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Martin LaMonica

Staff Writer, CNET

Back-end software makers BEA Systems and Sybase have joined the Eclipse open-source foundation, lending two more established companies to the organization.

Both BEA and Sybase have joined as “strategic developers” and will have seats on the board of Eclipse.

The Eclipse Foundation guides the development of a number of projects around the Eclipse software, which provides a “framework,” or foundation, for plugging several programming tools into a single application. The foundation was started by IBM and has enjoyed a surge in membership and usage among developers over the past two years.

BEA said the next version of its Java development tool, called WebLogic Workshop, will be based on the Eclipse software, which means that Eclipse-compatible tools will work with Workshop. BEA will also take the lead in the Eclipse Web tools platform project, a first version of which will ship this summer.

BEA has a substantial following of Java programmers–its Dev2dev developer network has about a million members–and it has been influential in the creation of industry-wide Java and Web services specifications.

In one of its first moves in open-source development, BEA last year started a project called Beehive within Eclipse. Beehive provides tools to quickly build Java server applications using prebuilt software components.

Until now, BEA had resisted calls to join Eclipse because of a view that IBM’s initial sponsorship of the project could mean undue influence for Big Blue. But the growth in usage of Eclipse software, combined with the fact that IBM spun off Eclipse as an independent foundation last year, led BEA to reconsider, said Bill Roth, vice president of product marketing at BEA.

“BEA’s joining of Eclipse ratifies the notion that Eclipse is a broad industry community,” Roth said. “The Eclipse Foundation has evolved to the point where, frankly, it’s clear it’s no longer just an IBM initiative.”

Sybase, meanwhile, has been a member of Eclipse since 2002 but is stepping up its commitment and will become a board member. Sybase is also proposing a project called Data Tools Project for database management tools, where it will be the lead developer.