IBM has proposed to establish an Eclipse open-source project around its Enterprise Generation Language technology for modernizing mainframe code.

The EGL is a higher-level, business-oriented programming language within IBM’s Rational Business Developer (RBD) product. It is designed for business application developers to build end-to-end solutions in a single language that can also be compiled into COBOL, Java and JavaScript.

IBM hopes to start the project in late August or early September, after the proposal is tweaked and all interested parties are added, said Will Smythe, product line manager for IBM RBD and EGL. The project was announced in early June at IBM’s Innovate 2010 conference, held in Orlando.

This project will give developers access to the source code, compiler and generators, and extend EGL’s technology and generators, Smythe said. “We also want to open the technology to a whole new group of developers who probably would not have tried EGL otherwise,” he added.

IBM will also continue to develop the technology in combination with participants and partners that specialize in EGL or UI development, he said.

According to the project’s description in IBM’s proposal, the generators provided as part of the initial contribution are not designed for extensibility. IBM then said, “We propose to work with the community to re-implement the existing Java and JavaScript generators on top of an extensible framework. Once completed, these generators can be extended to support new runtime environments, or new generators could be created using [EGL’s] extensible framework.”

Future generators could extend the code-generation framework to C/C++ and .NET, and include pluggable extension to OSGi-based runtimes.

This announcement is part of a two-stage initiative that was started in early 2009, Smythe said, calling the most recent news the “open stage.” The previous “free stage” took place last September when IBM made the EGL tool a free community edition. This first stage enabled developers to develop, run and debug EGL-generated Java and JavaScript applications for deployment to a dynamic Web project.

Think of this most recent stage, Smythe said, “as taking the EGL community tool codebase and open-sourcing out in Eclipse.”