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April 24, 2019updated 14 Jul 2022 9:54am

Introducing Three New “Top Level” Apache Projects

Big in IIoT, development environments and Chinese banks respectively...

By CBR Staff Writer

The Apache Software Foundation, the world’s largest open source foundation has announced three new fully fledged “Top Level” projects.

(This is a designation for projects that have “graduated” from the incubation stage, and which now need to meet certain ASF requirements*.)

The trio of new Apache projects comprises Apache PLC4X; Apache NetBeans and Apache SkyWalking. Here’s what their code does.

Apache PLC4X

Apache PLC4X was originally developed at codecentric AG, and entered the Apache Incubator in December 2017.

It is a universal protocol adapter for Industrial IoT.

Christofer Dutz, VP of Apache PLC4X, told Computer Business Review: “PLCs usually all have the means to communicate with each other or systems like SCADA systems.”

“The problem is that each type of PLC uses different protocols to do so. The result is that PLCs of one type or vendor usually can only communicate with systems that were provided by the same vendor, making it impossible to integrate different types of PLCs into one big system.”

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He added: “OPC-UA tries to do this by adding a new protocol to the equation. But this means existing hardware has to be retrofitted with new PLC software versions or new Hardware. PLC4X knows how to communicate in a lot of different protocols directly so it can talk to most PLCs without any modification.”

“This makes it easy to build systems that integrate PLCs of different types and vendors. Another benefit is performance: currently using OPC-UA you will not be able to get enough data in short enough intervals to do sensible machine-learning with an S7 for example (no matter which model you use).”

PLC4X is written in Java with support for various protocols including S7-Step7, Modbus, EtherNet/IP, and Beckhoff ADS.

Future versions of Apache PLC4X will include versions in C++ and C#, as well as support for BACnet, Emerson DeltaV, KNXNet/IP, Profinet, and other protocols.

In addition to providing integrations modular to Apache IoT projects such as Apache Camel, Apache Edgent (incubating), Apache Kafka, and Apache NiFi, the project is planning to also add Apache Brooklyn and Apache Myn.

Apache NetBeans

Apache NetBeans is a well-known development environment, tooling platform, and application framework that enables Java programmers to build desktop, mobile, and Web applications.

The project was originally developed as part of a student project in 1996, was acquired and open-sourced by Sun Microsystems in 2000, and became part of Oracle when it acquired Sun Microsystems in 2010.

NetBeans was submitted to the Apache Incubator in October 2016. Apache NetBeans 11.0 was released on 4 April 2019, and is the project’s third major release since entering the Apache Incubator. The project has most recently won the 2018 Duke’s Choice Award, a well established industry award in the Java ecosystem.

“‘Have a patch for NetBeans? Then create a pull request for Apache NetBeans!’ I love how that sounds,” said Jaroslav Tulach, original founder and architect of NetBeans. “I am really glad the transition has gone so well and that ‘my NetBeans’ has turned into a full-featured project at The Apache Software Foundation.”

Geertjan Wielenga, VP of Apache NetBeans, said: “Thanks to the strong stewardship of NetBeans in Sun Microsystems and Oracle, Apache NetBeans is now ready for the next phase in its development and we welcome everyone to participate as equals as we move forward.”

He added: “The flip side of freedom is responsibility. Now that the community finally has what’s its been asking for for so many years, it needs to step up and take ownership of Apache NetBeans.”

Apache SkyWalking 

Apche SkyWalking is an application performance monitor (APM) tool that provides an automatic, highly efficient way to instrument microservices, cloud native, and container-based applications; it has a strong user base in China.

Existing users include Alibaba, China Eastern Airlines, China Merchants Bank, Huawei, Sinolink Securities, WeBank and others. The project was originally developed in 2015, and entered the Apache Incubator in December 2017.

SkyWalking is one of the only open source tracing systems where usability and user interface have been a focus, something missing in most Open Source projects,” said Jonah Kowall, CTO at Kentik, and former VP Research at Gartner.

“Making tracing and APM more easily used by developers and operations team is a key goal which makes Apache SkyWalking a project to watch.”

“Apache SkyWalking has done a lot of work in spreading modern cloud native observability in China and across the world,” said Chris Aniczszyk, CTO and COO of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation.

“We are happy to see Apache SkyWalking become a TLP and look forward to their community growing and collaborating with CNCF projects like Kubernetes, Envoy, Jaeger and more.”

“At WeBank, we use different banking architectures, from distributed architecture to Open Source technologies. We’ve built a messaging bus called WeMQ based on Apache RocketMQ that fully utilizes the benefits of messaging by implementing various messaging techniques in different scenarios, such as message exchanges, pub/sub and request/reply models,” said Eason Chen, WeBank Tech Specialist, and Apache RocketMQ Contributor.

“However, after adding different messaging services that are critical to our business, we realized there is a need for a universal visual traceable system for the distributed message to help us to diagnosis problem of applications. We believe Apache SkyWalking can address our current challenges, and we look forward to contributing to its efforts.”

*e.g. projects must provide a quarterly status report to the board; technical decisions must be made on public and archived places and the primary source control repository has to be be administered by the ASF Infrastructure team on ASF hardware. 

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