettle black. If Microsoft wants to embrace OSS, they should first of all consider following the open source norms. They've got a couple of licenses they put out there recently and by all reports people are saying they are not bad licenses. I think they should consider going through the OSI [Open Source Initiative] approval process, and I think they should be using those licenses to get OSS code out there.

There have been several press releases recently on new members joining Eclipse -- where is membership today and how has grown in the past year?

Milinkovich: It is actually up to 115, so it has pretty much doubled over last year. I think the most interesting part is that membership at the strategic level -- where companies are paying up to $250,000 to support the foundation -- that level has tripled. So in terms of the companies that are making strategy commitment to Eclipse, that growth has been very gratifying.

Who's new at Eclipse?

Business intelligence (BI) software vendor Business Objects announced this week that it will make a preview version of its Crystal Reports software available for the open source Eclipse development environment before the end of the year. The vendor also announced that it would join the Eclipse Foundation.

LogicBlaze Inc., a provider of open source solutions for business integration based in Marina del Ray, Calif., also announced this week its membership in the Eclipse Foundation. As an Eclipse Foundation member, LogicBlaze will develop tools for its business integration middleware on the Eclipse platform.

Symbian Ltd. joined the Eclipse Foundation in October as an add-in provider. Symbian engineers have already contributed to the development of the C/C++ Development Tools project ("CDT"), which is the core deliverable enabling C/C++ development on the Eclipse platform.

Have there been any growing pains associated with these numbers?

Milinkovich: Sure, the foundation is just getting started; we are growing committer tracking systems, growing our own infrastructure over the past year while dealing with challenges. It hasn't been all smooth sailing and there have been some hiccups along the way, but we are continuing to invest in the growth of Eclipse and the foundation. We are certainly making sure the processes and sign-up for the committers is as pain-free as possible.

Do you have any ideas as to why growth has been most significant in the strategic area?

Milinkovich: Funding for Eclipse has come because it is an idea whose time has come. There is a lot of interest around open source, and I think the unique thing that Eclipse brings to the table is the interest in seeing commercial adoption of our technology. Also interesting is the direct involvement of software teams that are working for ISVs [independent software vendors] and their direct involvement in Eclipse projects. Eclipse is very much an open source community that falls under the open source ways of doing things, but at the same time it is seen as very friendly to commercial interest and adoption.

Has there been a trend in the type of companies joining Eclipse? Why are they joining?

Milinkovich: It is primarily the ISVs that are working in Eclipse. Our primary focus is definitely with the ISVs, but one thing that has started change, however, is we are seeing more interest in specific vertical markets built around Eclipse.

Actually, just the ISVs is probably not broad enough a description; it is the ISVs and the platform vendors. Nokia, for example, is a company not associated with ISVs. They're in the cell phone business, but they write a lot of software and want to support growing community of software developers.

Back in March, Wind River had proposed a seventh top-level project for Eclipse for embedded tools. How has this progressed?

Milinkovich: It is off to good start. They now have two sub-projects: A target management and debug. The interest right now is that Nokia has just recently announced an embedded mobile Java tools project that will also be part of that.

Could you speak to the importance of an embedded tools component in Eclipse?

Milinkovich: Eclipse is often regarded as a Java phenomenon, but it has always been more about platforms than just Java. We have actually seen large adoption of C++ in the embedded and Linux spaces, and we expect to see continued growth of Eclipse in the embedded area. I definitely believe we will see the embedded space as the next area where Eclipse is going to hit it big.

QNX is leading a C++ project -- how important is it that Eclipse have better projects with C++?

Milinkovich: There is a sub-project led by QNX, and they have been leading that project for a number of years. We've really seen that project grow pretty dramatically over the past year or so. Two weeks ago at a project meeting in Ottawa, we saw a number of new developers and new ideas they want to tackle.

A Zend Eclipse Foundation membership was announced in October. PHP is associated with Zend, and PHP is also associated with the LAMP stack. LAMP could be seen as in competition with Java and Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition. How will this relationship play out within Eclipse?

Milinkovich: Zend is a strategic member, or one of the companies, that is making an investment in Eclipse. PHP IDE is now on the Eclipse platform, and this is a sign of the continuing growth of Eclipse outside of Java.

I definitely think there is an element of truth to that, but think unequivocally, it is all good for Eclipse community. Eclipse happens to implement Java, but we are happy to see projects in other languages and support other languages. We are not Java religious zealots; we want to build the open source community. And we want to embrace a large cross section of technologies that are being used today by developers.

Business intelligence apps and open source -- is this new territory for Eclipse and what would/does an open source model of BI mean to the tech industry?

Milinkovich: We have been in BI and the enterprise reporting space for a while, with our BI and Reporting Tools (BIRT) that came into existence in September 2004. So we've been at it for over a year now. We also recently announced the Business Objects endorsement of the Eclipse platform, as well as a set of Eclipse plug-ins for Crystal Reports. We want to see our technology used in as many places as possible.

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