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Milinkovich on Eclipse's New Quarterly Release Train, the LSP and Progress on Jakarta

The annual Eclipse Release Train chugged out of the station right on time again this year, with 85 projects in tow, but with this release, the Eclipse Foundation threw a switch (pardon the tortured metaphor) that put the train on a much faster track. The new quarterly rolling release cadence, announced today, is more of a rebranding of a process started last year with the quarterly point releases of the Oxygen Release Train.

The Foundation's executive director, Mike Milinkovich, characterized the change as "the end of an era." And it has been a remarkable run: 13 years without a miss. That's a tough act to follow, and yet the Foundation actually raised the bar for itself with the new quarterly coordinated release schedule. And they did it while taking on responsibility for enterprise Java.

I couldn't help wondering if Milinkovich gets any sleep, but he reminded me that he's not in this alone.

"Because we do ship something that looks a lot like a product, and we keep to something that looks like a release schedule, people forget sometimes that we're not a vendor," he told me. "But I remind you every year that I don't get to tell anybody to do anything. The success of the release train speaks to the possibility within open source communities of doing things in a disciplined and predictable fashion. There's nothing about open source that prevents good software engineering practices, even product management practices."

He also reminded me that there are many projects in every release train not backed by corporations, but supported solely by individuals. What draws those individuals to this model, he said, is its predictable nature and the widespread adoption it promises. In other words, it gets their technology into the hands of millions of developers.

"That's catnip for developers," he said. "They know that this thing they're building is going to be used by millions of people -- which is totally understandable. The last thing you want to do is build something that nobody uses."

The faster release cadence is a huge change and a response to new, industry-wide expectations for faster releases. Or, as the Foundation put it in a release, it "demonstrates a commitment to keeping pace with evolving developer and commercial needs." That attention to this evolution can also be seen in the new native Eclipse IDE support for the Rust language and C# through Language Server based plugins. The Language Server Protocol (LSP) ecosystem delivers editing support for popular and emerging programming languages.

"I remember going to a JavaOne conference 20 years ago and hearing people say that Java was the last programming language we would ever need," Milinkovich said. "I didn't believe it then, and I think it's pretty obvious that no one believes that now. We live in a polyglot world. Lots of developers have to deal with multiple languages and multiple stacks. The ability to quickly add support for new languages in this way I think is very powerful and something that will serve the Eclipse community for many years to come."

Meanwhile, the Foundation continues its work on Jakarta EE, Milinkovich said. All of the projects have been created and provisioned, and code is going into them. He's expecting to see GlassFish builds in a few weeks available for download. Soon after, he expects to see a certified release as Java EE 8 compatible, which he sees as a major milestone.

"The hard work is still ahead," he said. "We're creating a specification organization, so there are lot of things we have to deal with that developers don't care about, but corporate lawyers love -- everything from patents to trademarks. Still a lot of heavy lifting to be done before Jakarta EE is truly up and running as the full successor to Java EE."

"Everything is going extremely well," he added, "in that we're having some tough conversations about difficult subjects, and everyone is being constructive and friendly. Things always take longer than you expect, but I'm optimistic that the process will continue ... and we'll get there soon."

Posted by John K. Waters on June 27, 2018