Blog post

Eclipse Announces the Orion Platform

By Mark Driver | January 19, 2011 | 2 Comments

On January 11thMike Milinkovich at Eclipse announced the Orion platform.  Here are some of my early thoughts.

According to the folks at Eclipse, Orion IS intended to be “the very beginning of an open tool integration platform using the idioms and metaphors of the web”. 

There is surprising amount of meat in that short statement.

First to come to mind is that Orion IS NOT intended to be traditional Eclipse (i.e. desktop Eclipse as we know it today) ported to the cloud.  It’s an entirely new codebase.  It is also not necessarily targeted at the existing eclipse community (at least not the sizable portion of this community focused on traditional enterprise Java) and at the moment there is no obvious migration path for desktop Eclipse efforts to Orion.  The Orion community will emerge as a new community in its own right focused very heavily on web and cloud centric efforts.

While this will help differentiate Orion from the established Eclipse platform early on, I do believe its largely inevitable that the two efforts will merge over time – at least to a moderate degree.  But Eclipse is establishing Orion as its own initiative early on in order to gain some flexibility and isolation from dependencies with the traditional Eclipse platform.  The early focus is clearly on Javascript but other dynamic languages will follow quickly.  Over time (as Java itself continues to migrate to the cloud) I expect developers will demand support for Java and its entire SDLC; consequently the two platforms will naturally intersect as Orion matures.   Hopefully for example we’ll see some level of plug-in interoperability emerge over time that will reduce if not entirely eliminate overlap and duplicate efforts.

Secondly, Orion efforts are currently in an infantile state of progression.  What we have today is barely more than a proof of concept – just enough substance to catch the imagination of community developers and potential ISVs (who could potentially embed the technology into their own PaaSsolutions).  Unlike the original Eclipse platform which was developed internally by IBM and delivered more-or-less complete and intact, Eclipse intends Orion to be a community effort from the ground up.  On the upside this means a potentially stronger community commitment and uptake than we saw with Eclipse (which was  a whirlwind in its own right). 

Today there is no official Orion project at Eclipse; the code is currently tucked away in the E4 project but its expected that the effort will emerge as its own project over the next several months.  Interestingly IBM has done most (all?) the initial work on Orion and I assume it will continue to lead the effort when it becomes an official project as well.  But expectations are also that Orion will likely expand to a family of complimentary projects where different companies and individuals lead efforts that are related to the broader ‘Orion platform’.

Orion could be a very big deal.

There is a wide range of potential outcomes for Orion over time.  In a grand scope, we could see Orion become ‘Eclipse the next generation’; although I think the Eclipse foundation is understandably downplaying that scenario today.  This eventuality would require a large commitment from developers and IT providers, and a similar community effort to the desktop Eclipse phenomenon.  In addition some level of inter-op between plug-ins would help this along as well.   In any event this is one to watch in 2011.

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    here comes another platform, hope it will be good!!..

  • Indeed this is an incredibly exciting development. The screenshots seem to show a bias towards providing a web based IDE for JavaScript development. Looking forward for the updates on web based GUI tools for tasks such as data mapping.