Archive for December 2009
Last week we saw probably more conversation than any of us wanted about the notion that Eclipse is a trade association and therefore not an open source community. I believe that perspective to be misguided as it implies those two states are somehow mutually exclusive. They are not. And it is our community’s embrace of both that makes Eclipse unique.
The Eclipse Foundation is and always will be a trade association. It is also and always will be an open source community. This duality is built into our bylaws, our organization and, I would assert, our DNA. Consider the following sentence from the first paragraph of our Bylaws:
The purpose of Eclipse Foundation Inc., (the “Eclipse Foundation”), is to advance the creation, evolution, promotion, and support of the Eclipse Platform and to cultivate both an open source community and an ecosystem of complementary products, capabilities, and services.
That sentence captures the very essence of the Eclipse Foundation. Our mission is to both move the technology and community forward and to work on its commercialization. The “trade association” of member companies financially support the operations of the Eclipse Foundation. Over 70 of them also provide committers who work on projects. There are relatively few obligations that an Eclipse member company undertakes when they sign the membership agreement, but one of the most important is to create a commercial offering based on Eclipse technologies. It is that obligation which completes the loop from open source to commercialization to trade association and back. Those trade association members are not strangers: they are companies that are intimately involved in and committed to the success of the entire Eclipse community.
There is no doubt that the focus on commercialization places added burdens on Eclipse projects. Our development and IP processes require real work to comply with. But there is value in that labour, and the value is in the added use, adoption, commercialization and plain old respect that the Eclipse brand brings to a project. Not every Eclipse-based open source project needs to be hosted at the Foundation. For some projects, our processes may be too heavyweight. But those projects are still a valuable part of the broader Eclipse ecosystem.
The Eclipse community is also an open development community. I strongly believe that our development process has all of the attributes of openness, transparency and meritocracy that open development requires. Our unique approach to open source development is what enables things like the annual release train, which is arguably the best run, most predictable feat of software engineering on the planet. And let’s not forget that although many projects at Eclipse are supported by developers working at member companies, there are many also projects with active participants who are here as individuals.
But there is also no denying that we have our challenges. Every project would love to have more resources and more community involvement. We need to make it easier for newcomers to contribute. There are projects who frankly don’t do a great job of welcoming contributions. We have to attract more resources committed to evolving the core platform. We have a major new release of the platform coming next year. The staff and the Board of the Eclipse Foundation recognize all of these challenges and are working very hard to address them.
The balance between a trade association and an open source community makes Eclipse unique in the software industry. We have always been both, and that has always been an important part of our success. We are different, and in my mind that is a very good thing. I believe that we should all be very proud of the organization that we have created.
Monday I blogged about some of the program plans we have for 2010 that are targeted at our project and committer community. Today, let’s turn to some of the things that we have in store for our members and the commercial ecosystem around Eclipse. Not all of these are new, but in each case there is significant value to the community, and there are at least a few new twists that we have planned for 2010.
- Events: First of all, we are going to be continuing with the program items which have been very successful for the community the past couple of years. Amongst the most successful are the event programs that deliver the Eclipse Days and the Democamps. You may not be aware of this, but each of these events is sponsored in part by the Eclipse Foundation, in conjunction with one or more member companies. They have been enormously successful for bringing the community together, and in delivering value to members. For next year we are planning Democamp programs that line up with the Helios and e4 releases. And we hope to work with the members to bring even more topical Eclipse Days to your locale.
- Conferences: EclipseCon and Eclipse Summit Europe are significant events in the annual calendars of the ecosystem. Although the content is very technical, a great deal of the talks are relevant to Eclipse users and adopters. The exhibit halls are also a great place for companies to show the cool products that they’ve been building with Eclipse. Running these conferences is a huge amount of work for a small organization such as the Eclipse Foundation, but they do great things for the ecosystem.
- Eclipse Marketplace: As Ian blogged about yesterday, this week saw the launch of our new “Eclipse Marketplace”. This is a completely new replacement for the venerable Eclipse Plug-in Central (EPIC) website that has served the community well for so many years. Marketplace is a new code base with more features and more flexibility. (As an aside, I would like to recognize the great work that Genuitec, Instantiations and EclipseSource (formerly Innoopract) did in creating EPIC, and then helping us with transitioning its hosting to the Eclipse Foundation.) In 2010 we are going to be looking to expand Marketplace’s visibility in a couple of interesting ways:
- We are going to be creating a Marketplace client that will ship with the Helios packages. The hope is that by making it easy to get plug-ins directly from within the IDE that will be able to drive more traffic to the commercial and open source plug-ins which make up the Eclipse ecosystem. Please comment on the bug where we are gathering requirements.
- We are going to be working to make it easier for users and adopters to find products and services which are based on particular Eclipse projects. Using the data that we will have in Marketplace you will, for example, be able to find the companies that offer services for a particular Eclipse project.
By the way, if you just read the above and are thinking “that’s lame, where’s the Eclipse AppStore?” you are not alone. We looked long and hard at doing an appstore in 2010 but in the end decided that we just did not have the resources. It turns out that while building the infrastructure for a commercial appstore may be tractable for an organization as small as the Eclipse Foundation, dealing with the legal and tax issues of selling in countries around the world is not. We will be re-evaluating this decision again next year.
- Ship Helios and e4: Many readers may be surprised to see this topic listed under the program value for the commercial membership. After all, aren’t these Eclipse open source projects? They are indeed. But in terms of the value that the Eclipse Foundation brings to its commercial membership, these major new releases represent a lot of marketing, IT and IP value add from the Foundation staff. The annual release train brings enormous value to the commercial ecosystem because it provides them with a stable, predictable and IP reviewed platform each year upon which products can be built. The release train has been enormously beneficial to the commercial ecosystem. Obviously, most of the work is done by the project community. But it also represents the single largest work item on our annual calendar at the Eclipse Foundation.
So those are a few areas that the Foundation staff will be working on next year. I hope you agree that it looks like a busy and productive year coming up in 2010.
I mentioned in a comment last week that — pending Board approval of the 2010 budget — there are a number of items which we’re looking at for 2010 that we at the Eclipse Foundations are pretty excited about. These are some major pieces of work that we are going to be focusing our time and energy on.
There will also be a number of significant programs for the commercial members, but those will be the topic of a separate post.
- Build and Test: The team here is aggressively begging companies for the hardware contributions required to take on more of the build and test requirements for Eclipse projects. If we are successful, we will happily provide additional infrastructure and support for build and test activities for projects. But don’t forget that the hardware is actually only a relatively small part of the total solution here. The resource management that the webmaster team will take on will be a significant amount of additional work for Denis and team.
- Git: Denis and the webmaster team have been working hard on getting read-only git mirrors up and running on eclipse.org. But we really look at this as just the starting point. We view git as the SCM solution of the future at Eclipse and hope to have it up and running for as the main SCM repository for as many projects as possible by the end of 2010. Our reason for doing so is pretty simple. From what we can tell, the use of git at Eclipse is going to make it easier for contributors to make and track changes to the Eclipse codebase. And anything which gets us significantly more contributors is a very good thing.
That said, there are a couple of items that are out of the Foundation’s control that the community will have to help with.
- The CVS Team Provider that has been in the platform for years is really good. In fact, it is so good and so stable that it makes CVS very usable from within Eclipse. For git to gain traction at Eclipse, the EGit Team Provider is going to have to get good, and do so quickly. If we want to see git adopted to a significant degree, my personal belief is that we are going to have to ship EGit with Helios. My guess is that you, the community, are going to have to help make that happen through use, feedback and contribution. (Note that I do not know what the plans of the EGit project are. This is my personal opinion.)
- The Eclipse Foundation doesn’t tell projects what to do. So if git is going to be adopted at Eclipse, the projects are going to have to vote with their feet. In other words, we are going to have to see a number of the large and mature projects bite the bullet and make the transition to git. Because if there is little or no evidence of this within the projects, then the investment by the EMO will be for naught.
- In some ways, the most difficult part of this will be deciding which of the existing SCM systems we’re running to shut off. I personally have a major problem with the idea of running CVS, SVN and git for anything other than a short and constrained period of time. The main reason for this that having multiple SCM systems is a barrier to contribution for the community. If someone needs to learn three different SCM systems to interact with and contribute to three different Eclipse projects, then we have failed our community.
- “Eclipse Labs”: We’re looking at creating an Eclipse Foundation affiliated forge where projects which are based on the Eclipse platform, but are not interested in hosting at eclipse.org can run their projects. There will obviously be some constraints (e.g. only Eclipse Foundation projects can use the org.eclipse namespace, and be part of the release train) but Eclipse Labs will hopefully over time form a powerful complement to the projects hosted at Eclipse.
- “Get Involved”: We are going to be adding some variant of a “get involved” menu item to the left nav for project home pages. We want to make it easier to contributors to understand how to get involved with every Eclipse project, and we want to help projects to learn and follow best practices on how to facilitate more community involvement. Obviously, this may require some additional work for some projects, but the increases in community involvement, contributions and project diversity will be worth it to all of us.
- Artifact Repositories: We want to make it easier for adopters of Eclipse technology to find and consume the great work that’s happening in the Eclipse Foundation projects. For this reason we are going to be looking into what technologies would make it easier to consume Eclipse software. To be blunt, we don’t know what this might be at the moment. It could be Nexus or Buckminster or Tyco or something new from the B3 project. We just don’t know and we won’t be making any final decision for six or seven months. If people are interested in getting together for a BOF at EclipseCon, I think that would be a great way to move the conversation along.
As you can see, this is a pretty significant list of projects for 2010. Denis, Wayne, Ian and their respective teams are going to be carrying the ball on these. So comment at will, but please also consider buying them a beer at EclipseCon 🙂