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Eclipse Scout: Reducing Development Time for SOA and J2EE Applications

03.24.2010
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Eclipse Scout is a framework to implement modern business applications. It features a simple and solid architecture, support for SOA, support for Corporate Identity and Corporate Design, mature GUI elements and much more. It consists of a runtime and an SDK part. The runtime is purely based on Equinox and Eclipse. The SDK part is an extension to JDT and PDE with a perspective for easy click-and-build of a complete application.

The primary goal for the Scout project is to maximize developer productivity. To provide some illustration what this is all about the following screenshot is taken from a CRM product that is entirely based on Scout:

The corresponding Part in Scout SDK (tooling for Scout) looks as shown below. Note that the current focus is on the definition of the company form showing links and properties in the middle:

The three driving values behind Scout are stability, flexibility, and simplicity:

  • Stability: Ensure the Scout runtime runs stable in every environment.
  • Flexibility: Ensure possibilities to extend Scout and Scout SDK (Tooling for Scout) by providing Eclipse compliant extension points.
  • Simplicity: Evaluate every additional layer and abstraction carefully of its usefulness to keep the framework as light and simple as possible.

 

The team have produced a number of videos showing how to use Scout in production.

For developers Eclipse Scout is “cutting-edge” technology, simple to learn (even I can use it), and very flexible. It doesn’t impose many restrictions on experienced developers. For the business Eclipse Scout offers a boost in development productivity, a low technical risk, and protection of investment. The Scout SDK tooling helps with productivity and the maturity of the framework is proven by the 20'000 or so users in 60 countries that are using Scout applications every day. By proposing to open-source Scout we can greatly improve the protection of investment for our customers.

From looking at the tutorial videos and the step-by-step guide in the wiki, Scout looks like it will provide Java enterprise developers with an interesting option for their application development.

A Brief History of Eclipse Scout

The origins of Scout go right back to 1998 when CEO Christian Rusche was working for BSI Business Systems Integration AG as an intern. He had some spare time at hand and developed a ticketing system in SQLWindows. The system looked very similar applications today. On the left side there was a column with the now patented tree structure and on the right side were all the lists and dialog boxes. In 1999, the company BSI was then in its third year, four projects arose:

Firstly, Landis+Gyr needed a solution to configurate and produce electric meters, the CRM application ORS (the old name of BSI CRM) needed a revamp, the ticketing system had to be refactored and last but not least, the life science industry was looking for a way to depict the data from clinical trial studies stored in databases.

That was when Databrowser was developed and first named Scout. So 1999 is the actual birthyear of the framework. The fathers of Scout were Christian Rusche and Alex Schroeder. Already the framework allowed configuring, not developing software applications. The tree structure was patented in the US.

2001, Christian Rusche and Ivan Motsch replaced the SQLWindows through Java and XML-Files were implemented. In stead of delivering clumsy databases to the customer, now one XML-file could be extracted and delivered to the customer. Applications based on this framework included ORS (the former name for the CRM applilcation) for ABB, Sika and Schlatter as well us other solutions for Landis+Gyr or the Swiss Post. The big advantages of this framework included the efficiency and the speed that new projects were implemented.

The third release revolutionized the framework and made it technology wise state-of-the-art. Scout 3.0 replaced the old and inflexible XML / database model with Eclipse and Java. The step from Release 2.0 to 3.0 did not only bring a big technological enhancement, like the step from Release 1.0 to Release 2.0, it was also a huge conceptual step.

The new technology is more flexible than XML and more attractive to work with. Furthermore, the architectural benefits of SOA are evident. We can now profit of using any existing Eclipse plug-in or services. This migration from Release 2.0 to 3.0 was also a big step for our clients. Today, more than two-thirds of the customers using Scout 2.0 have migrated to Scout 3.0. This involves a big financial commitment, but the reward is promising.

And now, in 2010 BSI, an Eclipse Foundation member since 2009 is launching the Eclipse Scout proposal.

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