BEA heads further down open source, Eclipse paths

Like every other major software vendor that wants a piece of the Java action, or has a piece of the Java action to protect, BEA is another company that’s looking to manage its presence in an increasingly open source world while hoping to preserve the once lush pastures of the old and tired commercial software model.

Download this PodcastLike every other major software vendor that wants a piece of the Java action, or has a piece of the Java action to protect, BEA is another company that’s looking to manage its presence in an increasingly open source world while hoping to preserve the once lush pastures of the old and tired commercial software model.   Like Oracle, which announced at the show that it will now give start giving its integrated development environment JDeveloper away for free, BEA already gives away its IDE known as Workshop.  Whereas JDeveloper remains on the same Oracle technology-based foundation it has always been, BEA announced earlier this year that WorkShop would be ported to run on the Eclipse Foundation’s Eclipse Framework – the same framework behind the Eclipse IDE.   According to BEA's CTO Mark Carges, the newly found synchronicity between Eclipse and BEA’s WorkShop makes it easier to leverage a single plug-in architecture (something customers apparently requested) while at the same time making some quasi-open source plays in the Java community. 

In my interview with Carges (which is available as an MP3 that can be downloaded or, if you’re already subscribed to ZDNet’s IT Matters series of audio podcasts, it will show up on your system or MP3 player automatically. See ZDNet’s podcasts: How to tune in), the BEA CTO talked about how it was committing to open source in a number of ways.  For starters, in addition to the way it already embraces Apache Beehive (a framework that BEA contributed to the open source community last year) in both its development tools and application server (WebLogic), the company will on both ends of the pipe (in the tools and servers) begin to embrace other open source development frameworks that, because of their popularity with developers, are turning into defacto standards.  Although Carges routinely and gratuitously tosses the BEA-founded Beehive into the mix of other open source technologies that BEA will be supporting as though it's new for BEA to support it (it isn't) and as though it has achieved the same sort of defacto standard status that the others have achieved (it hasn't), the more important point is that, by moving WorkShop to the Eclipse Framework, the company is much better positioned to support developers in their use of open source Java development tools -- tools that typically target the Eclipse Framework to the exclusion of other proprietary ones.

According to Carges, BEA would be adding support for the Spring framework as well as the the vanilla version of as Struts.  Although Beehive involves struts technology, the implementation is different enough (some would say it's a bastardization) that support of Beehive in BEA's products doesn't equate to support of struts.   Carges also said that JavaServer Faces (JSF), regarded by some as an alternative to Beehive, will be supported as well.   Unlike Beehive, JSF is considered to be a complimentary technology to struts.  Unlike Struts and Spring, JavaServer Faces is a Java Specification Request (JSR 127) within the Java Community Process (the JCP, the organization that over sees the evolution of the Java specification).  In other words, support of it by the major Java application server vendors such as BEA is practically mandatory because of the way it's officially being included in the overall Java specification.  The co-leader of JSR 127 -- Craig McClanahan -- is also the inventor of Struts.   The details on availability of support for Struts, Spring, and JSF on the tool side haven't yet been finalized, according to Carges.  On the server side, Carges talked about how managers of a production WebLogic environment will be able to see, in the WebLogic's management console, those objects and artifcats that were created by the newly supported open source frameworks.   "Prior to  this work, all you could see were things lke JMS queues, [Enterprise Java Beans], how your servlets were doing, and database connections" Carges told me.

In my ongoing quest to gauge the degree to which the Eclipse IDE appears to be trouncing the the Sun-backed NetBeans IDE, I asked Carges why BEA is supporting Eclipse over NetBeans.  The response -- coming from the one of the world's leading Java application server providers -- was like a death knell for NetBeans.  Said Carges:

Simple customers……I spent the last two and half years out with customers when we launched our WebLogic 8.1 and was out there meeting with them on how they’re going to build portals with it and business processes and so on and so forth and pretty much the feedback I got universally was we love the WorkShop environment and the experience you get when you develop with it.  But especially about a year ago when [Eclipse] really started to turn up, we really heard loud in clear, "But you know developers are using Eclipse based plug-ins and IDEs. It  be great would be if we could take advantage of that."  Not one of the companies I met said the same for NetBeans.  So it was a very very simple choice.  We looked at it and said at this point in time, the Eclipse organization has the right kind of open source model, it has the right meritocracy as far as how you can contribute and how code could be developed.   IBM did a very nice job of separating themselves from that.  Eclipse did a very nice job running themselves as an open source organization where anyone could participate. We felt very comfortable joining that organization and leverageing that for one, and two, it was what customers were asking for.  It was a no brainer.

That vote of confidence does not bode well for NetBeans. Not at all.

Carges had more to say, including discussion of how WorkShop would support Apache TomCat and Geronimo (how could it not now that it's Beehive project is apart of the Apache Project?).  Listen to the interview for the details.