Scala founder: Tools needed to boost enterprise usage

Panelists debate what it will take to get the JVM language into enterprises

The Scala programming language, which runs on the Java Virtual Machine, has made some inroads into enterprise deployments, but improvements in areas such as tooling will help take it even further, the founder of the language, Martin Odersky, said late last week.

Scala, a functional language suitable for parallel programming, has already been used in financial institutions and high-traffic Internet sites such as the Foursquare social network, Odersky said at the Scala Days 2011 conference on Friday at Stanford University, in Palo Alto, Calif. During a panel session that pondered the issue of Scala in the enterprise, Odersky stressed the need for better development tools. "What we need nowadays, number one is tools," said Odersky, CEO of Typesafe, a startup offering an enterprise software stack based on Scala.

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Interviewed afterward, Odersky said progress was being made in the tools arena, with the Eclipse IDE undergoing improvements to accommodate Scala. "The community reception has been very, very good." More needs to be done in the debugger space, he added.

Binary compatibility has posed challenges for Scala as well, because the language "encourages the evolution of libraries much more than Java does," Odersky said. Also needed to help Scala in the enterprise is getting the language in more computer science programs at universities, Odersky recommended, but progress is being made with this goal.

Scala has suffered from a false perception of complexity, said panelist Dick Wall, a principal at Escalate Software. "People hear Scala is too complex and they believe it," he said. Afterward, he cited unfamiliarity as probably the primary reason why people believe Scala is too complex. But Scala is already in the enterprise, he stressed: "We have very few complaints. It's in our enterprise and it's working just fine."

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