Rethinking Ruby's role in the cloud

The data and vendor actions surrounding Ruby and Ruby on Rails don't yet support the Ruby-for-cloud-applications hype and Engine Yard proclaim Ruby to be the language for cloud applications, yet recent announcements by and Oracle's NetBeans project raise questions about Ruby's current and future enterprise adoption.

Ruby, the language for the cloud? acquired Heroku, a Ruby and Ruby on Rails platform service provider in early December 2010. At the time, CEO, Marc Benioff, spoke highly of Ruby's future:

Ruby is the language of Cloud 2 [applications for real-time mobile and social platforms]. Developers love Ruby. It's a huge advancement. It offers rapid development, productive programming, mobile and social apps, and massive scale. We could move the whole industry to Ruby on Rails.

Tom Mornini, CTO of Heroku competitor Engine Yard's, echoed Beinoff's views about Ruby's affinity with cloud-based applications.

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I've previously highlighted data from the Tiobe Programming Community Index that indicates Ruby's usage declined in 2010. Additionally, among enterprise job postings on, the actual number and growth rate of jobs requiring Ruby skills trailed jobs requiring PHP and Python skills.

If Ruby is in fact the language of the cloud, enterprises haven't received the memo as yet. endorses Java -- not Ruby -- first recently announced the AWS (Amazon Web Services) Elastic Beanstalk beta, based initially on Java. Although alluded to future AWS Elastic Beanstalk for languages, it started with Java, not Ruby.

I said it last week: "When the de facto public cloud provider,, launches a Java-based cloud platform offering ahead of another language such as Ruby, it speaks volumes about Java's future."'s AWS success has been largely outside of the enterprise, with small companies, departments, startups, and developers. This audience should, we're told, have an affinity for Ruby. Clearly, there's a disconnect somewhere.

NetBeans drops Ruby on Rails support

Just this week, Oracle's NetBeans IDE project announced yet more news bad new for Ruby adoption among enterprises and developers alike. The NetBeans team explained:

"After thorough consideration, we have taken the difficult step to discontinue support for Ruby on Rails in the NetBeans IDE. ... Although our Ruby support has historically been well received, based on existing low usage trends we are unable to justify the continued allocation of resources to support the feature."

Ruby on Rails will continue being supported on NetBeans 6.9.1 or earlier. However, as of NetBeans 7.0, NetBeans developers building Ruby on Rails applications have to decide between staying current with NetBeans releases and losing Ruby on Rails, or sticking with Ruby on Rails support through an alternative IDE.

Making sense of the Ruby hype

According to analysis by RedMonk's Stephen O'Grady, the alpha geeks on Hacker News are quite interested in Ruby on Rails. As RedMonk has previously stated, the alpha geeks are typically ahead of the IT adoption curve. If this holds for Ruby, enterprises should start seeing more of their developers interested in using Ruby and Ruby on Rails for the next project at hand -- potentially causing, Oracle, and others to rethink their low Ruby priorities.

I urge IT decision makers to exercise caution when considering Ruby for new enterprise projects. Jumping on the Ruby bandwagon, when usage statistics and vendor actions suggest caution, doesn't appear to be a winning IT strategy. On the other hand, using Ruby for a new application in order to learn the pros and cons of including Ruby into the IT toolkit is valuable, especially if the alpha geeks turn out to be correct about Ruby and Ruby on Rails.

Follow me on Twitter at SavioRodrigues. I should state: "The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies, or opinions."

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