Eclipse's Fifth 'Release Train' Is a Whopper

The Eclipse Foundation on Wednesday sent its fifth annual Release Train steaming into the station. The Foundation's yearly synchronized launch of multiple Eclipse projects has grown from an initial 10 launched in 2006 ("Calisto") to 39 projects this year. Code-named "Helios," this year's coordinated release comprises 33 million lines of code contributed by 490 committers, of which 108 were individuals.

Eclipse has come a long way from the days when it was considered primarily a Java tools development platform, as this release train demonstrates. Among the projects highlighted by the Foundation:

  • A new Linux IDE package aimed at making it easier for Penguinistas to use an integrated tool chain for building C/C++ applications for the OS.
  • New support for the Git distributed version control system with EGit 0.8 and JGit 0.8.
  • A JavaScript debug framework that allows for integration of JavaScript debuggers, such as Rhino and Firebug from the JavaScript Development Tools project (JSDT).
  • A new JavaScript IDE package based on the Eclipse IDE.
  • 80 new features in Eclipse Xtext 1.0, the popular framework for creating domain specific languages (DSL).
  • A new release of Acceleo (3.0), which implements the OMG Model-to-text (MTL) spec and provides the features required for a code generator IDE.

For Java jocks, the big news in this release train is the introduction by the Web Tools Platform project of support for creating, running and debugging applications written for Java EE 6, including, Servlet 3.0, JPA 2.0, JSF 2.0, and EJB 3.1.

"It's important to remember why we do these release trains," said Mike Milinkovich, the Foundation's executive director. "For one thing, they make it easier for our adopters to pick up and use Eclipse as a platform for commercial products. Lining up all the projects and shipping them on the same day means they get them as a complete unit and they don't have to worry about version misalignment. Because it's been so predictable for so many years, they can build their product plans with a high degree of certainty that they're going to get these technologies when we say they're going to get them."

"But also," he added, "these release trains make it easier for our users. As part of the release train process we create packages of Eclipse projects targeted to various developer communities. There's a package for Java developers, one for Java EE developers, one for PHP developers, one for C/C++ developers. That makes it easier to pick up and use Eclipse, because you get a single downloadable install that gives you a nice starter set of Eclipse projects for the domain in which you're interested."

The Helios release includes 12 of these packages, up from 10 last year. The Linux IDE package mentioned above is new; so is the new JavaScript package.

This release train also debuts an app-store-like catalog of Eclipse plug-ins, dubbed the Eclipse Marketplace Client. The aim here is to provide developers with a way to easily discover and install new Eclipse plug-ins. More than 100 are available now, according to the Foundation.

"The reason we aren't calling it a full app store is because we don't handle the actual e-commerce part," said Milinkovich. "But you can, right from your developer workbench, discover and install plug-ins from the Eclipse marketplace. It's about making it easier for developers to leverage the ecosystem of plug-ins that's out there."

The release train strategy seems to be working. Forrester Research analyst Jeffrey S. Hammond points to Eclipse market share as evidence of success. "I think the proof is in the resulting level of adoption with enterprise and SMB development shops," Hammond said. "Eclipse is the second most adopted primary IDE behind only Visual Studio. Not bad for a humble open source project."

The complete list of Helios projects is available here. More information on this release train can be found on the Eclipse Helios page. The Helios packages itself is available now for download from the Eclipse Download page.

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].