Category Archives: ibm

Eclipse survey shows Windows decline

In May 2009 the open source Eclipse project surveyed its users. Visitors to the Eclipse site were asked to complete a survey, and 1365 did so. That’s out of around 1 million visitors, which shows how much we all hate surveys. Anyway, this report [pdf] was the result. A similar survey [pdf] was carried out in 2007, potentially making a valuable comparison, though the earlier survey has different questions making direct comparisons difficult in most cases, which is a shame. I especially missed the detail on which Eclipse projects are used most which is well covered in the 2007 report.

Here is what I found interesting. First, there’s a shift towards Linux and Apple Mac in the desktops developers use for Eclipse. In 2007 it was 73.8% Windows, 20% Linux and 3.5% Mac. In 2009 it is 64% Windows, 26.9% Linux and 6.9% Mac.

This is echoed in deployment platforms too (client and server). In 2007 it was 46.5% Windows, 36.6% Linux, 1% Mac; today it is 40.5% Windows, 42.7% Linux, 3% Mac.

Those surveyed were asked what other IDEs they used. I noticed that Microsoft Visual Studio and NetBeans feature fairly strongly; I also noticed that Embarcadero’s JBuilder is hardly a blip on the chart – intriguing, given how popular this used to be in the pre-Eclipse era.

The most popular code management tool is Subversion (57.5%) followed by CVS (20%). For build tools, Ant (33.4%) and Maven (18%).

Here’s an intriguing one: I often hear that Java is only successful on the server. That presumption is not supported by this survey. 23.4% said that desktop client apps are the primary type of software they are developing, compared to 30.2% server, and 24.7% web or RIA apps.

The preferred app server is Apache Tomcat (34.8%) followed by JBoss (12.7%) and Websphere (6.9%).

The most popular database manager is MySQL (27.7%) followed by Oracle (27.3%). That’s 55% for Sun+Oracle, of course, though bear in mind that many of the MySQL users are likely attracted by its free licence.

Before drawing too many conclusions, bear in mind that it is a small sample self-selected by people willing to take the survey; apparently it was also featured by a German technology site which resulted in a larger response from German visitors.

Although it suggests a declining use of Windows – which is especially plausible given the trend towards web applications – it does not prove it beyond the Eclipse community.

And next time – how about using the same questions, which would make it possible to identify trends?

I’ve also written about Eclipse here: The Eclipse Conundrum: can it grow without hurting its contributors?

Open Cloud Manifesto – but from a closed group?

I’ve read the Open Cloud Manifesto with interest. It’s hard to find much to disagree with; I especially like this point on page 5:

Cloud providers must not use their market position to lock customers into their particular platforms and limit their choice of providers.

Companies like IBM won’t do that? I’m sceptical. Still, it is all very vague; and companies not on the list of supporters have been quick to point out the lack of any effort to achieve cross-industry consensus:

Very recently we were privately shown a copy of the document, warned that it was a secret, and told that it must be signed "as is," without modifications or additional input.  It appears to us that one company, or just a few companies, would prefer to control the evolution of cloud computing, as opposed to reaching a consensus across key stakeholders

says Microsoft’s Steve Martin. Amazon, perhaps the most prominent cloud computing pioneer, is another notable absentee.

It is a general truth that successful incumbents rarely strive for openness; whereas competitors who want to grow their market share frequently demand it.

The manifesto FAQ says:

There are many reasons why companies may not be listed. This moved quickly and some companies may not have been reached or simply didn’t have time to make it through their own internal review process.

A poor excuse. If a few more months would have added Microsoft, Amazon, Google and to the list, it would have been well worth it and added hugely to its impact.

That said, I’ve found Amazon reluctant to talk about interoperability between clouds, while makes no secret of its lock-in:

… you are making a platform decision, and our job is to make sure you choose our platform and not another platform, because once they have chosen another platform, getting them off it is usually impossible.

said CEO Marc Benioff when I quizzed him on the subject. I guess it could have taken more than a few months.

Erich Gamma on Eclipse and Jazz

Erich Gamma spoke at Qcon London on the subject of “How Eclipse changed my views on software development.” Or did he? This was a somewhat schizophrenic talk; in part an articulation of general development principles, and in part a description of how Eclipse is developed. Gamma spelt out the Eclipse philosophy, the starting point being that everything is a a plug-in; that APIs matter a lot and its better to get a small API right rather than get it wrong and have to support it for ever.

He then talked about iteration, a key tenet of agile development. He showed a great slide which charted the progress of some projects, from “all the time in the world” at the beginning, to “say goodbye to your loved ones” at the end, followed by total exhaustion after the thing is shipped. Iterative development with continuous builds and sign-offs every 6 weeks is less stressful and more productive.

It’s a great point, but does this work in every instance? What if you have a game to ship for the Christmas market?

He also talked about the benefits of open source development: transparency between developers and customers, critical mass of community activity, frequent feedback, and so on. Nothing new here; but perhaps this simply demonstrates the extent to which the merits of the open source model have become accepted.

Gamma then focused more sharply on Eclipse. He says there is a major new release every year, and they don’t want to ship in the summer or near Christmas, so they ship in June.

He described how the Eclipse project manages its large international team. It comes down to components: developers are divided into teams on specific sites, and each team manages one or more components, and has its own process for planning, building and testing. A weekly integration build prevents incompatibilities between components from getting out of control.

Towards the end of his session, Gamma gives us a tour of Jazz, IBM’s open source but commercial project for collaborative software development. Interesting, but I’m not sure that this product pitch belonged in a talk that was billed as something more general.

Overall: good insight into how Eclipse comes together, but not too exciting. I don’t envy these guys who face heightened expectations because of significant contributions they have delivered in the past. Nobody can change the world daily.

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Sun’s Jonathan Schwartz makes the case for free and open source software

I interviewed Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz last week, and wrote it up for Guardian Technology. By the way, the picture is much better in the print edition.

Sun is gambling on open source – not only open source, but free software. This is possibly easier for Sun that it would be for, say, Microsoft or Oracle, because Sun, like Apple, is a hardware company. You can therefore think of the software as an overhead for selling the hardware. It is not without risk though – most of the software (including its Solaris operating system) runs on commodity x86 hardware as well as on Sun’s SPARC processors.

Not everything we discussed made it into the Guardian piece. I put it to Schwartz that Sun has historically done a poor job of monetizing the software it gives away. For example, it made Java the most popular programming language in the world, with huge enterprise adoption, yet until recently the company was posting losses. I then asked whether he considered that the fundamental open source model – give away the software, make money on support and services – was the future for the whole industry, rather than just for Sun and a few others?

I think first of all our strategy is to build the broadest global communities we can, and then from those communities to identify the opportunities to make money by building datacenters and by building the technologies that go into those datacenters. Software, systems, services, and microelectronics. So right now, in responding to the question is that the future of the industry, right now if you’d like a free Microsoft-office compatible Office suite, you could go to, download it, as roughly 100 million people have done in the past couple of years, and you’d have to pay nothing. Or, you could go to your local retailer and pay for the latest proprietary office suite. So if you were a betting man, and you looked at 3.3 billion people online today, where do you think the majority of them will acquire their office productivity suites? They’ll probably acquire the free ones, by definition those will be the most popular.

Now the same thing would apply to search. If you wanted to be in the search business can you imagine trying to run a search portal today, charging customers 50 cents per search? You’d probably have no takers. So, if you want to be the broadest supplier of volume technology into the marketplace, the only acceptable price tag is free.

We are in fact interested in pursuing the broadest global developer community possible, for whom the only acceptable price is free. So I think, if you’re going to try to compete against our virtualization products, our office productivity products, our network infrastructure products, you have to come to the table with a free product. Absent a free product, you won’t even be considered by the majority of the marketplace. So right now I believe we stand alone in having evolved our business model to actually monetize that community. That’s exactly what we’re doing, every day. So when people ask, when will you monetize those free software downloads, again, we had 7% operating margin last quarter. It’s not going to be a single line item, it’s going to be the whole company’s market opportunity expanding. So I feel very comfortable that this is not only the direction for Sun, and it’s a great direction, it’s the direction for the industry. The move towards free software is unstoppable. Not simply in your home, but at your workplace.

Note that it helps to consider this in a global context, not just the traditional highly developed locations like Europe or the USA.

Is he right? The world’s biggest and most profitable tech companies are not built on open source. IBM, Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, Google, for example. All these companies flirt with open source, even make real and meaningful contributions, but they keep their prize jewels proprietary.

Bottom line: Schwartz may well be right, but he’s not right yet. Still, follow the trend. Free software continues to improve; the proprietary vendors are giving away more of their stuff; the cloud is growing in importance relative to the desktop; and tough economic times are likely in tech’s most profitable markets. I doubt Sun will be the only company to change its business model.

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