F# Foundation: Taking Microsoft's F# Language to a Higher Ground

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2013-01-06 Print this article Print

To demonstrate that the language could be successful in enterprise environments, Belitski said he promoted F# into the production environment at his former employer, Thomson Reuters, for delivering complex highly scalable backend services. However, “As of now I'm experimenting with algorithmic trading based on powerful combo of F# for implementing trading robots and R for quantitative modeling backing,” he said.

Meanwhile, another FSSF member, Antonio Cisternino, a professor of computer science at the University of Pisa in Italy, said he has a history with F# and its creator Don Syme, who he worked with during an internship at Microsoft Research in 2001.

“I was surprised how expressive and smooth coding was with the language,” Cisternino said. “It really felt like filling the gap between compiled and dynamic languages: most of the benefits you have from Python or JavaScript but with the power and efficiency of types and compilation. Moreover there was (and is) the F# interactive tool that was an incredible way to manipulate .NET programs and libraries interactively and seamlessly in a way it seemed magical.”

He also said he likes how F# blends the functional programming tradition with the experience of virtual machines such as Microsoft’s Common Language Runtime (CLR).

One of the first F# projects Cisternino did was VSLab, an add-in for Visual Studio 2008. The tool is available open source on CodePlex, Microsoft’s site for hosting open source projects.

“Now we are preparing a library and a framework for doing scientific programming, but we already have used it in many research projects -- for instance for controlling a research prototype for tissue microfabrication in the context of biomedical engineering,” he said.

Cisternino said he also is happy to see that F# is open-source so people will know that an investment on a program is not fully dependent on a specific company. “I really enjoy F# programming with Visual Studio, but I also use MonoDevelop and MacOS and Linux and it is just fine.” Members of the foundation contributed to maintain the Mono plug-in for MonoDevelop, an essential tool for being productive without Visual Studio, he said.

And Microsoft is supporting these efforts. In a Dec. 5 blog post, Microsoft’s Syme said:

“At the Visual F# team, we're glad to be contributors to the broader F# language and community through the Visual F# tools, the free F# Tools for Visual Studio Express 2012 for Web, and the open source code drops of the F# compiler and libraries.

“As part of this, we're pleased to see that the F# open source group on GitHub has now incorporated the F# 3.0 open source code drop into the Mono 3.0.2 release for Mac OSX.”

Cisternino said after five years of using F# he feels that the language has lot to say and has a huge potential, especially in data analytics and domain specific languages, and he’s been using it for teaching since 2008.

“An interesting experience has been to use it for teaching programming to scientists in physics, math and chemistry to find that many of my graduating students now prefer it over more traditional options such as Mathematica or MatLab -- as long as they have the required libraries,” he said.

Moreover Belitski added, “I believe the objective needs of the modern world towards the further spread of multi-core CPU/GPU, cloud connectivity, and taming big data would be amplifying attention to F#.”


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