A software consortium has launched a fellowship program in hopes of further developing the open source ecosystem.

The Eclipse Project (EC) recently began funding university-based research in programming languages, tools and environments where the Eclipse Platform (EP) is the foundation to

conduct the research. EC is an open source software development project dedicated to providing a commercial-quality platform for the development of integrated tools. EP is a universal integrated development environment (IDE).

According to Eclipse manager Marc Erickson, work began in November 2001 with a US$40 million donation from IBM, but its roots were as an IBM internal project.

“”We needed a better integration technology for our own reasons. We have so many different portions of IBM that are all creating development tools for different reasons like middleware — be it a database, definition tool or a process management tool,”” Erickson says.

“”We wanted an integration technology that made it easier to literally plug in tool technology to a workbench desktop that a developer would use.””

After three years of development Erickson says IBM decided it couldn’t do it alone. It simply could not create a best-of-breed tool for every application on the market, he says, it was decided to turn the Eclipse source code to the open source community and start developing an “”ecosystem.””

That ecosystem includes companies like Borland, QNX Software Systems, Fujitsu and Red Hat, a few of the 18 companies marshaling the platform. So to further develop the budding project, Erickson says Eclipse is fostering R&D at universities across the globe. Carleton University in Ottawa is one of the recipients joining schools from Denmark, France, Australia and the United States, with more fellowships to come.

Though not a fellowship winner, the University of British Columbia has a working relationship with Eclipse. Associate professor and associate head of the graduate program Gail Murphy says her students created a “”recommender system”” called Hipikat. The program is designed to document the artifacts of software development. She says the problem it addresses is departed knowledge.

“”The idea with Hipikat is that you can treat every artifact that’s been created, every versions of the system, every bug report, every newsgroup posting as information that’s representative of what people knew,”” Murphy says.

Murphy says the project has opened a number of doors for her students. It isn’t practical, she says, for graduate students to build an IDE and then have to build the tool.

“”What we’re able to do is build a prototype of our ideas and deploy it in a way that makes it easy for people to try out, and that allows to think about how the tool should work in practice because it’s not stand-alone anymore,”” Murphy says.

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