IBM: the open source leader?

IBM continues to solidify its role as one of the weightiest supporters of open source software development with a substantial contribution to the cause: $40 million worth of development tools.

IBM's goal is to enable developers to use tools from multiple suppliers in a single project, allowing developers to integrate business processes used to create e-business applications, such as those for Web services.

The IBM contribution, dubbed Eclipse, is an open source version of the WebSphere Studio Workbench, which the company characterizes as "a kind of universal tool platform—an open extensible IDE for anything but nothing in particular."

IBM claims more than 150 software companies, from Linux distributors like Red Hat and SuSE to applications developers like Rational and Bow Street, are lined up to join the Eclipse community.

The announcement is the latest in a series of moves by IBM to capture the hearts and minds of open source developers. In January (2001), the company began refocusing its corporate-wide Internet software efforts around Linux. It announced plans to invest $1 billion in the open source OS. Since then, the company has Linux-enabled virtually all of its hardware platforms, and it has ported many of its applications and middleware to Linux. IBM's Linux group has been staffed with hundreds of workers, with labs in Texas, New York, New Jersey, and India. And it has been working closely with the open-source community to develop and promote standards.

Still, Eclipse represents a fairly aggressive move to open up what one analyst called "the software tools ecosystem." Gartner analysts Joseph Feiman and Mark Driver describe Eclipse as "an ambitious project and an ambitious product foundation." If it succeeds, they say, it will revive the concept of best tools combined in a single workbench, which they call "an application developer's dream."

IBM says that more than 1,200 individual developers from 63 countries are participating in the open-source community. The community will be managed by a multi-vendor organization, and will include participation by companies such as IBM, Merant, QSSL, Rational, Red Hat, TogetherSoft, and others.

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About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at [email protected].