Inside Eclipse: Q&A with Skip McGaughey

Skip McGaughey led the first two years of the fledgling Eclipse organization as chairperson of the Eclipse board of stewards and is the official spokesperson for the newly independent Eclipse not-for-profit corporation. During the recent EclipseCon technical conference in Anaheim, Calif., we met up with McGaughey.

Q: What is Eclipse and what is it likely to become?

A: Eclipse is a multivendor platform for tool integration and interoperability that fosters an ecosystem of service and support. So on one hand it's a community of developers, engineers, application developers and tool developers who use this open-source paradigm to develop, test and enter [their software] into the open-source community.

Second, there's a community of commercial companies that take this technology and build products for profit.

Eclipse is a combination of both of these.

Q: So they all fit into an ecosystem?

A: That's a good analogy because Eclipse has grown from nine companies to well over 50. What we have done in this recent announcement [Eclipse becoming an independent, not-for-profit corporation] is that we have overlaid the board of directors over these two different communities.

Q: What will the board of directors do?

A: The board of directors will charter a roadmap for the technology evolution that will help to enable and grow the ecosystem.

Q: What do you see Eclipse evolving into?

A: Eclipse is a platform for tool integration, but it can target an embedded device, a workstation and a mainframe. Developers [in those areas] bring different skills, different problem-solving arenas and domains. The vision is that you can have a single development environment that can target a wristwatch or a mainframe.

The emphasis in Eclipse in the first two years has been in the traditional IT marketplace. As we evolve, we are seeing major leadership come on board in the embedded space -- companies as diverse as Intel, Wind River, QNX, Ericsson, they're all very focused on the embedded space. We see other companies very interested in Web tools.

So we're going to see tremendous resources invested in all these areas as more companies come on board and more developers become engaged.

Q: How is the board of directors being constituted?

A: From a board perspective by design, we wanted to have small companies and large companies. We wanted to have Linux companies, embedded companies and traditional IT companies. We also wanted to have representatives from the developer community. So all the 'committers,' which is a group of people elected by their peers to have write-access to the code, will elect two representatives to the board.

In addition, there are about 43 companies that have signed up to be what we refer to as add-in providers. These are the companies that build commercial offerings and they [will also be able to] elect representatives to the board. It's a real representative body.

Q: There seems to be some confusion that Eclipse is about Java, but we're hearing that its scope is larger than Java, is that correct?

A: It's a multilanguage platform. In addition to the Java IDE that people now use all over the world, it's also a C development environment. There are also Cobol [efforts] being led by Fujitsu.

From a developer perspective, Eclipse has been designed from the ground up, starting from a blank slate to be for multiple languages, multiple platforms, and dedicated to integration and interoperability of tools.

Q: Are even lesser-known languages like Python seen to fit into Eclipse?

A: The platform is very stable and robust, so it is spawning lots of uses that we had never anticipated. It might be Smalltalk. It might be Python. It might be LISP. There are test environments that are being created for certification. There are industry vertical applications being written. There are also whole research and education programs.

When we first brought this out we had no idea the number of people that would be using it and the number of their uses.

Q: Has the community that has grown up around Eclipse surprised you?

A: Absolutely. We have been completely surprised at the growth of the technical community, and the number of developers that are using it all over the world. We have been flabbergasted at the growth of the commercial companies.

There are 640,000 organizations, as defined by their domain names, using [Eclipse] all over the world. There are more than 450 projects and offerings, and the majority of that has been spontaneous utilization. Eclipse has no advertising. It's all word-of-mouth, keyboard-to-keyboard e-mail.

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