According to Derek Haynes of Atlanta-based Highgroove Studios, CIOs & CTOs that don’t investigate Ruby on Rails could be missing out on the holy grail of web application development – faster development, cheaper development, and vastly more usable applications. As our guest blogger this week, Derek provides a nice executive overview into this fascinating technology platform.
“Mom – is my bedroom still available? I’ve run into some financial difficulties.”
It sounds over dramatic to talk about a web application framework as a life-changing experience on par with marriage, college graduation, and the birth of a child, but Ruby on Rails (Rails) has had more of an impact on my professional career than any other event.
In the spring of 2005, I was reluctantly leaving a startup I co-founded where an application built with Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) formed the basis of our business. Development was a nightmare. Besides being slow and overly complex, it wasn’t fun. If starting a car was like building a J2EE application, I’d have to spend 10 minutes configuring the engine before I even started the car. It doesn’t matter how nice the car is – if it takes me 10 minutes to start it, I’m not driving it.
The J2EE development experience could lead a person to swear off technology, purchase a hotdog cart, and head down to Atlantic Station.
As I’ve never been much of a cook and I lack street-vendor-hawking skills, I decided to give up on that idea.
Luckily, the story gets better. If you have an iPod around, go ahead and cue your favorite “I was down but now I’ve risen” song. Reading about Rails for the first time was like walking out of an evangelization camp where 2 people were cured of cancer and a third was cured of blindness. I was re-energized – ready to take on web applications with a framework that looked like it was the freakishly perfect child born from Google and Apple. Development was fast and fun and the code was amazingly readable. If Valentine’s Day hadn’t already passed, I might have asked my significant other if I could bring my laptop and reserve another seat at the dinner table for my Rails application.
Today, my relationship with Rails is even better, and instead of sleeping in a twin bed in my childhood bedroom, I lead Highgroove Studios, a growing web development studio with locations in Atlanta, GA and San Mateo, CA. Largely because of Rails, we’re delivering applications on-time and on-budget, while creating pieces of work that literally change our clients’ views of what a web application can do. While I’ve seen how Ruby on Rails can impact my services firm, I’m also witnessing how it can change larger organizations. CIOs & CTOs that don’t investigate Ruby on Rails could be missing out on the holy grail of web application development – faster development, cheaper development, and vastly more usable applications.
I’m going to cover Rails at a higher-level in this article and talk about some of the great side effects of Rails development. I’ll cut out the discussion on moving to Rails and the technical differences between Rails and other frameworks as plenty of resources covering these topics already exist. There’s a great article on migrating enterprise development to Rails by Rick Bradley, a project manager who is doing just that. IBM also has a solid piece on the technical differences between Rails and J2EE.
Rails In a Nutshell
The goal of Ruby on Rails is to make web development simpler. It’s fairly new, having recently reached version 1.0, and is an alternative to building applications in J2EE, .NET, PHP, or any of the other web frameworks and languages. Rails, built on the Ruby programing language, makes it vastly more productive to write web applications – as much as 10X faster than J2EE. Besides the productivity increases, Rails also has the best support of the for mentioned frameworks for implementing AJAX technologies. AJAX allows a web page to change state (for example, adding a message to a page without reloading). Web applications that utilize AJAX can blur the line between a desktop application and a web application.
As the framework has matured, it has become more and more difficult for Rails developers to cite cases where Ruby on Rails development should not be the framework-of-choice for web applications. As it grows, some of the framework’s relative weaknesses, like a lack of internationalization (support for multiple languages) and a complicated server setup are fading.
I’ll leave with a quote by David Geary, the author of Core JavaServer Faces and a Java-to-Rails convert:
Derek Haynes is the founder of Highgroove Studios, a web applications studio specializing in building elegantly simple Web 2.0 applications. Before starting Highgroove Studios, Derek worked in a variety of industries – from sales in a Fortune 100 company to software development in a 6-person firm. Graduating with High Honors from Georgia Tech, Derek bleeds black and gold.
A special thanks to Derek Haynes of Highgroove Studios for serving as our guest blogger this week. Great job, Derek! As IT leaders, we should always strive to explore new efficiencies, and how they might fit into our strategic technology plans.
Have an opinion on a topic relating to technology, leadership, venture capital, entrepreneurship, business networking, or the Atlanta business scene? If you or someone from your organization would like to participate as a guest blogger here on The Pothole, by all means let me know! This is a great way to get your message out into the blogosphere without necessarily having to create and maintain your own daily blog.