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Eclipse Converge 2017: Milinkovich on Eclipse

Mike Milinkovich, the executive director of the Eclipse Foundation, kicked off Eclipse Converge 2017 this week with an update for attendees on doings at the 13-year-old organization.

The Foundation grew over the past year to 331 projects, Milinkovich said, and the rate of increase seems to be accelerating. "In the past couple of quarters, we've had more new Eclipse project proposals than I can ever remember," he said. Milinkovich underscored the quality of the ongoing projects at the Foundation with a reminder of how vigorously his organization separates the wheat from the chaff. "We think it should be pretty easy to start an Eclipse project," he said, "but if it's not going well or there's not a lot of activity, we're going to garbage collect every summer."

More than 1,400 committers are currently involved in Eclipse project, he said. Many of the newer participants are drawn to the IoT projects and science group.

"We've worked really hard over the past few years to establish our Foundation as a community where both the biggest companies and the most interested individuals can collaborate successfully on projects," he said. He pointed to the Foundation's flagship Eclipse IDE as an example of a project that continues to draw "a mix and match" of companies and individuals.

Among the most popular of the Foundation's working groups is the Science Working Group, he said. The group's goal is to improve software for science -- things like biology and chemistry workbenches that make it easier for researchers to analyst as run experimental workflows. A founding member of that group, Tracy Miranda, co-founder of Kichwa Coders, a consultancy specializing in Eclipse tools for embedded and scientific software, became the first woman elected to the Eclipse Foundation board this year.

The relatively new Eclipse IoT group now accounts for 30 projects, he said, and for a significant percentage of the Foundation's growth. "We started with this about five and half years ago with a project called Eclipse M2M," he said. "The growth and evolution has been amazing to watch." Geospatial and automotive projects are popular areas of focus among Eclipse committers, he added. And he was especially proud of the work the Foundation has done to make the Eclipse Intellectual Property (IP) Policy more contributor friendly.

He also said that the 12th annual synchronized release of Eclipse projects known as the Release Train is on schedule for June. This year's release, codenamed "Oxygen," is expected to exceed last year's release by a few projects and a few lines of code. And he also promised that the Foundation will ship an Eclipse maintenance release the day Java 9 goes live.

I met with Milinkovich after his keynote to talk about what is arguably one of Foundation's most important but least sexy efforts: the new Eclipse IP Policy.

Approved last June, the new policy provides project owners with the option of foregoing the Foundation's traditionally intense code analysis for a more streamlined approach.

"Throughout the lifespan of a project, we do a deep analysis of all the dependencies," Milinkovich explained, "so that we can demonstrate that we know who wrote all the code that gets contributed at Eclipse. We look for third-party dependencies and check license capability. But we also check the code provenance. We scan their code, go through their email archives looking for conversations, analyze the code to see if any of it has ever been re-licensed. It's an enormous time investment, both for the Foundation and the committers."

When a new project comes to Eclipse, it can take weeks and even months to clear all the dependencies via this process.

"And boy, can that suck the air out of a room, "Milinkovich said. "I mean, you come to Eclipse with a project, and you're buzzing and excited to be there and you're ready to get going… and, oh yeah, you can't do crap for four months. Not a great thing for developers."

The alternative, called Type A, stops at checking license compatibility and does not check the provenance, which is similar to the approach used by the Apache Foundation, Milinkovich said.

"It gets projects off to a quick start," he said, "and we're finding that once the projects mature, the committers come back and ask for the Full Monty."

The one-day Eclipse Converge event is a new one for the Foundation. The idea was to provide an Eclipse-focused event during which North American developers could meet and share ideas. A range of Eclipse contributors, adopters, extenders, consumers, and researchers gathered at the San Jose Convention Center for the conference.

By design, the Converge event was held at the same venue and one day before the inaugural Devoxx US conference. The Devoxx program, launched in 2001, sponsors events in five countries (Belgium, UK, Morocco, France, Poland) and now the US. Event organizers bill the program as the provider of the largest vendor-independent developer events in the world, collectively. No EclipseCon North America conference is planned for 2017, due to the combined events of Eclipse Converge and Devoxx US. "We believe these two events will enable all members of the Eclipse community to come together and share new ideas, not just among other Eclipse community members," organizers said in a statement, "but also with some of the best and brightest in our industry."

Posted by John K. Waters on March 22, 2017