Eclipse Announces New Runtime Initiative Around Equinox

The Eclipse Foundation this week unveiled a new initiative for developing and promoting a community around Equinox, the lightweight OSGi-based runtime. The initiative combines a new top-level Eclipse project that pulls together different threads within the Eclipse community around runtimes with a newly launched community portal.

"We sort of hit critical mass," said Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation. "It became painfully obvious that we needed to provide a center of gravity for all of this work."

Equinox is the core runtime for the Eclipse framework. It's an implementation of the OSGi R4 core framework specification. OSGi (Open Services Gateway Initiative) defines an architecture for developing and deploying modular applications and libraries. It's used for mobile and embedded devices, desktop applications and server applications hosted on a range of operating systems.

Equinox lies at the heart of the Eclipse Runtime project (Eclipse RT), which aims to provide developers with something they're currently missing: a consistent component model that spans both tiers and platforms.

"If you look at .NET, you'll see a platform that crosses tiers, because there's a common component model across devices, desktops, and servers," Milinkovich said. "But the only platform they're interested in is Windows. If you look at the Java space, there's a great cross-platform story: It runs on Linux, Windows, Mac, and so on, but there isn't a great tier-spanning story, because they made the choice some years back that the component models for Java ME, SE, and EE would be different."

Eclipse RT introduces a concept called Component Oriented Development and Assembly (CODA). With a common component model that is used by both the application writers and the underlying platform, developers can not only to write their own components and pick and choose among them, but select which components or services from the underlying platform they want to bundle into their solutions.

"What you end up with is an architecture that is much more common and consistent through the application and runtime layers in the solutions you're building," Milinkovich said.

The goals of Eclipse RT are analogous to what the Foundation accomplished with the Eclipse tooling framework a few years ago, when it transformed the market for integrated development environments (IDEs).

"Before Eclipse, IDEs were typically large, monolithic pieces of code," Milinkovich says. "The plug-in models were typically very thin veneers that allowed you to do some very limited things. Eclipse took a uniform component model, applied it throughout the IDE itself, and used that as the same component model for how the IDE was extended. And that consistency and flexibility is what enabled the Eclipse commercial ecosystem to take off. We're hoping that people will see the same benefits in runtimes."

The Eclipse RT project is being led by Jeff McAffer (Code 9 Software) and Jochen Krause (Innoopract). The Project Management Committee will include Ricco Deutscher (SOPERA), Douglas Clarke (Oracle) and Thomas Watson (IBM). Eclipse RT will initially include several subprojects, including: Eclipse Communication Framework, EclipseLink, Equinox, Rich Ajax Platform, Riena and Swordfish.

The Foundation has also launched a new community to foster and promote Equinox as a platform for building and deploying software products and applications. The Equinox Community will be hosted on a new Web portal, which went live today with 20 companies supporting and participating in the community.

The Eclipse Foundation unveiled the runtime initiative at the EclipseCon 2008 conference and expo, underway this week in Santa Clara, Calif. Milinkovich expects about 1,500 attendees at this year's event -- the fourth Foundation-sponsored EclipseCon since IBM released its once-proprietary framework to open source.

About the Author

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

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