IBM extending tech support to raw Eclipse platform

IBM extending tech support to raw Eclipse platform

IBM Rational on Thursday is announcing plans to provide technical support for the Eclipse open source tools platform, thus giving customers a single point of contact for both open source and IBM's commercial technologies for software development. IBM will also unveil plans for upcoming tools geared to the new Eclipse 3.2 platform, and it is rolling out online developer resources for Eclipse users. IBM is making the announcements at the EclipseWorld conference.

Through its IBM Rational Elite Support for Eclipse program, IBM will for the first time provide support for raw Eclipse tooling, said Scott Hebner, vice president of marketing and strategy at IBM Rational. Tools also will be provided.

IBM previously supported IBM Rational products that are based on Eclipse but not for Eclipse tools themselves. Users will be assisted with issues such as solving defects and getting questions answered. IBM Rational, rather than the IBM Global Services group will provide support.

"This is an opportunity for the IT managers and development managers to provide a unified support structure," Hebner said. Eclipse users not working with IBM Rational products also can sign up for the Eclipse support.

IBM officials noted users are doing mission-critical work and want more accountability for support rather than just relying on the community at large.

"They're happy with the level of tooling [from Eclipse]. They're not happy with building [solutions] alone," said Gary Cernosek, offerings manager for analysis, design and construction at IBM Rational.

Eclipse 3.2 features Java 5 support, refactoring and a preview of support for the Windows Vista OS. Version 3.2 debuted in July.

IBM also will support some Eclipse projects, such as the Web Tools Platform, Test and Performance Tools Platform, and the Eclipse Modeling Framework.

With its support effort, IBM is addressing the downside that enterprises face when opting to develop with free, open source tools. according to analyst Bola Rotibi, of Ovum. "The problem many customers have or many enterprises have is not so much from that point of view [of using open source tools], it's when things go wrong," Rotibi said.

"IBM is basically saying, well, OK, we understand this issue and [you need] a unified support approach or a unified support framework," Rotibi said.

The support program costs US$400 per developer for a one-year subscription for unlimited calling. Support will be available in the fourth quarter of this year.

IBM at the show also is announcing a preregistration effort for participating in beta programs for three upcoming products based on Eclipse 3.2. These products are Lotus Designer 6, which is a rapid application development tool to build components to run WebSphere Portal 6.0; IBM Rational Software Architect Release 7, for UML (Unified Modeling Language) modeling, and IBM Rational Functional Tester 7, for automated testing.

Tools improve the ability to visually construct services for SOA. Enhanced support for geographically distributed development also is a highlight. Rational Software Architect also features modeling for code reconciliation and Functional Tester can be used to test services, business processes and SAP applications.

IBM's new tools ship by the end of the year.

New resources on IBM's developerWorks site are in the Eclipse and Rational skill zones. These resources help developers build skills in Eclipse 3.2 and include a course on building "cheat sheets" Eclipse 3.2, for performing complex Eclipse tasks. Education, tutorials and resources are featured for Eclipse 3.2.

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