Ruby on Rails Dev Framework on Track for Growth

The open-source Web application development framework is seeing an outpouring of support.

As with any development environment vying for traction, the Ruby on Rails open-source Web application development framework is seeing the emergence of a vibrant and growing ecosystem supporting the platforms own growth.

"Theres a booming commercial ecosystem growing up around Rails," said David Heinemeier Hansson, the creator of Ruby on Rails.

Ruby on Rails is a Web development framework focused on simplicity and based on the Ruby dynamic scripting language, Hansson said.

Hansson, who now works with Chicago-based Web software builder 37signals LLC, said with RoR (pronounced "roar"), "In a sense, were trying to be the Apple of Web application development."

He noted that several development shops such as his own companys Next Angle effort and Frederiksberg, Denmark-based Collaboraid ApS are offering services around RoR.

In addition, TextDrive Inc., a La Jolla, Calif., hosting company that hosts RoR development, offers a complete life cycle for adoption of the framework, Hansson said.

"First you get a playground, then you move to shared hosting, then a dedicated machine, and finally a fully loaded, preconfigured cluster in a box," Hansson said.

"On top of that we have hundreds of people and tons of companies basing their new projects around Ruby on Rails," Hansson said. "I think thats the most important ecosystem to have: real people and companies needing Rails to get real work done. With that in place, the supporting ecosystem is bound to evolve around it."

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read the full interview with David Heinemeier Hansson.

Meanwhile, this week ActiveState is slated to release a new version of its Komodo integrated development environment (IDE) that supports Ruby and Ruby on Rails. The Vancouver, British Columbia, company will release Komodo 3.5, which the company said is the first professional IDE for Ruby.

Komodo 3.5 supports development of Perl, Python, PHP, Tcl and Ruby. And the new version also brings Mac OS X support and multilingual input editor support for non-Western languages, the company said.

Eric Promislow, Ruby team leader at ActiveState, said Komodos Ruby support includes syntax checking, code completion and colorizing, code folding, automatic indenting, debugging, and source code control integration. "Basically, Komodo has everything a Ruby programmer needs in an integrated environment," he said.

Indeed, "Komodos success is based on the fact that while many programmers are happy with editors such as vi or emacs, other programmers prefer a richer, more supportive tool only found in an integrated, more visual, development environment," Promislow said.

And Komodos graphical RoR debugger "offers a huge improvement over the previous method of error checking, which required temporarily modifying the code and then examining variables in a separate console window," he said.

Moreover, the Komodo Project Manager improves RoR deployment as it allows a developer to easily bundle a Rails application and move it to another machine, Promislow said.

David Ascher, ActiveStates chief technologist, said ActiveState supports dynamic languages "when they establish a certain critical mass and when the community around it appears to be thriving and growing. Ruby, especially since the phenomenal adoption of RoR, certainly qualifies. Wed been looking at Ruby for years, but this year definitely marks its surge into the limelight."

Also for his part, Ascher said Ruby on Rails promotes a philosophy of software development that appeals "in an age of J2EE [Java 2 Enterprise Edition] dominance. The Rails approach is guided in part by understanding the weaknesses of J2EE, especially in the eyes of independent-minded developers. Its hard to know whether its more than a coincidence, but the emergence of Rails as the hot server-side technology and the resurgence of AJAX [Asynchronous JavaScript and XML]-style approaches to client-side Web development make for an exciting combo."

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