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Eclipse Delivers for .NET Developers

Most .NET developers are used to working almost entirely in Visual Studio. There are a variety of additional tools available, like commercial debugging and quality tools from the likes of IBM Rational and Compuware. In addition, there are freely available tools that many believe essential to rigorous development processes, such as NUnit. But all of these tools either plug into Visual Studio, or have stand-alone user interfaces. There is no place for yet another, separate IDE that serves as a tools platform. So why would I promote Eclipse (, best known as a Java IDE, for that role?

As last week's EclipseCon conference demonstrated, there is a great deal of activity surrounding the Eclipse platform. It's unique model of open source both promotes collaboration for development of various projects, yet encourages competition for value-added features on top of the open source foundation.

Eclipse has over 60 active projects, and over 160 corporate members, as well as over a dozen associate members (1105 Media is one such associate member). There are hundreds of committers, individuals that have earned the right to commit code to the shared code base of one or more of the projects.

Many of these project support Java development. However, many others support generic application lifecycle processes. For example, Telelogic has an offering that provides change management capabilities. Serena leads the Application Lifecycle Framework (ALF) project, which provides a means of uniting the stages of the application development process. Compuware's Corona project provides a way to share software assets across the application lifecycle.

These are not software products in and of themselves, although they can be useful in open source form. But other vendors will take these frameworks and add feature sets that will make them compelling, even to .NET developers.

As these Eclipse projects come together, they will form a set of lifecycle tools that may be superior to anything that Microsoft has to offer. That does not in any way denigrate Microsoft; rather, it is a testament to the power of this model of cooperation and competition. By collaborating on the underlying technology, vendors can share the underlying platform and provide a common foundation for all tools of that category. They can expend individual R&D efforts in adding features to serve specific classes of users, or building an advanced feature set.

Perhaps the best part of this model from the standpoint of the developer is that there is much less chance of vendor lock-in to a particular tool or set of tools. Because of the common underlying platform, it is likely easier to switch to new tools that may offer features more targeted to your needs.

If that is not enough of a reason to start looking at the Eclipse platform, I'll offer another. Someone will offer a .NET IDE on Eclipse. They will either own a license for the .NET Framework SDK (are you listening, Borland?) or they will use the Mono open source framework. Such an offering would not be to compete head to head with Microsoft (who would want to do that?), but rather to offer a .NET development kit targeted toward specific types of applications or industries.

Either way, .NET developers can benefit from Eclipse, now and in the future.

Posted by Peter Varhol on 03/12/2007

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