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.”
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.”
Hansson said more than 400 professionals in 55 countries said they are doing substantial or full-time work in Rails. There have been about 170,000 downloads of Rails since it was released about a year ago. And the Technorati blog tracking site has tracked more than 10,000 Weblog posts about Ruby on Rails, he said. And the first Rails book, “Agile Web Development with Rails,” has sold more than 20,000 copies, he said.
According to Hansson, Yukihiro Matsumoto, the author of Ruby, set out to create a language that would “make programmers happy.” And “Rails attempts to run with that noble and profound goal and bring it to the world of Web application development. Were optimizing for humans first, compilers and the frameworks second. Its been a constant search for how we could make the development process more in tune with what makes programmers happy.”
In a recent interview with eWEEK, Marc Fleury, CEO and founder of JBoss Inc., praised RoR, its simplicity and Hanssons focus on avoidance of doing “XML sit-ups.”
Indeed, Fleury said RoR was the example JBoss followed in finalizing its own Seam Java-based lightweight framework.
Fleury said that while he does not wish to make a comparison with the productivity-focused Ruby on Rails dynamic scripting, language-based open-source Web development framework, he acknowledges that RoR “was what crystallized this. Seeing Ruby-on-Rails-style productivity was definitely a catalyst.”
Meanwhile, as Seam stands on its own as a lightweight open-source Java framework, a crop of RoR clone languages have emerged, including Biscuit, also known as PHP on Rails; Grails, a Java-based Rails-alike; Monorail, also a Rails-based framework; Turbo Gears, also known as Python on Rails; Cake PHP, another PHP on Rails-like offering; Subway, another Python-based Rails language; and the Catalyst Web framework, Hansson said.
“Ruby on Rails is compelling because it represents a carefully thought-out best practices approach to database-backed Web sites,” Ascher said. “Hansson, Rails creator, deliberately took a lot of the wisdom accumulated by the last few years of Web development technologies and implemented it in Ruby, taking full advantage of Rubys dynamic capabilities.”