Will specialty coding skills help developers ride out the financial crisis? Some say environments like Ruby and Ruby on Rails may enable developers to fare better in times of financial stress because they can do more with less and be more productive. Others say that argument is a stretch.
When the going gets tough ... well, you know the saying ... the tough get
going. However, in the case of software development, in times of financial
crisis-like we're in-when belt-tightening begins, some developers and
development shops might be better suited to roll with the turbulent times than
These folks include Ruby and Ruby
developers, and other programmers who focus on dynamic
languages or provide specialty programming skills that many people claim enable
them to do more with fewer resources.
Whether that's totally true or not, I don't know. Ruby and Ruby on Rails
developers typically boast of large productivity gains from moving to those
environments-whether they get performance gains is another story.
"I think Rails developers are much better positioned to weather the
storm as they generally stand for delivering more with less faster," said
David Heinemeier Hansson, creator of the Ruby on Rails Web application
framework. "It's the traditional mainstream environments that are going to
see much more pressure to deliver."
Lance Walley, CEO of Engine Yard, a Ruby
and Ruby on Rails hosting and deployment service provider, said, "A
slowing economy will likely lead to constrained IT budgets. There's a good
chance this will have a positive impact on the uptake of open-source options,
such as Linux, Ruby and Rails."
Click here to read about Engine Yard's drive to use Ruby and Ruby on Rails to build large, scalable applications.
Indeed, Walley said, in Engine Yard's experience, "developing Web
applications with Ruby and Rails results in a five-to-six-times project time
reduction and a project completion probability increase from the industry
average of 10 percent to well over 50 percent. We see this over and over from
Engine Yard customers. With many hundreds of customers, this is not a fluke of
one customer or a few customers but real, proven savings."
Echoing Hansson, Walley added, "When times are lean, IT managers are
forced to do more with less. Ruby and Rails present a way to do just that.
Developers are [rarer] and more expensive in terms of hourly rates, but
projects can be cut down from 30 man-months to six man-months. That's a huge
cost savings, plus it's always good to be done sooner than later."
Meanwhile, Doug Levin, the CEO and founder
of a new stealth startup company and founder of several other startups,
including Black Duck Software six years ago, said:
Rails is very hot and Erlang is
super-hot at this time. This is because there is more expertise in the market,
people are understanding their strengths and weaknesses, more support is
available and these technologies have recently improved. Specialty coding shops
always do well. They will net out positively during these times: Some companies
will avoid them because of the risk and uncertainty; some will double down with
new projects because they see opportunity.
Even non-Ruby or open-source-related observers said they believe there could
be a connection between the language/framework platform and productivity and
For instance, Jonathan Lindo, CEO and
co-founder of Replay Solutions, said he also believes specialty coding shops
could fare well in a down economy. "Companies that have IT requirements
but don't have the stomach to hire a team or build an off-shore operation may
increasingly turn to specialty shops to deliver smaller, well-scoped
projects," Lindo said. "I believe there is good opportunity here for
trusted shops to do well."
I think now is exactly the time to
follow what we've been preaching with Getting Real for all these years. Build
less software with fewer resources! Build half a product, not a half-assed one.
Don't do preemptive hiring. Charge money for your software. Try to 'underdo'
Moreover, Engine Yard's Walley predicted, "If there is a downturn in IT
spending, it may very well be a boost to Ruby and Rails and companies like
Engine Yard, as well as the many Engine Yard customers who are specialized Ruby
and Rails development shops."