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Mike Milinkovich on what Eclipse sees in OSGi

Open Service Gateway initiative (OSGi), a somewhat obscure specification with roots in embedded systems software, is important to the future of enterprise software development, explains Eclipse director Mike Milinkovich.

At EclipseCon 2007 this week, Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation, headlined his press conference with a technical talk titled "The Importance of OSGi." The Open Service Gateway initiative has been the foundation of the Eclipse platform since the early part of this decade, before there was an Eclipse Foundation or an EclipseCon. As evidence of this close relationship, the OSGi Developer Conference is being co-located at EclipseCon in Santa Clara this week. In an interview on Tuesday, Milinkovich explained why OSGi, with its roots in embedded systems and computer games, is something enterprise developers working with Eclipse frameworks and tools need to pay attention to it. His talk opened with a slide showing the OSGi implementation in Eclipse Equinox underlying not only enterprise applications, but also service-oriented architecture and Rich Internet Applications (RIA) including Ajax.

So why the sudden prominent play for OSGi at this year's EclipseCon?
A little bit of history. OSGi is a standards organization that started in 1999 around Java and initially set-top boxes. It's additionally evolved into mobile automotive applications and it recently started an enterprise expert group. We're seeing additional uptake OSGi in the middleware space as well. Middleware?
Quite a few middleware companies are starting to build middleware stacks on top of OSGi. IBM WebSphere 6.1 is built on top of Equinox, which is our implementation of OSGi. BEA announced their micro-server architecture (MSA), which is also based on OSGi. You are starting to see greater adoption in the server stacks from these various vendors. Why?
OSGi has a very dynamic ecosystem. We're highlighting it because it's a service-based component architecture that spans devices, clients and servers. We think that's of great interest to developers. I think developers have been looking for a component architecture that will get them across those tiers. Not only is there one, but there's one that exists today that has a rich ecosystem. You can see it in mobile. Nokia is very interested in OSGi and has a number of initiatives in the OSGi space. In the middleware space, you've got J.P. Morgan building trading systems on the desktop for folks using RCP [Eclipse's Rich Client Platform]. It's being used by the Swiss Rail System for scheduling applications. On the product side, IBM Lotus is probably the biggest adopter. At Lotusphere, about six weeks ago, they announced that they're using RCP as the base technology for its Lotus Expediter and Lotus Notes. There's a whole family of products being built by Lotus using RCP. There's quite a bit of implementation. This is not just about Eclipse, it's about a broader OSGi ecosystem.
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What brought Eclipse and OSGi together?
We at Eclipse are very interested in OSGi because it underpins our plug-in model. What OSGi refers to as a bundle in their standard specification is exactly the same thing as an Eclipse plug-in. Or perhaps a better way to put it is that the Eclipse plug-in is an implementation of the OSGi bundle specification. That's where the synergy exists between the two organizations. OSGi is the standards organization. Eclipse is an open source organization that provides an implementation of the standard. Obviously, the synergy between open source and open standards is something that is one of the major change agents in software today. How did the relationship first come about between Eclipse and OSGi?
That pre-dates the creation of the foundation and me coming on board. The decision to switch to OSGi from Eclipse's original plug-in implementation was made as far back as 2003. It first shipped in Eclipse 3.0 in June 2004. We joined OSGi late last year, so we're a member of their organization. There's quite a few Eclipse committers that work in OSGi expert groups, so there's a strong technical relationship between the two organizations.

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