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07 September 2012, 16:06

Weak performance of Eclipse 4.2 criticised

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Eclipse logo The discrepancy in performance between Eclipse 4.2, which arrived this summer, and Eclipse 3.8 is currently a much-discussed topic in the Eclipse community. The discussions were originally triggered by a message from Cloudsmith founder and Eclipse committer Thomas Hallgren on a mailing list for the open source integrated development environment. In his posting, Hallgren says that he was surprised to find that Eclipse 3.8 performance is much better than that of the Eclipse 4.2 release.

According to the developer, the older Eclipse release "boots faster, it closes windows faster" and "it shows menus faster". He also said that Eclipse 3.8 "seems to consume less memory and be less buggy" and that he therefore currently sees no reason to switch back to Eclipse 4.2. Hallgren also wondered whether, because of this situation, the Eclipse Foundation should return to offering Eclipse 3.8 as the default download on its download page.

Since the release of Eclipse Juno in late June 2012, the Eclipse developers have considered Eclipse 4.2 as the preferred package, and new developments are to be incorporated into this release. Eclipse 3.8 will likely only see two further maintenance releases – the usual practice with Eclipse. However, there are no plans for a version 3.9.

Hallgren's criticism sparked a lively debate among Eclipse developers during which it turned out that, unbeknown to many, no performance-related regression testing or code coverage analysis was done before the completion of Eclipse 4.2 or Eclipse 3.8. Apparently, this is because there are not enough resources or platform developers to perform the tests on the Eclipse Foundation's hardware – a fundamental problem in the Eclipse community since IBM reduced its sponsorship of Eclipse. The dispute seems to be generating results at least in this respect, as the Eclipse Foundation's Mike Milinkovich has promised support in terms of hardware and resources, saying that the open source organisation can help with these issues.

A Bugzilla report on the bad performance of Eclipse Juno has existed for a while. Another developer has commented that bad performance is the reason why many distribution providers continue to use Eclipse 3.8 with Eclipse Juno, despite Eclipse 4.2 being listed as the preferred version on the download page.

As many would expect, the Eclipse developers have so far not been able to address the performance issues because the reported problems can be very varied in nature. After a major release such as Eclipse Juno, these types of problems take a long time to resolve, they said. It is therefore unlikely that the forthcoming first service release will introduce any improvements. In the long term, the community will need more developers to support the Eclipse platform.

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