Sun Brings JRuby In-House

Sun hires the lead developers on the JRuby project to focus on delivering an implementation of Ruby on the Java Virtual Machine.

Sun Microsystems has hired the lead developers on the JRuby project, an open-source project aimed at developing an implementation of the Ruby language on the Java Virtual Machine.

Rich Green, executive vice president of software at Sun, in Santa Clara, Calif., announced on Sept. 7 during a keynote at Sun Tech Days in Seattle that Charles Nutter and Thomas Enebo, the chief maintainers of JRuby, will become Sun employees this month. They will be working full time on JRuby "and in particular paying attention to developer tools," a Sun spokeswoman said.

Meanwhile, in a statement, Sun said: "Sun believes the Java platform is bigger than just the Java language, and we support giving developers a choice. Sun is planning to support multiple languages on the Java platform; plus, well be working toward interoperability between the Java platform and other languages."

In a blog post about the hire, Tim Bray, director of Web technologies at Sun, addressed what he believed would be commonly asked questions about Sun bringing the two developers aboard. As to why Sun hired them: "First, they are excellent developers. Technologies like Ruby are getting intense interest from the developer community, and Sun is interested in anything that developers care about."

And from Brays description, it sounds like Nutter and Enebo will be doing for Sun with Ruby what Jim Hugunin has done for Microsoft with Python. "They have to get JRuby to 1.0 and make sure that the major applications are running smoothly and are performant," Bray wrote.

And while the duo will work full time on JRuby, "they also have a mandate to think about developer tools," Bray said. "Right now, developers who use dynamic languages like Python and Ruby are poorly served compared to what Java developers have."

Ironically, Hugunins implementation of the Python dynamic language on the .Net platform, IronPython, reached Version 1.0 earlier this week. And Hugunin told eWEEK that part of his mandate is to make sure that dynamic languages have a place on the Microsoft CLR (Common Language Runtime), which is the Redmond, Wash., software giants equivalent to the JVM.

Hugunin said the experience of implementing IronPython as the first dynamic language on the CLR will make it easier for Microsoft to bring other languages such as Ruby, PHP, Perl and others aboard.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read more about IronPython.

Bray echoed these sentiments in his post. "Perhaps most important, we hope to learn from this experience," he said. "Dynamically-typed languages like Ruby are only beginning to be accepted in the software mainstream, and many of the best practices and tools remain to be invented. Second, wed like to ensure that the Ruby programming language, in its JRuby form, is available to the community of Java developers. Finally, there is a possibility that the Java platform may prove to be an attractive deployment option for existing Ruby applications in certain scenarios."

/zimages/6/28571.gifA new compiler enables Ruby to run on .Net. Click here to read more.

In his own blog post, Nutter said: "The primary goal is to give JRuby the attention it really needs. The potential for Ruby on the JVM has not escaped notice at Sun, and so well be focusing on making JRuby as complete, performant, and solid as possible. Well then proceed on to help build out broader tool support for Ruby, answering calls by many in the industry for a better or smarter Ruby development experience."

Nutter also said he looks forward to the opportunity to not only "work on the project Ive poured my heart into this past year, but Ill be able to do it while helping one of my favorite companies turn a technological corner." And he said he hopes to help grow the overall Ruby development community.

Enebo also blogged about the move to Sun. "This is extremely exciting for me at a personal level," he said. "It should also make JRuby progress start to fly. Expect big progress in the next few months. I am very impressed with Suns ability to understand the importance of additional languages on the JVM."

Tor Norbye, a Sun engineer working on Suns Java Studio Creator tool, said he foresees a lot of "cross pollination" between existing Sun projects and the new JRuby effort.

In a blog post, Norbye said: "This obviously fits well with our strategy to support multiple languages on the JVM, and in particular, dynamic and scripting languages. In fact, Charles and Thomas [are] joining the group Im in, so hopefully a lot of the tool support we have built to support BASIC will also benefit JRuby."

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