Death of Eclipse Application Lifecycle Framework good for vendors, bad for customers

It’s a shame that the Eclipse ALF (Application Lifecycle Framework) project has closed:

… given the level of community participation, the appropriate course for ALF is to close down the project. Unfortunately, our recent efforts did not identify potential contributors willing to justify keeping the project active.

says project lead Brian Carroll. The project aimed to enable interoperability between ALM (Application Lifecycle Management) tools from different vendors. Here’s the problem statement from the project page:

Application development today is achieved through the use of numerous tools from software vendors, open source communities and some are even home grown. Getting these tools to work together is an integration problem that has never been solved. Each vendor and open source project creates their own API standards and many hours of effort are required to create even the most straightforward of integrations.

The problem is real, so why the lack of participation? Of the major ALM vendors, only Serena gave it serious backing. The project could not succeed without either IBM, or a solid alliance of IBM’s competitors.

My interpretation: those ALM vendors will have considered whether it was really in their interests to help customers integrate their tools with those from rivals. Good for customers, yes, but vendors want to keep you hooked on their product suites. “Buy more from us, it integrates with what you have already” is a great sales point. Since only the participation of those vendors could make ALF work, the project was doomed.

It is another manifestation of what CEO Marc Benioff calls “an aspect of our industry”.

Everyone loves standards, right?

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