QCon Wrap-up: Enterprise, Have You Met Ruby?
Posted by Nick Sieger Sun, 23 Nov 2008 08:51:03 GMT
This year’s QCon San Francisco conference was my first time attending, and it was an eye-opener for me for several reasons.
First, the tutorial Ola and I gave on Monday went well, though I was mildly surprised to find that only about 10% of the attendees at our talk had any familiarity with Ruby. This turned out to work just fine as we were able to adjust and fill in a little bit of the back story on both Ruby and Rails. Still, to try to convey a sense of Ruby, Rails, and JRuby all in the span of a 2.5 hour session is a tall order!
Next, I was impressed with the diversity the conference organizers were able to achieve. There were tracks on agile development, cloud computing, REST, DSLs, design and clean code, Ruby, functional programming, real-world architectures, storage rethinking, and more. Tracks were relevant and topical even if the quality of talks was mixed.
The last item relates to my perception that Ruby is not yet seen as a worthwhile tool for enterprise software development. It leaves me with some cause for concern, though it reflects more on the state of the industry rather than on the way Ruby was presented at the conference itself.
What does it mean for Ruby to be “ready for the enterprise”? Does that imply JRuby? Running on the JVM or a Java application server, or even .NET? Reams of XML? Presence of buzzwords, such as JMS, Spring/Hibernate? Or ability to adapt to or leverage legacy code? All of these?
I would argue that Ruby already has everything it needs to be a successful enterprise software development platform, even without using JRuby. Ruby has a mature standard library, a large and ever-growing list of gems and extensions, and a vibrant community. Testing tooling, certainly seen more and more as a critical piece of software development, is also an area where Ruby excels (and brings a strong culture bias toward testing as well). Add JRuby to the mix and the ability to leverage existing infrastructure as well as code, and the picture gets even stronger. Best of all, Ruby the language is a malleable medium perfectly suited for gluing enterprise components together, creating DSLs on top of stable layers and remaining clean enough to be eminently readable and maintainable. Yet behind-the-firewall deployments appear to be elusive; if they do exist, they’re small, isolated apps that work so well, the community doesn’t hear about them. Judging from the low level of participation in Ruby-related talks at QCon, I’m inclined to believe the former.
I was speaking with Jay Fields about this topic on Friday. Jay also noticed that the the Ruby and DSL tracks were sparsely attended. (For that matter, so was the functional programming track.) His observation was that the track content was not marketed and tailored enough toward toward solving enterprise-class problems, or being approachable enough in that regard. We can certainly do better.
Do we have an issue here? Are we, the Ruby community, being too insular and not concerning ourselves enough with bringing Ruby-based solutions to the enterprise? Or perhaps businesses are waiting for more organizations that can provide services, support and indemnification? Does there need to be a Ruby, Inc. (or even a JRuby, Inc.) that looks at common enterprise problems and devises best-of-breed solutions (a sort of SpringSource for Ruby) for things like enterprise integration, security and identity, reporting, business workflow, decision support, etc. ad infinitum? Ruby should be able to do all of those while bringing the increased agility and productivity that we’ve all experienced.
I seem to have raised more questions than I am able to answer at this time. Of course, the obvious answer is that adoption of Ruby will just need more time, but I’m not willing to accept that as the only reason. I’d love to hear your opinions on contributing factors and what can be done to mitigate them. It seems like there’s a huge opportunity waiting to be tapped to help make Ruby more enterprise-worthy.
And yet, despite the less-than-stellar turnout for Ruby at QCon among conference attendees, I still had a great week, and would go back again. QCon is a fun and well-organized event overall, and I got the impression that the folks present were on the leading edge of “the enterprise”, which is exactly the people we need to engage to bring about growth in adoption of Ruby. For that reason, I hope we can kick it up a notch and take another shot at pimping Ruby at the next one. Maybe I’ll see you there!