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Eclipse adds new members, unveils Web services tools

The Eclipse Foundation has added new members and has launched a new set of tools that will enable developers to author WSDL, XML, XML schema standards.

BEA Systems, Borland Software and host of other vendors have recently joined the Eclipse Foundation, giving the open source juggernaut more momentum in its quest to provide the de facto development environment.

All the recent limelight, however, has not detracted the organization from its focus to improve the development experience.

At its conference this week in Burlingame, Calif., the Eclipse Foundation launched the first developer release of a new Web services tools offering.

Part of the Web Tools Platform (WTP 1.0) milestone three release, the Eclipse Web services tools will enable developers to author Web Services Description Language, XML and XML schema standards, and provide wizards that simplify the Web service creation process.

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The release also provides the reference implementation of the Web Services Interoperability Organization's validation tools, allowing developers to test their Web services for standards compliance.

The WTP project is based on contributions from several vendors and organizations, such as the ObjectWeb Consortium, IBM, JBoss and others. IBM, for instance, contributed a subset of the plug-ins from its Rational Application Developer 6.0 product.

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But while many vendors are actively providing plug-ins for Eclipse projects, others are just starting to join the foundation.

San Jose, Calif.-based BEA, which last week joined Eclipse as a board member and strategic developer, was elected as co-lead for the WTP Project. BEA plans to incorporate WTP capabilities into future releases of BEA WebLogic Workshop, codenamed Daybreak.

The fact that BEA joined Eclipse may signal the company's desire to exit the tools market, according to Anne Manes, a vice president and research director at Midvale, Utah-based Burton Group.

"I think it was a smart move on their part. [BEA] is transferring Workshop so that it will run on top of Eclipse," Manes said.

Tool vendor Borland, which also recently became an Eclipse strategic developer member, has perhaps had the most to lose from the open source tools phenomenon.

According to Manes, the Scotts Valley, Calif.-based company's flagship development tool, JBuilder, was quite popular a couple of years ago, but has since lost a great deal of market share due to developers switching to Eclipse.

However, the lines between open source and proprietary solutions are blurring. Vendors joining the Eclipse Foundation aren't doing it out of resignation, but out of a desire to leverage the Eclipse framework as a means to further differentiate their products.

Gradually, Borland plans on pulling out the core framework that's running JBuilder and all its other tools, and replace it with the Eclipse framework, Manes said.

Improving developer productivity

As companies move toward service-oriented architectures, developers will need effective tools to build, deploy and test their Web services, such as the WTP framework.

"IT organizations are trying to do more with less, and are looking for cost-effective alternatives to today's large commercial Web services tools," said Jochen Krause, WTP PMC member and managing director of Karlsruhe, Germany-based Innoopract.

Developer productivity in the face of increasingly complex development environments will be a major challenge for IT organizations in 2005, according to a recent report from Cambridge, Mass.-based-Forrester Research Inc.

Tool integration frameworks like Eclipse can provide an alternative path to effective development environments, making developers more productive, the report said.

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