söndag, september 23, 2007

What about Sun's Ruby strategy?

Wow. Today was a strange day for blog reading. I've already had several WTF moments. Or what do you say about 7 reasons I switched back to PHP after two years on Rails, where the first and most important reason seemed to be
Bloody hell. All programming languages in use today are Turing complete. Of course you can do exactly the same things in all of them. But I still don't program in Intercal that often.

Example number two: About JRuby and CPython performance. This blog post uses the Alioth language benchmark to show us that Python's C implementation is faster than JRuby. Of course, the JRuby version used in this comparison is 1.0, which is now almost 4 months old. Comparing the C implementation of one language with a Java implementation of another language seems kind of suspect anyway.

But these two examples is nothing compared to a post by Krishna Kotecha from yesterday. It's called Sun's Ruby strategy - Engage and Contain?. You should ge read it. It's actually quite amusing. I usually don't respond to other blog posts, and I don't usually quote in my blog. I'll do an except here, because there are several points in that post I want to elaborate on.

Compromise definitely seemed to be an underlying theme at RailsConf Europe. DHH’s keynote downplayed the need for evangelism - something I strongly disagree with. Rails has certainly made a lot of progress towards wider acceptance, but we’ve got a really long way to go before more companies start to adopt it, and I certainly don’t think turning down the evangelism and doing stealth deployments via JRuby is the answer.
There are really two interesting points in this paragraph. First of all the question of evangelism. I would say it's about time to turn it down. Actually, I've gotten the very real impression that the wild-eyed Rails evangelism is now turning people away from Rails rather than winning more "converts". Telling people about the advantages of Rails is still something that needs to be done, but the full fledged Rails marketing machine has already done it's work and should be turned down a notch.

The second point Krishna sneaked in there is about JRuby "stealth deployments". I'm pretty sure no one will ever do a real stealth deployment, and I find that concept totally wrong.

At RailsConf Europe 2007 however, Dave didn’t even specifically discuss Rails - and this seems to have been at the behest of the conference organizers. If this is the case, then the Rails community is already in trouble. Is this the price of Sun’s ’support’: that the community is no longer able to freely discuss the platform and what work needs to be done to get it accepted in the enterprise on its own terms?
Where does this particular conspiracy theory come from? Is there any evidence whatsoever that the organizers of RailsConf wanted Dave to not speak about the shortcomings of Rails? And even if that were the case, what's there to say that Sun is the reason for this? (Couldn't it have been IBM or ThoughtWorks, who were also Diamond sponsors?)

I have real problems with this attitude and approach. Selling Rails and Ruby, as “just a Java library” is a massive disservice to the technology, and simply means enterprise customers and decision makers won’t evaluate Ruby on its own merits.
What is important to realize is that the argument "just a Java library" will only ever be used in the case of organizations where there are good technology arguments for using JRuby on Rails, but non-technical management are making decisions based on what is most safe at the moment (see the Blub Paradox by Paul Graham). In most cases the "just a Java library" argument is useful only when talking about conservative environments who are standardized on a certain platform. And believe me, Krishna, there are many places where Java is the only allowed technology to be deployed. But in most cases JRuby will work fine for those IS departments. Is it really a disservice to the technology to make Rails and Ruby into something that can be used in even wider domains, removing cruft and bloatware at all places possible? Is it a disservice for the technology to be used in places where it would never enter without the help of JRuby?

But JRuby is not the best answer for Rails and Ruby developers.
I don't really understand this quote. Obviously Krishna have strong opinions about the subject, but stating something as a fact without telling the reasons for it being that way doesn't feel that interesting.

Serious Rails deployments (Mongrel not some Java Application Server) within enterprise environments may be difficult to achieve, but with the right political backing and developer persistence it can be done.
I must say I find it interesting that Mongrel is viewed as a serious deployment option when compared with a standard Java application server. The question here isn't how we should get enterprise environments to use Mongrel; rather, we should first decide if Mongrel really is a serious enough deployment environment for enterprises.

And this will benefit the whole Rails community - not just those who tie themselves to Sun’s technology platform.
I heard this rumor about Java being Open Source... Does that still mean tying yourself to "Sun's technology platform"?

And also, the vendor with the most to lose if Rails really does fulfill its potential in enterprise environments.
Why? What exactly does Sun lose if Rails win? Sun is using Rails and benefiting from it. And be careful about this: Rails is Rails, no matter if it runs on JRuby, MRI, YARV, Rubinius, IronRuby, Ruby.NET, XRuby, Cardinal or any other Ruby implementation now or ever. Rails is Rails.

Maybe I’ll start to believe when they start promoting Ruby on Rails at JavaOne, as opposed to promoting JRuby on Rails at RailsConf.
I guess you didn't attend JavaOne 2007, where both JRuby on Rails and Ruby on Rails had sessions, including promoting in one of the major keynotes. Sun is serious about Java being a multilingual platform. Of course they're spending money on getting these languages working on Java, but Sun is also giving support to both Rubinius and MRI. Would they really do that if this conspiracy theory is correct? For more information about that particular data point, take a look at Tim Bray's blog here: Rubinius Sprint.

Much more likely I think, is that we’ll see a Java based Rails alternative that ships with some new version of Java which has been designed to incorporate features from dynamic languages like Ruby and Python.
Java will almost certainly never ship with a web framework. That said, Phobos is one of the Sun projects for web development that uses JavaScript and incorporates features from Rails and Ruby, and also Python and other languages and frameworks.

And still, Sun doesn't seem to have a problem with Rails and Phobos living side by side. GlassFish includes support for both. And the Rails support doesn't make any changes to Rails, it doesn't require you to do anything extra, except that your application should run in JRuby. The latest version basically allows you to say "glassfish_rails start" while standing in your application directory.

...what compromises are we making for Sun’s involvement...
Yeah. What compromises are we making for Sun's involvement in the community? Except handling the fact that we get more commercial backing, more money in the ecosystem, more help from Sun engineers creating high quality Ruby code, a server that happens to host the SVN server for Ruby itself, and so on? Are these contributions? Sure. Are they commitments? Yeah. Are they something that will require compromises from the community? No, not really.

Sometimes I think that many in the Open Source world still panics as soon as a big company starts to make inroads. And yes, in many cases this hasn't worked out well. But we gotta see to the facts too. Some companies we will never be able to trust, but Sun has definitely been on the right side of the Open Source fence for a long time. Come on, people.

8 kommentarer:

Jay Levitt sa...

Actually, I've gotten the very real impression that the wild-eyed Rails evangelism is now turning people away from Rails rather than winning more "converts".

Well, there are two kinds of Rails evangelism, aren't there:

* Rails is a cool new framework that handles a lot of the basics you need for a database-backed web site, using a neat, expressive language called Ruby. Ruby may execute slowly today, but so did the first JVM - new Ruby implementations are making major headways in performance, and developer time is more expensive than hardware these days. Rails doesn't do everything, and doesn't want to try - but it's growing in interesting ways.

* Rails is going to wipe Java's ass. It scales perfectly, as long as your feature set doesn't require any shared state. It's secure, as long as you know how to write secure code and correct other people's insecure code. It's not fast, but you're not going to get big, so you don't care. It's perfect for the enterprise - but we don't like enterprise people, and there's no such thing as "enterprise" anyway, so f*** you anyway. It throws out much of what we've learned about architecture over the past 20 years, and it can't even generate valid HTML out of the box, but that's okay, because it's opinionated. In fact, anything that you don't like doesn't matter, because Rails is opinionated.

I, personally, could do with a lot less of the second...

Unknown sa...

jay - I feel some of the second type of evangelism is a response to all the uneducated crap Ruby(or anyone using a non-mainstream language) gets. It's the Blub Paradox with attitude

After enough time hearing Ruby is just a "toy" or "scripting" or even "web templating" language, all the people confusing Ruby with Rails, etc - some of those opinionated "f*** you"'s start flying

Unknown sa...

The Java community has a high tolerance for trash talking. I'd expect Rails evangelism to only become more shrill, as more enterprising Java developers discover it. ;)

Anonym sa...

Very informative and logical break down of the state of things.

Anonym sa...

I must say I find it interesting that Mongrel is viewed as a serious deployment option when compared with a standard Java application server.

This is serious application. We need serious server.

Anonym sa...

Some companies we will never be able to trust, but Sun has definitely been on the right side of the Open Source fence for a long time.

I hope this is not a cheap shot at Microsoft and IronPython.

Why we will *never* be able to trust some companies if we can trust Sun? That's a strange statement.

Unknown sa...

>Why we will *never* be able to trust >some companies if we can trust Sun? >That's a strange statement.

Seo, I've got Darl McBride on the phone for you. :?>

Chris Blown sa...

Thanks for the break down. Interested to see how much effect Rails and JRuby has on the Enterprise over the next year or so. On the flip side, one thing is for sure, developing a small to medium web app with pure Java using JSP/JSF is way too complex. Phobos and other tools like JRuby have a place - Sun realise this more than I think a lot of Java programmers do. Not to mention future support for php and others within glassfish.