Project aims to create a more flexible way to build mobile, desktop and server software
The Eclipse Foundation today launched a new project to develop an open-source runtime that would provide developers with a more flexible way to use components to build software for mobile, desktop and server systems.

The new, top-level Eclipse Runtime project aims to develop a new runtime based on Equinox, an existing Eclipse lightweight OSGi-based runtime. The new top-line project will link together various Eclipse subgroups, including Eclipse Communication Framework, EclipseLink, Equinox, Rich Ajax Platform, Riena and Swordfish.

More than 20 companies, including Oracle Corp., BEA Systems Inc., IBM and Actuate Corp., have signed on to participate and support the new community, Eclipse said.

Eclipse also announced a new community portal to support the project. Both announcements were made at the EclipseCon 2008 conference, which opened today in Santa Clara.

Equinox, Eclipse said, provides a new way to build software using the Component Oriented Development and Assembly (CODA) model, which is based on the OSGi Alliance standards. CODA is a component model that spans platforms and architectural tiers.

As a result, organizations can use Equinox to more easily integrate applications with those of their partners and customers, said Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation.

"There really are no consistent component models across tiers and platforms," he added. "Java is consistent across platforms but not across tiers. [Microsoft's] .Net is consistent across tiers but not across platforms. [Developers] need to have more flexible ways to deliver both products and applications. You can't be put into a box where one size fits all. We're delivering a new flavor of component-oriented assembly."

Just as the existing Eclipse tools are rooted in allowing developers to break free of traditional, monolithic IDEs, this project aims to free them from using a monolithic runtime, he noted.

NASA has been using the Eclipse Rich Client Platform for many operating systems, including the desktop interfaces that scientists use to communicate with unmanned spacecraft like those sent on the Mars Rover mission. A portion of the operations tools NASA uses for Mars use Eclipse for tasks like controlling and receiving data from the rover, Eclipse noted.

NASA has opted to use Equinox and OSGi Alliance standards to move some of that desktop functionality -- like analyzing large amounts of complex images -- from the desktop to the server to take advantage of the latter's additional processing power.