Oracle joins Eclipse

Oracle announces strategy for promoting tools standards

November 12, 2002 — Seeking to unite disparate development camps, Oracle has announced a two-tiered strategy for promoting standardization in the tools space. First, the company is joining the IBM-led Eclipse tools initiative, which seeks to provide a universal platform for tools integration. Second, Oracle is introducing a proposal for a single API to access multiple vendors' Java-based IDEs.

"Oracle is working on getting the industry to a common standard for integrating third-party tools with mainstream development environments," said John Magee, Oracle vice president of application server and tools product marketing, in Redwood Shores, Calif. "The reason we're [participating in Eclipse] is to ensure that Eclipse users have the right tools and resources to build applications for the Oracle runtime," meaning Oracle's application server and database, said Ted Farrell, architect and director of strategy for Oracle application development tools.

"Right now, we're obviously committed to Oracle9i JDeveloper, and we put effort into making sure Oracle9i JDeveloper is the premier development environment for the Oracle runtime, but we understand people have choices," said Farrell. Oracle is looking to provide extensions to Eclipse to help users write to the Oracle application server and database, he said.

Eclipse features vendors such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard, but until now, Oracle had not participated in the effort. "The problem with Eclipse is [participants] have deviated a bit from the standards," backing, for example, the SWT (standard widget toolkit) instead of the AWT (Abstract Windowing Toolkit), according to Farrell. By joining Eclipse, Oracle hopes to positively influence the Eclipse board's standards, he said.

"We don't believe there will be one tool for the industry, but we do want to make sure that Eclipse users are represented in building applications for the Oracle platform," Farrell said.

Skip McGaughey, Eclipse chairperson on assignment from IBM, said Oracle's participation is "a step forward for the entire Eclipse organization."

Other board members include IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Borland, and Rational. Microsoft and Sun Microsystems do not participate in Eclipse.

To further promote standards in the tools industry, Oracle also plans to submit a Java Specification Request (JSR) to the Java Community Process (JCP), a multivendor initiative that oversees Java development.

"Right now, every vendor's Java tools have their own proprietary APIs in their IDEs. So this JSR is a proposal to come up with a standard API that is the same across all the different vendors' [IDEs], and anyone wanting to implement the standard could implement this API," Farrell said.

With the API, developers can more easily write extensions to Java IDEs. "Right now, they'd have to write extensions for every [vendor's IDE]," Farrell said.

The API would need support from tools vendors such as Borland, IBM, and Macromedia, Farrell said. Sun's Mark Herring, senior director of marketing for Sun ONE (Open Net Environment) Java Web Services and Tools, said that JSR 198 definitely would come to fruition.

An analyst stressed Oracle's attempts to unite the Eclipse and NetBeans IDE camps. NetBeans is a Java-based open source IDE effort. "It's interesting to see Oracle [officials] putting themselves in this position of trying to bring the two proprietary communities that are relevant here, NetBeans and Eclipse, together and cause a standard to be created," said analyst Mike Gilpin, research fellow at Giga Information Group, based in Cambridge, Mass.

Uniting the two camps "could be challenging but not impossible," Gilpin said.

Oracle's Farrell said NetBeans and Eclipse have had the same problems in that both target one vendor: IBM with Eclipse and Sun with NetBeans. Oracle's JSR proposal is an attempt to provide a standards body-approved API that NetBeans did not, Farrell said.

Herring said the NetBeans interface would have to be changed to accommodate the Oracle-proposed JSR.

Paul Krill is editor at large at InfoWorld.

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This story, "Oracle joins Eclipse" was originally published by InfoWorld.