The news at EclipseCon is something the Eclipse community has been doing for a while but not a lot of people know about it. The press announcement at EclipseCon is our new runtime initiative: the creation of the top-level Eclipse RT project and a new Equinox Community.
Those who watch Eclipse closely know Eclipse has been doing runtimes for a long time. Equinox and RCP has been around since 2004; ECF, RAP, eRCP and more recently EclipseLink, Riena, Swordfish are all runtime projects. However, a lot of people, still think of Eclipse as a tools platform. Jochen Krause, Eclipse RT PMC co-lead, likes to say ‘Telling CIO’s that Eclipse is a runtime, is like telling CIO’s to run Visual Studio on their servers’. Eclipse has great brand recognition for tools but less so for runtimes.
So why is this announcement important?
1) The creation of the Eclipse RT project creates a home for the runtime oriented projects. Not all existing runtime projects will move to Eclipse RT but those that want to will. More importantly, new runtime projects will now see a logical home at Eclipse, so hopefully more projects are started. It is great to have Code 9 and Innoopract leading the PMC, with participation of IBM, Oracle and Sopera. Diversity of community from the start.
2) In collaboration with the Eclipse RT PMC, we are going to create a new brand around Equinox. We need to break the mindset of Eclipse running on a server and the best way to do that is to have people saying ‘Equinox running on the server‘. Creating a new brand is not trivial but it is the right thing to do. I hope over time we will see thousands of products and a vibrant ecosystem around ‘Built on Equinox’.
3) To help create the brand awareness, we have created a new Equinox Community Portal to introduce Equinox and OSGi to newcomers and potential adopters. Some people might find it confusing that Equinox is the name of a project and the name of a community. In many ways they are right. However, just like Eclipse is an over used term but a strong brand, the way to create a strong brand is to say it over and over again.
4) The cool thing about this announcement is that it is real. We have real shipping projects and organizations using it. We have published 4 case studies that detail how BEA, NASA, Actuate and Open Xchange are using Equinox. Other companies have provided testimonial quotes about their use of Equinox. And as I have mentioned in the past, there is a good buzz around OSGi (the standard for Equinox) in the developer community. There is a feeling that people want to change the way they build software and this is going to be the solution.
Establishing Equinox as a new way to build software is a big job. The creation of Eclipse took a lot of resources, people, hard work and great technology. However, imagine an ecosystem of runtime components, all based on a common component model, that allows developers to pick and choose components from ISVs, open source projects or develop them themselves, then makes it possible to assemble these components into unique solutions that solve end user problems. Developers no longer need to take a big wade of technology from one supplier. They have the flexibility to customize and integrate components from a variety of suppliers to meet their needs.
Think back to the tools market before Eclipse. Eclipse brought a new, open architecture to the entire tools marketplace. As a tools platform, Eclipse created a broad commercial ecosystem for software development tools. The goal is to have Equinox do the same for runtimes. As James Governor and Michael Cote coined we are entering the age of the Stackless Stack and my hope is that Equinox will be an important part of making this happen.