Life at Eclipse

Musings on the Eclipse Foundation, the community and the ecosystem

Archive for January 2007

Too Funny

In an interesting demonstration of the dangers of (what appears to be) auto-generating blog content, the site Modeling Agencies has picked up references to EclipseCon 2007. We do, of course, love to see viral marketing for EclipseCon and heartily encourage regular readers of this particular site to join us at EclipseCon!

The Modeling Project charter is posted here and inherits from the Eclipse … Attend presentations on modeling projects at EclipseCon 2007. …

Hmmm. I wonder if the NetBeans Girls came to EclipseCon 2006 because of this site? 😀

Written by Mike Milinkovich

January 31, 2007 at 9:10 am

Posted in Foundation

Innovation Networks at Eclipse

My keynote last week at Open Souce Meets Business in Nuremburg was on a topic that I think bears repeating. Namely: what are the keys to Eclipse’s continuing growth and success? This is at the ten-thousand-foot-level I’m talking here, and definitely not with my technical hat on. This is about the positive business drivers that bring organizations to Eclipse.

I believe that the two main reasons why so many companies are participating at Eclipse are these:

  1. The Eclipse community has established the best existing model for multiple corporations to create innovation networks, enabling co-operation on the development of product-ready open source software.
  2. Eclipse has a proven track record of helping companies get started with open source, and assisting their migration to the next level of open source maturity.

First, what do I mean by an “innovation network”? Basically, I’m talking about the concepts promulgated by Henry Chesbrough in his books Open Innovation and Open Business Models. The basic notion is that firms need to treat their R&D as an open, rather than closed, system. Disregarding his lengthy discourse on patents and intermediate markets for intellectual property, I believe making his vision a reality requires a business model for companies to particpate in joint development. As I think of it, an innovation network exists where there is a interconnecting web of both collaborative production and consumption of innovation. Companies are attracted to Eclipse because it provides the best existing mechanism available today to do this.

For concrete examples of what I mean, I encourage you to take a look at the contributors and consumers of projects such as Web Tools and CDT.

As Chesbrough defines the term “business model”, there are two elements: value creation and value capture. (“Value capture” means “make money”.) The predictability, licensing model, open governance and vendor neutrality of Eclipse makes it possible for direct competitors to collaborate on value creation for technology which they require for their products, but which are not necessarily key product differentiators. I cannot possibly stress enough the importance of open governance and vendor neutrality in enabling value creation.

Value capture then occurs by adoptors shipping products and/or services based on this shared technology. Although this seems obvious, Chesbrough believes differently:

Open Innovation is sometimes conflated with open source methodologies for software development…While open source shares the focus on value creation throughout an industry value chain, its proponents usually deny or downplay the importance of value capture. (Open Innovation: Researching a New Paradigm)

Not so at Eclipse. In fact, our community embraces value capture. We want to see commercial adoption and go out of our way to facilitate it. There are two key pieces of evidence to support this:

  • The first is the expectation that Eclipse projects ship solid frameworks and well-constructed APIs. Of course, due to factors such as maturity and resources the mileage varies from project to project. But the expectation is there across the Eclipse community, and is enshrined in our development process. This is probably the least understood element of Eclipse as to the casual observer, Eclipse ships tools. In fact, our community first and foremost strives to ship product-ready frameworks and components. The tools are there to demonstrate the utility of the frameworks and to help drive adoption in order to enable to creation of a full ecosystem of users, extenders and vendors.
  • The second is our annual release trains. Our community’s success in shipping an every-increasing stack of product-ready technology on a regular basis provides commercial consumers of Eclipse projects with something they crave: predictability. If we want companies to build products on top of open source projects, they need to know that they can build their product plans with a reasonable degree of certainty that the community dates will be met. When combined with those key elements of open development — openness, transparency and meritocracy — predictability is a key part of the success Eclipse has had with respect to commercial adoption.

So to return to the beginning: Eclipse enables innovation networks focused on value creation in the form of product-ready technology and value capture in the form of commercial products and services.

It is important to note that that the key elements in Eclipse’s governance, licensing and development processes pre-date my tenure at Eclipse. So full credit goes to the folks who worked on the Eclipse Foundation Bylaws and other core documents. You’ve created something pretty special.

Coming next: part two on Eclipse’s track record in helping companies get started with open source.

Written by Mike Milinkovich

January 30, 2007 at 1:49 pm

Posted in Foundation

Foundation , Not a Company

I ran across a post by Joel West which I both agreed and disagreed with. He was commenting on a previous post by Matt Asay on the importance of community to any organization that wants to portray itself as truly open source.

The obligation of a real open source company is to create governance structures which allow external participants to feel that they have the full right to participate and influence the outcome of the open source project; the best example of this is what IBM did with Eclipse.

So first the part I agree with. Yes, I think that Eclipse’s vendor-neutral, open, governance structures are a huge part of its success and the best example existing today on how to enable an open source ecosystem. And yes, I believe that IBM (and others!) did a great job when they established the Eclipse Foundation. As I’ve said many times, governance matters.

But I do feel that it is incorrect to compare the Eclipse Foundation to an open source company. Eclipse is a not-for-profit. That is a huge difference. No matter how much an open source company behaves well, and acts in the interests of its community, its role is to make money for its shareholders. Or in the terms used in Open Business Models, the business model of open source companies is based on capturing value created by its community.

At the Eclipse Foundation, we work not to make money for the Foundation itself, but to look for ways to make money for others: namely, our members and the broader Eclipse ecosystem. Or in other words, our role is to enable others to capture value from the technology and innovation developed within the Eclipse projects.

That’s a big difference IMO.

Written by Mike Milinkovich

January 28, 2007 at 9:55 pm

Posted in Foundation


For reasons that even I don’t completely understand, I have always had a soft spot in my heart for the Higgins project. Perhaps it’s because I am a bit of a closet libertarian. I strongly believe that control over your identity is a human right of the first order. The proliferation of my personal information captured beyond my control here and there by corporate and government interests on the internet is simply something that I find extremely distasteful.

So imagine my excitement after meeting a few years ago with the SocialPhysics team of John Clippinger, Mary Ruddy and Paul Trevithick and their interest in giving control of identity back to the individual. Here was a group of people thinking about two of the deep issues that are going to affect all of us in the future. (a) how will we maintain personal control over our identity in a web-based world and (b) how will we build, describe, and maintain the trusting relationships that each of us as humans build in our social networks?

Better yet, they were interested in doing their work at Eclipse. An interest that I am guilty of shamelessly encouraging. Shortly after that first meeting, the Eclipse Trust Framework (Higgins) project was proposed at Eclipse.

No one knows with certainty what the future holds. But I am sure that the internet is going to be a huge part of humanity’s social and cultural fabric. For many, our basic human needs for community — a desire for belonging and mutual support that is hard wired into the basic circuitry of the human heart and mind — are going to fulfilled by the connections we build and maintain over the web. And a hugely important question remains open: are those connections going to be defined and thereby controlled by Google or Microsoft or your national govenment or who knows who? Or are they going to be defined and controlled by the individual? Technology aside, those are the questions being addressed by Higgins and the broader community of interest around identity management of which it is part.

Higgins does not exist in a vacuum. Identity management is an area of huge interest and energy. The team collaborates with many in the industry, including The Identity Gang, OSIS, IBM, Novell, Oracle and (interestingly) Microsoft. The latter in that list deserves some special mention, as Kim Cameron of Microsoft is clearly one of the thought leaders in this space. His Laws of Identity are widely regarded as defining the basic requirements for systems which maintain personal control over identity. And in classic Canadian style, he denies any interest in the philosophical or ethical drivers for doing so. For him, its all about pragmatic compromise. In his own words: “…a system which does not put users in control of their own identity will — on day one or over time — be rejected by enough users that it cannot become and remain a unifying technology. The accordance of this law with our own sense of values is essentially irrelevant.” Ah, a perfect storm of pragmatism and philosophy.

As a lifelong sci-fi fan, I think of Kim’s laws as a real-life equivalent of Isaac Asimov’s Laws of Robotics: simple, concise and fundamental. I highly recommend that you read and reflect on Kim’s laws, and as a consumer and citizen of the internet demand that the systems you interact with reflect their values. My personal favourites of the laws are #1 and #6:

1. The Law of Control: Technical identity systems MUST only reveal information identifying a user with the user’s consent.

6. The Law of Human Integration: The universal identity management system MUST define the human user to be a component of the distributed system, integrated through unambiguous human-machine communications mechanisms offering protection against identity attacks.

Why Microsoft is investing in leading this space is a question that gets asked a lot. The company is an perennial lightning rod for distrust. However, I believe there are three very good reasons to give them some trust on this:

  1. Kim Cameron is there. I’ve actually never even met the gentleman. But his candor, thoughtfulness and gravitas is a credit to the company. (Read his blog, listen to this podcast and let me know if you disagree.) Every once in a while you run into someone whose personal credibility transcends their current employer, and Kim is clearly one of those people. Do I think that Kim would resign if he thought that the corporation he represents was acting against the principles he holds dear? In a heart beat. Kim is quite literally our canary in this particular coalmine.
  2. Identity is good business. Consumer-to-business transactions account for billions of dollars today and are growing rapidly. But if the internet gains a reputation as a dangerous place for consumers, that business is threatened. Clearly the existing metaphors for access, identity and security neither scale nor inspire confidence.
  3. This one is pure conjecture, but if I’m right is even more important. I believe that Microsoft is philosophically aligned with the notion of personal control of identity information. Recall that Microsoft was founded on the idea of the personal computer. Their raison d’etre was originally around the personal use of computing. The explosive growth of the internet has never really been captured by Microsoft (thank goodness, most likely). However, given their roots in empowering the individual computer user, I hypothesize that they have an institutional imperative that aligns with this initiative.

This past week marks a couple of major milestones for Higgins.

  1. IBM announced the contribution of its IdentityMixer code to Eclipse Higgins
  2. the team has issued a press release, along with Novell, announcing their upcoming demo at RSA of a “…a reference application that showcases open source identity services that are interoperable with Microsoft’s Windows* CardSpace* identity management system and enable Liberty Alliance-based identity federation via Novell® Access Manager…“.

An Eclipse-related press release with supporting quotes from Microsoft and the Liberty Alliance tells me that there is something special going on. Maybe Mickey won’t be the only famous mouse for much longer 😉

Written by Mike Milinkovich

January 27, 2007 at 3:51 pm

Posted in Foundation

Open Source Meets Business

I have been on the road this past week, with stops in New York and Zurich on my way to the Open Source Meets Business (english) conference in Nuremburg. OSMB is an interesting conference. I met a lot of interesting new folks and a few old friends that I hadn’t seen in quite a while.

Oh, and Stephen, whatever you have, it’s contagious. After a perfect flight from Frankfurt to Toronto, I’ve landed in a complete mess. So far it looks like I will only be home five hours late Of course, this always happens when I actually need to be home on time. The bantam hockey team I coach is on the ice at 7pm, and it looks like I will miss the game by about three hours.

Written by Mike Milinkovich

January 26, 2007 at 3:29 am

Posted in Foundation