Third-Party Influence

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2008-05-01 Print this article Print

Third parties are working to make Rails a scalable platform.

Rails deployment platform provider Engine Yard on April 29 announced its sponsorship of the recently launched GitHub service, a distributed version control system, and the popular Lighthouse bug tracking application. By hosting both GitHub and Lighthouse on Engine Yard's scalable platform, the company said, it ensured that Rails developers' source code and ticket tracking would be both available and secure. Engine Yard also donated a private cluster to the projects as a part of its ongoing efforts to support open-source communities and nurture open-source projects.

Tom Mornini, chief technology officer at Engine Yard, told eWEEK, "We believe that Rails does not have any fundamental scalability issues. People who suggest otherwise are confusing efficiency with scalability. Ruby and Rails are less efficient at run-time than older platforms, but this has been true for all new development platforms; we can all remember how slow Java was in its infancy. New Ruby run-times such as Rubinius will allow for higher efficiency using the same optimizations that Java relies [on], such as native code generation. We currently serve Rails applications with millions of unique visitors monthly on just a few modern servers, and have no concern for scaling to tens of millions of users today and hundreds of millions of users in the future."

Discussing knocks on Rails scalability, David Heinemeier Hansson, the creator of Ruby on Rails, told eWEEK in a May 1 interview, "This is known as the 'Last Stance' defense. When you have nothing of left of substance to argue with, you draw the 'But does it scale?' card. This is on page one of the Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt playbook."

Hansson said Rails was scalable in 2005, and "since then the economics of scaling Rails have only become so much better. Hardware has never been cheaper. You get 2GB of RAM with your coffee at Starbucks these days. And the on-demand platforms like AWS [Amazon Web Services] are making even the upfront investment a nonissue."

The question has been addressed long since, Hansson said, "But I can totally understand why this meme sticks around. Just like I can understand why e-mail chain letters still do. And why people fall for Nigerian scammers. When everyone and their blog is praising Rails to the skies on things like ease of use, maintainability, productivity and so forth, the public demands an Achilles' Heel. Otherwise the story is just not deemed credible."

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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