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Eclipse SOA project inching closer to launch

The anticipated Eclipse SOA project is not quite ready for prime time, but work on a service-oriented tooling framework could start soon.

Before the end of the month, the Eclipse Foundation may be ready to unveil its service-oriented architecture project.

The popular open source development platform first announced its intention to enter the SOA arena back in March. Now Eclipse executive director Mike Milinkovich said he's "cautiously optimistic that we'll be able to talk about some concrete plans before the end of the month."

We get more and more projects that interact with each other, and a SOA project would fit right in with that.
Mike Milinkovich
Executive Director Eclipse Foundation

It could mark a major developer-level addition to the SOA universe, providing a common set of SOA building blocks across multiple platforms.

"We're looking to create the framework to build SOA tools and then build multiple tools out of that framework that vendors can include in their offerings," Milinkovich said.

He added that the SOA project would also be an important part of completing Eclipse's vision of creating an ecosystem that can interact with the widest possible variety of platforms and programming languages.

"We get more and more projects that interact with each other, and a SOA project would fit right in with that," he said.

One area that would seem a natural fit with SOA is the Eclipse Rich Client Platform. Milinkovich believes it could "play a big role in providing a consistent front end for the services that get built from [the] SOA framework."

Another area where the SOA project would run into existing Eclipse projects would be in the meta data arena. The Application Lifecycle Framework Project, Test and Performance Tools Platform Project and Eclipse Modeling Framework have all tackled the sticky wicket of meta data configuration from different angles.

The ultimate plan, according to Milinkovich, is to have a singular method of defining and tracking meta data across every project capable of supporting dynamic systems transformations in runtime.

"We would certainly expect a SOA project to be part of the solution," he said.

ZapThink LLC analyst Ron Schmelzer said Eclipse might be able to bring some needed common functionality to the work of SOA development.

"With design-time tooling, there's a lot of room for improvement," he said.

Yet Schmelzer also cautioned that it would be how vendors blend those design-time tools with their runtime environments that would determine the ultimate success of Eclipse's SOA efforts.

With its IBM roots and broad support in the vendor community, Eclipse so far has enjoyed great success in gaining that sort of acceptance. A June report from Forrester Research Inc. estimated that Eclipse is currently being used in more than 50% of IT shops.

That report also found that much of the Eclipse usage in IT shops is being done on a maverick basis. Developers have found a set of tools that work and they're using them.

An Eclipse SOA project, potentially, would drive a new set of Web services tools into grassroots-level development efforts.

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Read what Mike Milinkovich says about Eclipse 3.1, open source development

Milinkovich would not speculate on what specific tools would be built or how they would be used, but he promised that whatever comes out of the new group would conform to the high standards that have so far driven the Eclipse platform. Extensible, enterprise-ready, simple-to-use tools to the development community have been the call to arms for the foundation.

He noted that much of the focus in creating the project has focused on getting the right mix of people to lead it.

"We want to make sure we've got the right vision in place," he said.

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