Eclipse Galileo Marks Fourth Release Train
- By John K. Waters
The Eclipse Foundation today announced its fourth "release train," a coordinated, simultaneous launch of a group of open-source Eclipse projects that has become an annual event. Representing a key milestone for Eclipse, this year's new release train, code named "Galileo," is the largest yet, comprising 33 projects and more than 24 million lines of code.
The release includes a range of advancements in the Eclipse OSGi-based frameworks and runtimes; new support for the creation of Domain Specific Languages (DSL); and enterprise-focused features, such as new support for Mac Cocoa 32 and 64 bit, and the 2.1 version of the PHP Development Tools (PDT) project.
This annual synchronized project release supports the Eclipse commercial ecosystem, and at the same time units the Eclipse community, said Eclipse Foundation executive direction Mike Milinkovich. "The fact that you can get so many different Eclipse projects lined up and shipped on the same day really spurs adoption," Milinkovich said. "That's looking outward; looking inward, it helps the community come together. We have all these people out there working on their own projects, and it's easy for them to become insular. Getting into the release train forces them to look up and participate more, and the result is, they feel more a part of the Eclipse community."
The release train strategy is an important example of how an open source community benefits from the "all bugs are shallow" principle that underlies open source software, said Forrester analyst Jeffrey Hammond. "The level of transparency in the Eclipse release train process, and the way that bugs and enhancements are triaged in (or out) of the train are impressive," Hammond said, "and equaled by few commercial organizations."
The annual release train also provides regular release milestones that make it easier for dependent projects to plan and execute their own development plans, he added. "By stabilizing APIs and features in early milestones, and then [focusing] on killing bugs, the projects stabilize from the core out," he said. "As far as I'm concerned, this milestone-based process is really the locomotive that pulls the entire train."
Milinkovich said predictability is one of the key benefits of this approach. "Most products that are based on Eclipse these days pull from multiple projects in the community," he said. "The fact that you can get so many lined up and shipped on the same day really helps those projects."
There's a lot for developers to like in this year's release train, Hammond pointed out. In this release in particular, Eclipse is moving well beyond a Java and C++ IDE. New PHP tools are folded into the release, as are major improvements to the RAP (Rich Ajax Platform), and extension of in the ALM lifecycle in the form of the Mylyn task-focused interface for Eclipse, beefed up modeling tools, and enhanced data tools.
Hammond also applauded the annual deadlines. "I think it forces teams to engage in ruthless 'time-boxing,' and the result is that questionable features get pushed out of the time-box earlier in the process," he said. "And that results in higher quality. I'm not sure it's resulted in more code/features, but I think it's improved the focus on quality."
PDT Makes The Train
This is the first year the PDT project was a part of the release train, and that deadline gave project team members pause. Roy Ganor, PDT project lead and team leader in Zend Technologies' developer group, said the decision to participate was not an easy one.
"Now we can't understand how we lived without it!" he said. "The advantages of joining the release train are enormous. First off, we are more controlled and visible. This is something open source projects should always strive for. Many open source projects act as "use at your own risk." Now, with the whole community behind us after a great release cycle, I can say that Eclipse PDT has made a great step forward and is much more stable and usable than ever."
Eclipse PDT is an Eclipse-based development environment for developing PHP scripts. It's the first tool to support the new language features in PHP 5.3, such as "namespaces" and "closures," and it has become the de facto standard for PHP development.
Ganor added that the community feedback during preparation for the release train, along with the June 24 deadline, "made us more aligned with industry standards" and "more open for new ideas."
The PDT is one of the most popular Eclipse projects, and proof, Ganor said, that Java isn't the only language Eclipse can support. He cites release candidate statistics that indicate that the PHP-specific Eclipse package has been downloaded more than the Java Classic version. "And the numbers keep going up in favor of PHP," he said. "It seems that the rising popularity of PHP and the ability of PHP developers to absorb better techniques and tools for their development lead them to adopt the new Eclipse PDT (2.1) even faster."
Galileo is also the first Eclipse release train to make several major language translations available on the date of the release. The list of "language packs" available today with Galileo includes: Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, French, German, Japanese, and Korean. Other translations will be available later, Milinkovich said. In years past, these translations were not available for two to three months after the June release. Milinkovich credits the Eclipse Babel project for accelerating delivery of these language packs.
Last year's "Ganymede" release train combined the launch of 23 Eclipse projects; 2007's "Europa" release included 21 projects; and the original 2006 "Callisto" release synchronized 10 project launches. The Foundation released Eclipse 3.0 and 3.1 in June of 2004 and 2005 respectively, establishing the last week of the month for this annual "release train."
The Eclipse Foundation grouped the projects participating in this year's release train under four headings: Runtime, Modeling, Enterprise, and Mobile.
All of these tools and technologies are available for download now from the eclipse.org (The projects in the Galileo release train are now available for download at the Web site.
Callisto, Europa, and Ganymede are the four "Galilean" moons, named for their discoverer, the seventeenth century astronomy Galileo Galilei. Reportedly, the next release train will be named "Helio."
John K. Waters is a freelance journalist and author based in Palo Alto, CA.