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8 Sep

Eclipse Che, an IDE for Collaborative Development

Folio1 Collaborative Development

Containers are a major trend in software today. They're self-sufficient environments, with an application, supporting software, and configuration, that can be dropped on a server without any need for further installation or tweaking. The most widely used container management software is Docker.

The next logical step is to use containers for application development tools. The Eclipse Foundation has recently introduced a cloud-based IDE built on Docker technology. It's called Eclipse Che, after the city of Cherkasy, Ukraine. The terminology is a bit confusing; this isn't a new version of the Eclipse IDE, but a completely new IDE built around cloud development.

A central concept of Che is the workspace. A workspace brings together the projects a development team is working on, the configuration, the runtime environment, and even the IDE itself. The entire workspace can be shared with other developers, so they can pick up the project without having to configure it for their own system. Alternatively, the developer can copy a workspace to another Che server. The benefits for distributed teams are obvious.

Che provides a workspace server. Workspaces reside on it behind an SSH connection. The workspace provides the developer with an IDE, and the only software the developer needs on the desktop is a Web browser. It has the familiar capabilities of Eclipse, just with the difference that it's running on the server so that all the developers can share it.

Developers can extend Che to let it work with new languages, repositories, and so on. JavaScript IDE extensions and server-side extensions are both possible. Since the IDE is part of the workspace, extensions can be local to a single project.

Eclipse Che gives a new and powerful set of tools for software development teams. Individuals working on their own will probably find the classic Eclipse IDE easier to work with, so both are likely to exist side by side for the foreseeable future.

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