Eclipse Photon Release Train Marks the End of an Era

The Eclipse Foundation today unveiled its latest synchronized launch of multiple Eclipse projects and project upgrades known as the Release Train. This year's coordinated launch, code-named Photon, includes a broad range of updates and new offerings, including support for building, debugging, running and packaging Rust applications; C# editing and debug capabilities; support for building Java 10- and Java EE 8-based applications out of the box; and some new dark theme improvements.

Since the Foundation launched its first release train in 2006 with 10 projects, this once-unique effort, created to relieve the anxieties of enterprise users of open source solutions and influence the release practices of other open source communities, has seen bigger numbers with each release. This year is no exception: The Photon release comprises 85 projects consisting of more than 73 million lines of code, and it includes contributions from 620 developers, 246 of whom are Eclipse committers.

The Eclipse IDE continues to be one of the world's most popular desktop development environments. According to the Foundation, the IDE is downloaded more than 2 million times per month and is the critical development environment for more than 4 million active users.

Among the notable enhancement to the IDE this year is new native support for Rust and C# through Language Server-based plugins. The Language Server Protocol (LSP) ecosystem delivers editing support for popular and emerging programming languages, explained the Foundation's executive director, Mike Milinkovich.

"Eclipse Corrosion, the Eclipse IDE for the Rust language, is one of my favorite projects this year," he said. "Rust is an up-and-coming language, and having the Eclipse IDE support it will be good for the language and the ecosystems of developers growing around it. It also illustrates the new technical approach for adding in language features, which is to use the LSP. With the LSP for E project that shipped last year, we now have the ability to create Eclipse editors that are language-aware with relative ease. And this is a great example of that, and it's something I hope and expect to see a lot more of."

The Foundation's 13th annual release train also "marks the end of an era," Milinkovich told ADTmag, because it's the last one -- sort of. The new faster release cadence for the Java Platform, which Oracle announced late last year, calls for a feature release every six months, update releases every quarter and a long-term support release every three years. The Foundation is responding to that change, and general expectations industry-wide for faster releases, by implementing a quarterly rolling release cadence.

"Shipping this scale of software, on time, to the date, every year for 13 years in a row from an open source community is actually kind of incredible," he said. "But shipping once a year is now considered old hat, and we have to adapt."

Starting in September, the Foundation will officially ship coordinated releases -- effectively, a new release train -- every quarter. Unofficially, the organization began rolling out coordinated updates with last year's Oxygen release, Milinkovich explained.

"We're really just formalizing something we started doing last year," he said. "We shipped Oxygen in June, and then Oxygen.1 in September, then Oxygen.2 in December, Oxygen.3 in March. One difference is that now there will be more of an emphasis on adding features on a quarterly basis. Before, it was more about stability, and if you didn't add a feature it was not big deal. But now it's really going to be a full release train shipping every quarter."

Milinkovich expects most of the same projects to ship every quarter, but not every project will ship with upgrades or new features.

"I think it's likely that a lot of projects are going to say, yeah, this time it's exactly what you have now," he said. "Some will even drop out when it doesn't work for them, and others will join, which is totally fine. People forget sometimes that we're not a vendor, and that this is all voluntary. This new cadence is intended to make sure we are providing a vehicle through which our projects can bring new features out to the community on a faster cadence."

To promote the Eclipse Photon release, the Eclipse Foundation has produced an expert-led webinar series on projects within the simultaneous release.

Eclipse Photon is available for download today.

You can read more about Milinkovich's thoughts on the quarterly Release Train, the LSP and progress on Jakarta here.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].