Eclipse's Third 'Release Train' on Schedule

Tomorrow the Eclipse Foundation is sending its third annual "release train" chugging down the track. This year's synchronized launch of several Eclipse projects at once (code named "Ganymede") involved the coordinated release of 23 projects, up from 21 in last year's "Europa" release, and 10 in 2006 with the original "Callisto" release.

One of the goals of the release-train strategy, said Eclipse Foundation executive director Mike Milinkovich, is to provide "a level of predictability" that will promote commercial adoption of the Eclipse community's products.

"Being predictable is a big benefit for commercial adoption, and we're very focused on having as many companies building products on software coming out of the Eclipse project as possible," Milinkovich said in an interview. "People not just using the platform, but a range of Eclipse-based products, so interdependencies and version compatibility are issues. This tradition of releasing a group of products and technologies on the same day every year allows companies to make their product plans with a high degree of confidence."

This is actually the fifth year in a row that the Eclipse Foundation has shipped an updated version of the core Eclipse Platform in the last week of June, Milinkovich pointrfout. The first release train was launched in June 2006.

The Eclipse Project itself is part of the release train. Often referred to as the Eclipse SDK, the project comprises four sub-projects: the main platform; the Plug-in Development Environment (PDE); the Java Development Tools (JDT); and the core runtime, known as Equinox.

In the Ganymede Release, JDT gets added support for multicore development, as well as dynamic scripting in the form of a JavaScript IDE (JSDT). The PDE comes with a number of new features, including one that has gotten a lot of pre-release buzz, called Plug-in Spy, which is designed to allow plug-in builders to introspect Eclipse by simply selecting an item and then hitting ALT+SHIFT+F1.And Equinox gets a new install-and-update feature known as p2 provisioning, as well as two new security features: a preferences-like storage for sensitive data, such as passwords and login credentials; and the a feature that makes it easy to use the Java authentication service (JAAS).

Among the more impressive parts of the Ganymede Release are some enhancements to the Eclipse SOA Tools Project (STP). The mission of the STP is to build frameworks and tools for the design, configuration, assembly, deployment, monitoring, and management of software built for SOAs. Based on the Service Component Architecture (SCA) specification, the STP is a "natural complement" to such Eclipse projects as the Web Tools Platform and Data Tools Platform, the Foundation said.

The STP was also part of last year's Europa release, but that version has been improved significantly in Ganymede with a new editor for WS-Policy, a new graphic designer for SCA, and new modeling and enterprise integration features. The Policy Editor is actually a collection of editors and validators bundled to make it easy for developers to build and manipulate XML expressions conforming to the WS-Policy W3C standard. The SCA Designer provides a graphical interface for developers looking to create composite apps using the SCA 1.0 standard. And the BPMN Editor now allows users to construct and extend the BPMN 1.1 standard notation to illustrate business processes.

A complete list of everything in the release can be found here.

The Eclipse Foundation's annual release train is not a top-down initiative, Milinkovich said, but one for which members of the Eclipse community sign up on their own. The Foundation has established a set of requirements that participating projects must commit to accomplishing by certain dates, but there's no obligation to participate. "Being part of the release train can help a project grow its community and mature its development and other processes," Milinkovich said. "For many projects, the release train has become almost a rite of passage. A lot of projects view it as a way of signaling their maturity and readiness to become part of the broader Eclipse platform."

Although the latest versions of all of the Ganymede projects are being released on the same day, Milinkovich emphasizes that they are distinct and separate open-source efforts. Each project has its own leadership, committers, and development plan. The "train" represents a group of stand-alone, open-source, Eclipse-based projects among which compatibility and dependency issues have been resolved.

"I think this is something that makes Eclipse unique," Milinkovich said. "I don't know of any other open source community that has shipped on this regular a heart beat or has this much focus on being predictable."

All of the projects in the Ganymede release are available for individual download on June 25. The Eclipse Foundation is also offering the projects in seven downloadable "packages," which are pre-bundled versions of Ganymede projects aimed at specific uses. These include bundles aimed at Java and Java EE developers, C/C++ developers, and rich client plug-in creators. There's also a collection of modeling tools, an Eclipse "classic" that combines the platform and dev tools, and a reporting package that contains BIRT (Business Intelligence and Reporting Tools) on top of the JEE package. These bundled offerings are available here.

Callisto, Europa, and Ganymede are all moons of Jupiter. Though a few of the big planet's 63 moons are named with numbers, the Eclipse Foundation should have plenty of Greek appellations to continue the release train's astronomical naming convention.

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