IBM donates $64M tool to open-source group

IBM Corp. is making another dramatic bet on the competitive advantages of backing the Linux operating system: Big Blue is donating a pricey software platform for integrating application development tools from various vendors to a newly formed open-source development advocacy organization, the company said Monday.

IBM spent more than a year and invested US$40 million (about CDN$63.7 million) in developing the Java-based, open-source software, code-named Eclipse, according to a company spokesman. Eclipse is intended to simplify the process of developing software tools for multiple operating systems: Eclipse-based software will run on both Linux and Microsoft Windows, potentially saving developers from having to port Windows applications to Linux. The software is designed to handle a variety of development tasks, including testing, performance tuning and debugging.

Eclipse will also improve the integration of third-party application development tools from multiple vendors, IBM said.

IBM has become a key evangelist of Linux, investing over US$1 billion annually in developing for the operating system, which has become a Windows rival in the corporate sector. By reducing the cost and complexity of deploying Linux applications, Eclipse could spur increased interest among business users in the open-source operating system.

Eclipse will be managed by a recently created open-source consortium, More than 150 software developers worldwide participate in the group, including IBM, Red Hat Inc., Rational Software Corp. and Merant PLC. The organization is still taking shape; further details about the group, including the composition of its board of directors, will be available later this month, according to IBM.

The Eclipse project grew out of several similar, collaborative initiatives between IBM and others in the industry, said a pair of members.

Merant has been working for around nine months with IBM on WebSphere Studio Workbench, an integration tool that evolved into Eclipse, said Merant chief technology officer Andrew Weiss. “We’re a firm believer in this notion of enabling multiple best-of-breed tools to operate together,” Weiss said. Merant plans to build hooks into its products that will allow them to interface with the Eclipse software layer.

Rational Software is “committing to building our products on the Eclipse platform,” said senior vice-president of marketing Eric Schurr. “For the analyst, tester or developer, being able to have a common workspace is a great thing. The Eclipse shell provides a lot of flexibility and integration potential. You don’t have to jump in and out of multiple products – no more Alt-Tabbing.”

Eclipse is particularly suited to e-business applications development, IBM said, and IBM’s own suite of Web services-focused WebSphere application development tools are built on the Eclipse foundation. Eclipse-based IBM products include the currently available WebSphere Home Page Builder for home users, WebSphere Studio Application Developer for Java developers (available later this month), WebSphere Studio Site Developer for Web developers (preview version available later this month), WebSphere Studio Enterprise Developer (available early 2002), and WebSphere Studio Application Developer for Linux (preview version available later this month; full version available early 2002).

IBM, in Armonk, N.Y., is at can be reached online at

Merant, located in Hillsboro, Oregon, is at

Rational Software, in Cupertino, Calif., is at