Eclipse database tools Data Tools Project DTP Gets Started
September 27, 2022 – 07:42 am
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John Graham provides a detailed look at the Data Tools Platform project.


The Eclipse Data Tools Platform (DTP) project is a new top-level project at Originally proposed by Sybase in February, 2005, DTP has attracted strong community support and is currently managed by a committee comprised of Sybase, IBM and Actuate. Since DTP is in the early milestone phase, this is an opportune time to explain the motivation and current plans of DTP to the Eclipse community at large. Doing so will provide valuable context to interested parties — both potential consumers and contributors — and enable additional community involvement at this crucial formative stage.

Motivation for DTP

"It no longer is a question of whether Eclipse will succeed, but rather the extent to which it will prosper"

In a very short time span Eclipse has become a premier development platform, and a vibrant ecosystem has grown around it. Built for extensibility from the start, Eclipse has enabled and nurtured extensions by providing solid technical, educational, and mindshare leadership in the development platform space. Indeed, it no longer is a question of whether Eclipse will succeed, but rather the extent to which it will prosper. A key element in this growth is the vibrant extender community.

Eclipse has always been easy to extend at the micro-level. Using the plug-in infrastructure, developers contribute functionality to the base platform that seamlessly integrates with existing capabilities. In fact, a well-designed plug-in is almost indistinguishable from the base platform itself. At a macro-level, a number of successful commercial products have been built on Eclipse. These products often take advantage of the "re-branding" features of Eclipse to replace the splash screen and welcome pages, and generally give that installation of Eclipse a personality keyed to the particular product. Finally, an important class positioned between these levels has appeared.

In between the micro- and macro-level, a number of common functional areas have emerged. Often these mid-level contributions encompass much more than would sensibly fit into one (or several) plug-ins, but are not sharpened in focus to a product level. Two important areas include enabling technologies, often surfaced as frameworks, and exemplary uses of these frameworks, often surfaced as tools. Examples of such mid-level initiatives include the Eclipse Web Tools Platform (WTP), the Eclipse Test Performance Tools Platform (TPTP), and the Eclipse Business Intelligence and Reporting Tools (BIRT) projects. Such initiatives effectively become platforms, comprising multi micro-level contributions, upon which additional contributions, both at the micro- and macro-level, can then be constructed.

The motivation for platforms typically is to aggregate and provide consistency over a certain problem domain. Often, the necessity of the platform has been shown by multiple, conflicting contributions at the micro-level. The community comes to realize that everyone would be better off by building a commons, and a platform project is proposed. Crucially, for a platform project to succeed, deep and broad community support is required.

DTP arose from such a need. Clearly the use of data is a foundation of computer applications, and components facilitating data use are highly desirable. Shortly after Eclipse was introduced, a number of micro-level contributions in this problem domain appeared, and the number has grown significantly over time. Unfortunately, so has fragmentation among these tools. While a respect for diversity is a key part of encouraging innovation, fragmentation of enabling technology only serves to hamper progress. In brief, we'd like to concentrate on higher level problems; we'd like to make the challenges of developing software with Eclipse be based in the problem domain, not in the plumbing. We'd also like to use tools each bringing new and useful functionality, and avoiding overlap. Personally, I want to use a multiplicity of tools without having to repeatedly define connections to data sources and hunt around for locations of data access drivers. DTP intends to meet this need in the data frameworks and tooling area.

Scope of DTP

"DTP is the Data Tools Platform project, not the Database Tools Platform project"

Since data is foundational in computer applications, the scope of DTP can be difficult to define. Clearly we'd like to capture the common intuition that certain frameworks and tools naturally belong in DTP, whereas others do not. As a first approximation, assumed by many when first encountering DTP, the scope is limited to database frameworks and tools. Specifically, this assumption concentrates on relational database systems, and looks for tools such as SQL editors and result set views. Clearly, components for relational database systems naturally falls within the scope of DTP, but limiting consideration to this area is not the intention of DTP. Notice that DTP is the Data Tools Platform project, not the Database Tools Platform project.

So how do we broaden the scope of DTP without including too much? The DTP community discussed this issue at length during the proposal phase, and a lot of effort went into defining the "Scope" section of the DTP Charter. We will take some time to explain this section in detail, since it is vital that the Eclipse community at large understand the intended scope of DTP. When the scope is understood, the consumers will know what to expect from DTP and future directions of possible development. Potential contributors will understand if DTP is the right top-level project to approach at

Many options were considered to define the scope of DTP. Lists of examples — both in current plans and projected in the future — provided a starting point. Such lists, however, seemed to say both too much and too little. They said too little in the sense that the relevance of areas not mentioned was hard to determine. Also, they said too much by indicating future potential directions are more likely than others. Looser definitions were attempted by coining words and phrases, but this was undesirable because it seemed artificial and not truly capturing the intuition shared by the DTP community that there are some sensible boundaries for the scope. Finally, after many attempts, we settled on defining the problem domain that DTP intends to address, and then placing that domain within containment relationships in set of projects hosted by

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