Component Assembly Service Has Its Head in the Cloud

Eclipse and Java coders are being offered a helping hand with their component assembly challenges from a new company with a fledgling free service. The Web-based Cloudsmith service, from the company of the same name, is designed to streamline component assembly across multiple sources. It helps developers cobble components directly from the Internet, or "the cloud"--that global pool of connected computers drawn as lump on countless whiteboards.

The newly launched Web site aggregates the work being done in various developer communities. The site depicts a map of the configurations that those communities want to share, explained Cloudsmith's CEO Mitch Sonies. He calls it a "distributed virtual dependency map," because it shows where things are and how they relate to each other. The map provides a complete "bill of materials" or list of the components required by each configuration. Cloudsmith downloads and assembles all of the components into what the company calls "virtual distros" directly onto the user's local drive.

"We coined that term to express the idea that you don't need to worry about where the components are in the cloud," Sonies said. "A virtual distro is a façade to a product, the components of which are coming from all over the place."

Users of the service locate the components they want in their distro on the map, and then publish that distro to the site. Cloudsmith keeps track of where each component is and how it's assembled, Sonies explained. It assigns a link to it, and when a developer clicks on that link, the distro automatically downloads and assembles itself.

The Reston, VA-based company unveiled the beta version of the service at the November Eclipse World event. Sonies said his 14-person company is taking it slow in the beginning with what he calls a soft rolling launch.

"We've been thinking about this for a few years," he said. "We could see that componentization was no longer just something that sounded technically important. It wasn't just about architecture, or clean-up-your-room hygiene. People were going to have to learn to work with components if they wanted to stay competitive. We're providing them with a simple mechanism for sharing the software they're working on."

One of the earliest adopters of the service is the development team for the open source OW2 (formerly ObjectWeb) project, Lomboz. OW2 Lomboz is a free, Eclipse-based open source J2EE development environment. The primary contributor to the project is Eteration. Headquartered in Turkey, the company is probably best known for its role in the creation the Eclipse Web Tools Platform.

Eteration is currently using Cloudsmith to help manage the process of creating and publishing the latest Lomboz release (3.3).

"By making the Lomboz 3.3 IDE available in the form of Cloudsmith virtual distros, we save Lomboz users, as well as our own developers, a substantial amount of time," said Eteration's CEO, Naci Dai, in a statement. "When developers choose to get Lomboz via a Cloudsmith virtual distro, it will be automatically retrieved and assembled -- ready for use as an Eclipse IDE -- on the local machine."

It's still early days for Cloudsmith, but even now Sonies and his crew are watching their Ps and Qs.

"We're excited, but it's also a little scary," he said. "We want to minimize the complexity, and make sure we don't become one of these reuse libraries, where everyone is fighting about the semantics of how you describe a shopping cart or a sales-tax calculator. You end up in a black hole of complexity pretty quickly. We're just about the structural relationships among elements of software. We don't really know what they do or care how you use them."

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance journalist and author based in Palo Alto, CA.

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