Ruby Rocks at Qcon
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIF. -- Backers of JRuby have lately claimed serious traction in the enterprise for this Ruby implementation for the Java Virtual Machine (JVM). This week, JRuby project co-lead Charles Nutter pointed to packed sessions at the annual Qcon developer conference in San Francisco as evidence supporting that claim.
Nutter hosted a one-day Ruby track at the event, which was expanded, he said, to accommodate overflow interest from the sold-out RubyConf (Nov. 19-21) and JRubyConf (Nov. 22), also in San Francisco -- further evidence of Ruby's growing popularity.
"With this much interest in JRuby, it's pretty clear that there are a lot of developers out there who want to run [Ruby on Rails] on the JVM and Java Platform," he said. "We're also finding that a lot of people are just now learning that you actually can build Rails apps and run them on regular Java servers."
Qcon attendees packed the session room for Ruby creator Yukihiro "Matz" Matsumoto's presentation "Why we love Ruby." Other sessions, including JRuby co-lead Thomas Enebo's "You've got Java in my Ruby," and Merb Ruby framework maven Yehuda Katz's "Rails 3," drew big crowds.
Commercial Ruby on Rails vendor Engine Yard, which employs both Katz and Nutter, used the conference to spotlight several enterprise use cases for JRuby, including the University of California at Berkeley's Radio Astronomy Lab, which uses JRuby to provide "seamless access between the Ruby back-end code and the Java control system" that drives more than 40 telescopes that make up the Allen Telescope Array. The Allen telescopes are used to conduct "simultaneous astronomical observations" for SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) research. The university has plans to complete 350 telescopes in total, which will be controlled by systems built with JRuby, said Colby Gutierrez-Kraybill, the school's senior software engineer.
The conference comes on the heels of the release of JRuby 1.4, which emphasized new Java compatibility enhancements and enterprise-focused improvements.
Nutter admitted that the success of JRuby is putting pressure on the team. "The momentum is absolutely great," he said. "Of we always wanted to be successful, and now that success seems to be coming along, we have to make sure that we're ready."
"One of the big ways the enterprise ideal has influenced our work on JRuby," he added, "is out focus on making it just another language on the JVM. We want to make it possible to do with JRuby everything you can do with any other JVM language, but still have it feel like Ruby and provide access to Rails and the Ruby ecosystem."
Nutter and Enebo (together known as "the JRuby guys") joined Sun Microsystems in 2006 to work full-time on the open-source JRuby project, with a particular focus on developer tools. The pending acquisition of Sun by Oracle Corporation prompted Nutter, Enebo, and JRuby core developer Nick Seiger to leave Sun and join Engine Yard in August.
"We picked Engine Yard because they were very interested in expanding Ruby's reach to the Java platform, and they wanted to put whatever resources they could to make JRuby the way that people come to Ruby," Nutter said.
Eric Knipp, senior research analyst with the Gartner Group, agreed that Ruby has attracted a lot of contributing developers, and that there is a growing interest in it among enterprise developers. "It's pretty clear that the Ruby community is growing, and the commercial distributor, Engine Yard, is committed to it," he said. "And you have to acknowledge that project they'remaking with JRuby. Right now it runs very fast in all the popular JVMs. So the question is quickly becoming -- from an enterprise perspective at least -- isn't the world a better place if we all just use JRuby?"
Nutter wouldn't answer that question directly, but he did have a message for developers: "Ruby is one of the most beautiful languages out there, and we're making sure that it works extremely well on the Java Platform with Java libraries," he said. "We want JRuby to be the automatic solution for anybody doing enterprise-level Ruby stuff. Since the vast majority of enterprise development revolves around the Java Platform, it just makes sense. There almost is no other way to run Ruby within those organizations."