Is the Ruby on Rails Advantage Wishful Thinking?

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2008-10-06 Print this article Print

One such shop that hopes to ride out the financial crisis is Intridea, a software development house focusing on Ruby, Rails and agile development.

Barg Upender, co-founder and president of Intridea, said, "A down economy is actually good for us for several reasons: There is less competition, especially from new companies; companies with limited resources and hiring freezes extend their capability by hiring us; and when the economy picks up, we ride with it at a faster growth rate."

However, industry analysts watching the space are a bit more reserved about the prospects for specialty coding shops versus more traditional IT development. "Honestly, it's a stretch," said Mark Driver, an analyst with Gartner. "It seems like a common sense issue, but the gap between supply and demand may make it a moot point overall."

And John Rymer, an analyst with Forrester, said, "I think you are asking the wrong question. I respectfully suggest that the type of application someone is working on is a more important factor than language usage. In a downturn, companies tend to go back to basics."

However, Dean Cruse, vice president of marketing and sales at FiveRuns, a maker of monitoring and development products for Rails and other open-source libraries, argued:

With the uncertainty in the financial markets, we expect some CIOs to delay or cancel some internal IT projects. Rails shops should be better suited to weather the storm for a few reasons. First, Rails and the stack on which it runs are open-source projects-the platform is free.

Also, many of the applications developed in Rails are delivered as SAAS [software as a service]-so IT shops need not write big checks for infrastructure or applications, they can get much of the infrastructure for free (open source) or via inexpensive hosting alternatives (e.g., cloud computing models such as a Amazon EC2).

Finally, Rails shops are typically more agile than their traditional Java counterparts, enabling them to more quickly develop applications, again reducing risk (and cost) for the organization.

Intridea's Upender said his company typical sees three kinds of customers: enterprises, nonprofits and startups. And although the company has felt little if any change in IT spending from its enterprise and nonprofit customers, there has been a slowdown in attention from startups, he said.

Yet, Upender said despite needing to watch costs of his own at Intridea he would never skimp on something like security. "Security is always important to us and it is part of the base framework that we use," he said. "If you skimp, it will come back to burn you later. We also rely on open source and the community to massively test all aspects of security."

One technology supplier advised using tools that serve more than one purpose as a way to save in tight financial times. Dominique Levin, executive vice president of marketing and strategy at LogLogic, said, "Lower IT budgets will encourage companies to max out their existing IT investments. We've seen our customers start using their log management solutions to monitor business operations as well as address security and compliance issues.

"As a result, our inbound sales leads have soared at 244 percent this year over last, despite the economy. Any technologies that can expand beyond a point solution will be attractive in this economy if they help companies kill several birds with one stone."

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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