Oracle is making the whole of its TopLink Java persistence framework freely available as part of its increased involvement in the open-source development tools Eclipse Foundation community.

The company has also proposed a new Eclipse project called "EclipseLink" aimed at providing a set of persistence services to be used in Java and OSGi (Open Services Gateway initiative) development environments. The starting point for EclipseLink will be the existing TopLink source code.

Oracle made the announcements at the EclipseCon conference in Santa Clara, California. The vendor also said it has become an Eclipse Foundation board member and a strategic developer, according to Rick Schultz, vice president of Oracle's Fusion middleware.

"This is a continued evolution of our Eclipse strategy," he said. "EclipseLink will be the first Oracle-led Eclipse run-time project."

A member of the Eclipse Foundation since 2002, Oracle already leads three Eclipse tooling projects around JavaServer Faces, Dali Java Persistence API (JPA) and BPEL (business process execution language).

TopLink first appeared as a commercial product in 1994 from The Object People, which was later acquired by WebGain. In 2002, Oracle acquired TopLink from WebGain.

TopLink's persistence architecture includes object-to-relational, object-to-XML and enterprise information system data access through standards such as JPA, Java API for XML Binding, Service Data Objects and the Java Connector Architecture.

Oracle had already open sourced part of TopLink, the object-to-relational mapping component, as TopLink Essentials. After that move received "a really positive response" from the developer community, the vendor decided to take the next step and make all of the software's source code freely available, Schultz said.

In terms of competition for TopLink and the proposed EclipseLink project, he pointed to two Apache Software Foundation open-source projects - Hibernate and OpenJPA. Schultz said TopLink has a wider breadth than the Apache projects, which he said are more specific to object-to-relational mapping.

Oracle will continue to offer TopLink as a commercial product with the Eclipse project providing the basis for that in the future, according to Steve Harris, vice president of Oracle's Java Platform Group.

As well as working with the Eclipse Foundation, Oracle also positions its JDeveloper tool as an alternative to the organisation's Eclipse rival offering. "We let developers choose JDeveloper or the Eclipse environment," Schultz said.