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Oracle Joins Eclipse Foundation, Donates TopLink Code

Oracle has joined the Eclipse Foundation as a board member, donating its TopLink object-relational mapping code and paying Eclipse's maximum annual dues of $250,000. Both could be good investments.

TopLink is one of the pieces of Oracle's Fusion middleware, acquired in 2002 from the former WebGain Java tools company. The Top in TopLink once stood for The Object People, which produced the system that breaks down software objects or components and stores them as data in relational databases. It then enables objects to be reconstructed quickly when needed.

TopLink will form the core of a new project at the foundation, which now hosts 76 projects that produce tools for the open source programmer's workbench.

"TopLink is more than just object-relational mapping," said Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the foundation. As the chair of the new Eclipse Persistence project, Oracle will donate both TopLink code and the tests as the core of the project. It will tackle Java Persistence API mapping for storing Enterprise Java Beans in a relational database and JAXB mapping or Java Architecture for XML Binding, allowing Java applications to use and store XML documents. Oracle wants to rapidly develop TopLink and engage outside developers in its future through the open source project. TopLink is part of its Fusion middleware, which competes with other middleware suites in the marketplace. One of TopLink's top competitors is Hibernate, another object-relational mapping system originated under the JBoss open source project and now part of Red Hat's middleware suite. By making TopLink into an Eclipse project, Oracle stands to gain the assistance of additional developers writing code and test driving its product.

The Oracle lead project "will help grow Eclipse as an application platform," Milinkovich said in an interview. In addition to the Persistence project, the foundation announced three milestones in the effort to extend the Eclipse workbench with Ajax plug-in tools. The Rich Ajax Platform supplies Ajax frameworks to the existing Eclipse Rich Client Platform used in building Web applications that interact with end users.

The Ajax Toolkit Framework includes a variety of components, including a debugger for the Javascript used in Ajax applications, and tools for inspecting running Ajax code. Ajax code has to be carefully configured for different browsers to yield similar results across browser windows. The toolkit framework supports the Dojo, Rico, and Zimbra toolkits that offer different Ajax strengths; it also now supports the Macintosh operating system, OSX. The Eclipse Dynamic Language Toolkit project extends the workbench to other scripting languages, such as Tcl. It will support Python and Ruby in future releases. The scripting languages are referred to by their advocates as "dynamic languages" because they compile at runtime and run the latest changes to their code, unlike C-based languages.

Ruby, Python, Perl, Tcl, and Ajax are helping to power a wave of so-called Web 2.0 development, where end users have more inputs to applications on Web servers and more individualized services can be provided over the Web.

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