IBM to spin off Eclipse tools project

Open-source consortium the Eclipse project is moving away from IBM and restructuring itself as a non-profit organisation.

Open-source consortium the Eclipse project is moving  away from IBM and restructuring itself as a non-profit organisation.

Skip McGaughey, the IBM staffer who is the consortium's executive director, will step down from his position, and the new Eclipse board will select an executive director - one who is not from IBM - within the next few weeks.

Under the new structure, IBM will no longer be the primary financial contributor to Eclipse. Instead the group will instead receive contributions from commercial members who will each provide between $5,000 and $250,000 in funding a year, and who will begin contributing more developer resources to the project.

McGaughey said IBM expected to provide "less than one-eighth" of Eclipse's funding this year, although he declined to say how that compared with 2003, adding that IBM historically has been the "primary contributor".

IBM launched the Eclipse project two years ago, hoping that it would form the basis of an industry standard, open-source Java development platform. IBM has succeeded in encouraging companies such as Borland Software, Oracle, and SAP to build their software on top of Eclipse, but has, so far, been unable to encourage BEA Systems or Sun Microsystems to join.

Sun did consider joining last year but dropped out of negotiations in December, saying it had been unable to reach agreeable terms with the Eclipse board.

"Sun has cited the close ties with IBM as a concern," said Red Monk analyst Stephen O'Grady. "Most of the folks with an interest in Eclipse would like to see it be a little bit less dominated by IBM."

By opening up the executive governance IBM has taken a step in the right direction, but it still must put non-IBMers in charge of the various Eclipse software projects, O'Grady said. "The remaining deciding factor will be project leadership. Once we start to see that shift, I think that will start to open some doors."

"It doesn't really change anything," said Dave Cotter, director of developer marketing with BEA. His company's customers and software development community have yet to express much interest in the project, and BEA is not considering joining Eclipse at this time.

Robert McMillan writes for IDG News Service

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