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InfoQ Homepage News Pulse Seeks to Clarify the Eclipse Deployment Picture

Pulse Seeks to Clarify the Eclipse Deployment Picture

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Earlier in the month at EclipseWorld Genuitec (creators of MyEclipse) announced Pulse a free software service that alleviates the frustration of managing Eclipse-based software whether commercial or open-source. Among the key features of Pulse as noted in the press release:

  • Fastest installations: Through optimized use of mirrors and simultaneous downloading of components
  • Lowest overhead: When creating multiple profiles, the only features unique to the new profile must be downloaded
  • Extreme flexibility: Features from multiple projects/products can easily be combined as desired
  • Rich user experience: RCP-based client enjoy experience and ease of use
  • Convenient desktop integration: Customizable program group and desktop icons to enable fast profile launches
  • User interface: Provides customizable areas for detailed product descriptions, cross-sell, rating, and redirect opportunities
  • Facilitates sharing: Profiles are shared through private, by-invitation groups (similar to IM clients)
  • Allows Anonymous Usage: Non-customizable profiles are available
  • Limited Registration: User registration is only required for customization / sharing / support. Users may remain completely anonymous.
  • Small initial installation footprint: (2MB)

EWeek coverage provided insight into the technology behind Pulse:

...PoweredByPulse is based on the Eclipse Maya project, an incubation project now known as Maynstall—pronounced "may install"—that will take a first step in providing the provisioning services required to allow organizations to leverage the Eclipse platform for both internal and external tooling built on top of Eclipse ... The project will promote a centralized deployment model for Eclipse, in contrast to the standard Eclipse update mechanism, which is designed to empower each individual client and by association user, Eclipse officials said ... The goal of the Maynstall project is to provide extensible frameworks and an exemplary application to enable automated deployment of Eclipse-based product installations by building on services within Eclipse Equinox and content exposed via update sites ...Tim Webb, Pulse product manager at Genuitec, joined the company in June from Cisco Systems, which contributed much of the foundational code for the Maya project. Webb is the technical lead for the project...
Popular Eclipse blogger Chris Aniszczyk also commented on the technology:

...I see a lot of potential in Pulse as revolutionizing the way the Eclipse community manages their plug-in install base. However, I have some worries. Pulse seems to be backed by only one company currently and to appeal to the greater community, they may have to open up more. What do I mean by this? Well, it seems that in order to add software to the catalog, you have to go through an autocratic process. I understand that the process may help ensure only quality items end up in the catalog, but opening it up to everyone similar to the Netbeans Plug-in Portal is a step in the right direction...

To explore Pulse further InfoQ caught up with Jens Eckels of Genuitec. Eckels was first asked about what drove the creation of Pulse:

The genesis of Pulse came out of a melding of demonstrated needs from Eclipse users, Genuitec customers and Eclipse ecosystem business partners.As Eclipse has grown, a few common concerns have emerged. From the user angle...

First, it has become increasingly difficult for users to manually configure a software stack with multiple plugins that each have their own dependencies and compatibility concerns.

Secondly, the footprint of tools has grown over the past few years to the point that the "bloat" created has become troublesome. Since the configuration is so difficult, users have been forced into "super stacks" of either all the tools they "might" need, or several smaller, customized stacks with install redundancies. Either solution is time consuming to create and resource intensive to manage.

Finally, many customers using commercial software, including MyEclipse, have large and varying install bases within their companies. The task of keeping these solutions up to date and compatible with other commercial and open source tools they utilize has ballooned. Additionally, many of these companies have varying tool stacks customized for development scenarios within their enterprise, and want to manage those stacks independently. Pulse solves all of these concerns for the enterprise and end-user.

Looking at the commercial ecosystem angle, we encountered a few common themes talking with our partners. First, Eclipse-based commercial products face the challenge of building a recognized brand to the point that it is easy to find (where do I even go looking as an end user?). Secondly, while Eclipse is well-known and well-promoted, it has been difficult for member companies to get their Eclipse-based solution in front of Eclipse users.

Pulse provides the end-user with a convenient way to locate, manage and maintain their Eclipse-based tooling and keep entire teams up to date on one or multiple software stacks. It also allows Eclipse member companies to gain visibility for their value-add products in an easy, unobtrusive way to end users.

Best of all, it's free.

InfoQ then asked Eckels asked to explain the need for Pulse in today's Eclipse ecosystem:

Eclipse is built to be extensible and as a result there are a huge number of plug-ins and products based upon it. And while that large degree of choice is certainly beneficial, it can also be overwhelming and confusing to determine what software is needed as well as how to install, configure, manage, and update it. Eclipse technology can be thought of as a set of Tinker Toys that will allow you to assemble what you want, but only if you have the expertise to do so. What is needed is a way for the non-expert to easily obtain, configure, manage, and share Eclipse software stacks at a high-level, without being exposed to the vagaries of plug-in dependencies, update sites for each plug-in, download mirrors etc. And, this is precisely what Pulse delivers; Eclipse just got easy.

At this point in the conversation, InfoQ noted the various Eclipse projects related to provisioning such as Eclipse Provisioning, Buckminster, and Maya. Eckels explained:

Pulse is a complimentary technology building on top of the open source solutions. Genuitec is involved in multiple open source initiatives to help drive forward Eclipse provisioning in the open source space; both by helping drive thought leadership through our role as the project lead for Maynstall (formerly Maya) as well as participating in the ongoing p2 work. The creation of the p2 and Maynstall projects demonstrates the community's recognition of the need for a provisioning solution, and we are proud and excited to be part of both initiatives. Pulse is an effort to alleviate provisioning worries and advance simplicity and ubiquitness of Eclipse, allowing the average Eclipse user to be able to enjoy the breadth of software available in the ecosystem without the hassle.
InfoQ then asked about how Genuitec planned to make Pulse attractive to other companies. At present the Pulse site largely features open source content as well as commercial plugins from Genuitec and Instantiations:

At Genuitec we have taken considerable care to ensure that MyEclipse is featured no more prominently than any of our commercial partners could similarly achieve. We understand the sensitivity of listing competitor products in a common catalog and are working to ensure our partners get full value from being in the catalog. To that end, we are promoting Pulse to our own large customer base which will, by association, then be exposed to competitor products in a more transparent way than was done before. For Pulse to be successful, we will continue to make sure that all partners have full exposure in the catalog and MyEclipse is treated just as one of the multiple partners being listed.
Continuing on the topic of community involvement Eckels was asked if he ever foresaw the stewardship of Pulse being transferred to the Eclipse foundation as an impartial steward:

For the moment, Genuitec will retain ownership of Pulse. Historically, as we have shown with Eclipse Plugin Central, we have donated technologies and platforms to the Foundation as it makes both business and ecosystem sense to do so. If that situation arises with Pulse, we will revisit the possibility.

Finally InfoQ asked if using Pulse technology to power private repositories of plugins was slated for future versions of the platform:

Absolutely. And soon. Software delivery as a corporate service is very real and coming very soon. It is also very real to envision Pulse provisioning software beyond the Eclipse ecosystem. There is nothing in the technology that restricts Pulse to Eclipse-only stacks, and we would imagine that in the future, Pulse will be installed in many different kinds of businesses with varying software tool needs.

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