[erlang-questions] Question about erlang history at Ericsson

Ed Korsberg ed.korsberg@REDACTED
Tue Jan 13 13:58:33 CET 2009

This is a fascinating history lesson and matches what I suspected to hear.
The sad part of the story from what I read in the paper is that Ericsson
pulled the plug on future product development using Erlang even after it was
shown to be viable and valuable in several shipping products.  It was a
calculated business decision to do so but not a courageous one.  It is a
shame to see visionaries shut down by bean counters.

On Mon, Jan 12, 2009 at 5:07 PM, Robert Virding <rvirding@REDACTED> wrote:

> 2009/1/12 Ed Korsberg <ed.korsberg@REDACTED>
>> I am new to this Erlang forum so please excuse any 'newbe' errors on my
>> part.
>> I recently learned of the power of Erlang while attending a conference and
>> while I find the technology
>> of the Erlang language interesting, I am really curious how Ericsson
>> engineering and management had the
>> courage to produce a real revenue generating product on a radical
>> previously unproven design.
>> Many companies have internal engineering resources to create innovative
>> research projects but it is
>> rare for these research projects to make the transition to shipping
>> products complete with all the quality
>> control and field support required.
>> I would be curious to learn how Ericsson managed this transition from an
>> internal R&D development to
>> a real shipping product.
> The references you got from Thomas and Tuncer are good and give some
> insight into the development of Erlang and the problems the lab had when
> doing it.
> BUT, one basic thing you must realise and is that the development of Erlang
> was pure skunk-works and we in the lab decided more or less on our on accord
> to do it. We were very lucky to get in contact with a group who were both
> willing and able to try new technology for their development. It has never
> really been sanctioned by management and only really been officially allowed
> to be used when other more prefered alternatives have failed. Even then
> there were many requests to phase it out and use other technologies.
> Another thing to realise is that Ericsson, like most other large companies,
> is not a homogenous entity and while we only ever had very limited
> management support there were groups inside Ericsson who had the need of,
> and saw the benefits, of using Erlang in their products. And who were
> willing to fight to use it. Basically we were continually fighting to keep
> Erlang alive, spread it and try to support groups who were using it.
> Rather depressing perhaps but, I think, quite common for new technology in
> larger companies.
> Of course the really big happening for the spread of Erlang out of Ericsson
> was being able to release it as public source. There were many in Ericsson
> who saw the benefits of not using restricted in-house developed
> technologies, but unfortunately for us the official solution to this was to
> use external products instead. It did, however, make it easier to get
> permission to release it as open source.
> Robert
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