Deploying parallel Eclipse installations for teaching labs

I’ve worked on documenting and automating the deployment of Eclipse installations for several teaching labs of Telecom SudParis.

The recently introduced Eclipse Installer (Oomph) allows to install several parallel Eclipse installations containing diverse versions of Eclipse and bundles, so that each specific installation only contains a limited set of features, and that common plugins are pooled in a shared space.

This allows to deploy different Eclipse installations for different course labs, containing only the needed features, and minimizing the disk space needed for the whole.
Previously, we installed pretty much everything in a single place (yum install eclipse*), which lead to providing students with all possible languages support and features, on every machines, by default.
One of the main expected benefits of the new approach is to minimize Eclipse startup times, but this should also help avoid conflicting plugins.
If the experiment proves useful, we’ll then have one Eclipse installation for each needing computer science lab, all under different subdirs of /opt/eclipse/. For instance students registered in CSC4101 will start Eclipse by executing /opt/eclipse/CSC4101/eclipse/eclipse, giving them features for PHP and Symfony development (resp /opt/eclipse/CSC4102/eclipse/eclipse for CSC4102, for Java + Maven, etc.).

I’ve made available a document which explains the process, which was originally documented using org-mode’s babel feature which allows to write “litterate devops” documents containing executable instructions. I’ve used a Vagrant + Virtualbox setup to create the installation inside a Fedora VM, which mimics the target system for our lab machines.

The git repo of the corresponding project should be accessible for anyone interested.

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