Amidst the angsty finger-pointing over the cloud giants’ supposedly one-sided relationship to open source (all take, no give), with the accompanying claim that open source will dry up without someone lining the pockets of the VCs who fund (very little of) the code, foundations keep generating lots of fantastic open source code. Often overlooked, these foundations play an unusually important role in the development of open source software, offering a vendor-neutral setting for competitors to cooperate with legal protections around IP and antitrust.
We’re familiar with the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, given its role in pushing Kubernetes development, among other things. Less familiar to many, however, is the quiet but important work being done by the Eclipse Foundation, now home to the future of enterprise Java under the community-voted moniker of Jakarta EE, the successor to Java EE (which remains licensed by Oracle and maintained under the JCP). Seemingly overnight this 15-year-old organization has put itself at the center of what many hope will be a modernized cloud-native Java environment. Eclipse has also been embraced by the burgeoning growth of Internet of Things (IoT) projects in open source.
Old dog, new tricks
Created in 2004 as the home for the Java integrated development environment (IDE) toolset called Eclipse, the Eclipse Foundation has recently been revitalized. With a relatively spartan professional staff of 30 people based mostly in Canada, the Eclipse Foundation today claims oversight of more than 360 projects and 1,550+ code committers who have contributed more than 162 million lines of code to date with an estimated software value of some $9 billion.That’s a lot of code and a lot of money. And a lot of thankless work.
No code is as important as the work with Jakarta EE. As Eclipse Foundation executive director Mike Milinkovich has said, Java had “always been single vendor, and always been specification-first, which I think [has] helped slow down the pace of innovation.” Indeed. Under Oracle’s stewardship, Java EE 8 was a year late in being released, and the enterprise edition hadn’t seen an update in four years.
Now with the Eclipse Foundation behind it, Java is moving faster, having already issued two releases in 2018. Whether it will maintain this pace is up to the community developing it, but given the need to keep pace with the rise of microservices and other innovations, Java (Jakarta) risks losing relevance if it can’t indulge modern developer requirements. With the help of the Eclipse Foundation, Jakarta is doing just that.
Credit where credit is due
It can be easy to overlook the hard and political work of keeping vendors with market caps that approach a trillion dollars aligned with a global community of dedicated developers (most of whom now work for these very same vendors). These groups have their flaws and shortcomings, and open source software can be very messy by the very nature of its open development processes. You don’t get access to the developer Slack channels at proprietary software vendors, but anyone can peruse the Linux Kernel mailing lists.
But this generally thankless work by foundations like the Eclipse Foundation pays enormous dividends for all of us. It can even move markets. For example, the biggest tech acquisition in history? That was IBM buying Red Hat for $34 billion. Indeed, for all of 2018, open source software drove more than $65 billion in mergers, acquisitions, and IPOs.
So this year take a moment to thank the people behind open source who help create the environments where developers can focus on developing cool software and leave the thankless work of code hygiene to others. Thank the Apache Software Foundation, the Linux Foundation, and the newly revitalized Eclipse Foundation, among others, for the work they’re doing to corral corporations to give more, and to do so more efficiently.
Better yet, join with them and contribute your time and energy to their good works. Make 2019 an even better year for you and open source.
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