The Eclipse Foundation's Mike Milinkovich on EclipseCon and Open Source Opportunities

by Ostatic Staff - Mar. 17, 2009

As we posted yesterday, the EclipseCon conference is coming up next week. It will feature many open source movers and shakers, including Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation. Mike previously held executive positions at Oracle, IBM and WebGain. Under his watch, the Eclipse Foundation has grown to over 185 corporate members worldwide, over 90 open source projects, and over 1,000 Eclipse committers. In advance of the conference, we checked in with Mike on what will be discussed there, and what he sees ahead for open source.

OStatic: Please tell us about what you expect the hot topics to be at EclipseCon.

Eclipse has such a wide range of technology it is always hard to single out ‘hot topics’ but I think there are going to be 3-4 areas of particular interest: 1) Eclipse runtime technology based on Equinox and OSGi is very popular and generates lots of interest. 2) Eclipse modeling technology and specifically the area of domain specific languages, 3) e4, our next generation of Eclipse, will get lots of attention, and finally 4) mobile application development.

OStatic: Eclipse recently announced the Pulsar Initiative, to define a tools platform for mobile development. What do you expect to come of it?

The time is right for handset manufacturers to come together to work on tools. The market has spoken: it’s all about applications and services, no longer about design and coverage. The fewer roadblocks that mobile application developers have preventing them from making their apps run on multiple platforms, the better for everyone in the market. The Pulsar initiative will enable an Eclipse-based industry platform for mobile application developers. Common tooling frameworks will be created for developing native, Java-based and web-based applications running on multiple handset platforms. The end result will be a single tools community for the mobile application developer.

OStatic: What are some of the promising opportunities for open source on mobile platforms?

Open source communities, like Apache, Linux, Mozilla or Eclipse, have demonstrated the ability to create vibrant ecosystems. These ecosystems create innovative technology and value add to the core platform. A challenge the mobile platforms have had in the past is to be able to develop an interesting ecosystem of applications for their platforms. Creating an open source community, like Symbian or Android, will help facilitate innovation in the mobile application area.

OStatic: Eclipse offers many kinds of training opportunities for people in open source. What's available and how can people participate?

We have recently launched the Eclipse Training series that is offering 58 Eclipse related courses in 30+ cities around the world. These courses are offered by some of the Eclipse Foundation member companies. Individuals can register for the courses online.

OStatic: Do you foresee more development of Software as a Service and cloud-based open source applications? If so, why is development moving in this direction?

Open source tools and infrastructure technologies have made the cloud economically feasible. Most of the cloud vendors run on some variation of the open source LAMP stack. Most of the major cloud vendors, Amazon, Google, Salesforce and others, offer Eclipse based IDEs to help make it easier to build applications for the platforms. What we haven’t seen is a lot of actual open source applications that run in the cloud. They may come at some point, but in our view the real value of the cloud is that you don’t have to worry about running the actual application. So whether the application is open source would be of interest to a limited number of people.

OStatic: We've recently been running a series of guest posts on OStatic on the future of open source. Can you tell us about what you expect to see from open source in the next five to ten years?

Open source is not going to replace proprietary software. It is a way to collaborate on the development of the pieces of the stack which no longer provide differentiating value. Today’s software is large and complex, and most customers don’t actually care about the internal implementation. They care about the business value that they derive from the solution. So open source is more than an alternative, it’s a new way of working — a new way to tap collaboration for innovation. That’s the direction we see open source going and Eclipse will continue to facilitate that by creating working groups for industry verticals — such as insurance and automotive — to enable even easier access to this collaboration platform.

OStatic: Is the economic downturn benefitting open source adoption? Any clear signs that this is happening?

The economic downturn is going to be hard on everyone. We don’t see any signs that it is going to be beneficial or detrimental to open source. Organizations and individuals look for solutions that solve their problems at a competitive price. This will accelerate during the downturn.

OStatic: What are some of the key obstacles to open source adoption in your opinion, and how can the community get around them.

I actually think open source adoption is growing very nicely. Organizations have gone beyond the IP and FUD objection to using open source technology. The next challenge is encouraging more people to participate and collaborate in the open source community. We need to get large enterprises, like banks, gov’t depts., manufacturing companies, to begin to participate in open source communities. Here we are seeing some of the old obstacles occur, Things like intellectual property concerns and aspects of how organizations should interact with open source communities. There is still a lot of education still need to be done with these types of organizations and it is something we want to address over the next years.