According to a study recently released by Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., the Eclipse tool platform has gained a foothold in more than 50% of IT shops, but despite its copious rise in usage, many senior staffers refuse to look directly at the phenomenon.
In a study of 85 North American and European businesses conducted this May, IT strategists, IT operations staff and application developers all reported a significant amount of Eclipse adoption within their organizations, but only 27% of senior IT managers reported any Eclipse usage in their organizations. Forrester analyst Carl Zetie argues that it's probably more a case of senior staffers willfully ignoring Eclipse usage than of them being unaware of it.
"The urban legend is that people are sneaking it in, that no one above team leader knows about it," Zetie said. "The reality is a lot more subtle than that. They're letting it infiltrate their organizations at levels where they don't have to oversee it."
Part of the rationale for that, Zetie believes, is at its heart Eclipse is a fairly benign platform.
"It can fit whatever approach you're using," he said, calling it "plug-in architecture with an IDE" as opposed to vendor-driven integrated development environments with sometimes cumbersome plug-in architectures.
"It puts control back in the hands of the IT shops," Zetie said. "It allows you to compose your own environment, to take just what you want rather than buy a suite."
In fact, Zetie found that most IT organizations only use three-to-five Eclipse plug-ins, though which three-to-five plug-ins greatly varied.
"It turns out people don't need remotely that much functionality," he said. "They're actually trying to simplify their integration platforms."
The study found that Eclipse had jumped less than 2% to more than 8% as the primary tool provider for IT shops in just six months since a November 2004 survey looking into usage patterns. Of those using Eclipse in any fashion, 44% said it was being done on an unofficial or pilot basis.
Given that unofficial/pilot foothold, Zetie expects the growth of Eclipse to continue because the model seems to be winning over coverts whenever it's given a chance.
"Most of the reasons we encountered for not adopting Eclipse had nothing to do with Eclipse," Zetie said. The top reasons for why it isn't being used are that the IT shop hasn't evaluated it or it is happy with its current set of development tools and chooses not to branch out at this time.
The report lists several organizational reasons why some senior IT managers might be reluctant to acknowledge the increasing presence of Eclipse in their midst:
- Admitting to wasted license fees
- Protecting the budget
- Bypassing support policies
Zetie sees the need for Eclipse to address the third concern in particular, making the plug-ins easier to install and the architecture easier to learn.
"There is a lack of documentation and training with the plug-ins," he said.
For those senior managers who discover maverick Eclipse usage, or for those finally willing to acknowledge it, Zetie suggests an amnesty for the programmers who've employed it as they're probably saving the company money while increasing its efficiency.
He also said while many vendors have announced support for Eclipse, organizations should review their formal vendor support policies.
"Vendor support isn't what's driving this," Zetie said. "People are adopting it because their peers are adopting and endorsing it.