[erlang-questions] Erlang is the best choice for building commercial application servers

Miles Fidelman mfidelman@REDACTED
Mon Mar 12 04:43:56 CET 2012

Shahrdad Shadab wrote:
> Thanks everybody for your valuable comments, What I got from your 
> comments is basically comes down to the very point
> that the decision of picking java/j2ee over Erlang is most business 
> driven than computer science / technology driven.
> Currently I don't see any solution to this problem unless IT's point 
> of view respected by line of business and business decision makers 
> don't cross their red lines and invade IT realm.

Let me preface this by noting that I'm about to commit to Erlang for a 
major project.

But... in fairness, picking a language is NOT just a computer science or 
technology decision.  When one is contemplating investing millions of 
dollars in developing software that has to be maintained over a decade 
or more, the decision is far more an operational one than a technical 
one.  Picking the "best" technology is far less important than 
considerations such as: Will anyone be supporting this language in 10 
years?  What kind of tools are available?  Can I hire programmers and 
systems administrators who are familiar with the language and run-time 
environment?  In short, one is evaluating the ecosystem surrounding the 
language, far more than the language itself.

Betting on IBM ("you can't lose your job for going with IBM") has proven 
a pretty good strategy for decades.  DEC and Wang are long gone, IBM is 
still around.  I expect the same will be true of Microsoft.  Who knows 
with Apple - they're likely to be around, but will they be a computer 
vendor, or an entertainment company in 15 years?

Where languages are concerned, Fortran and COBOL had LONG periods in the 
sun.  For a long time, it looked like PL/1 and Ada would be their 
successors - they certainly had strong backing from both major vendors 
and the world's largest customer.  And, while LISP certainly has its 
fans (and still does), C seems to have become dominant for an awfully 
long time (in my opinion, it's a horridly useless language, but good 
tooling, a lot of coders, and tremendous cross-platform capabilities 
seem to have won the day).   For that matter, if you're writing code for 
the iPhone or iPad, your language choice is dictated for you.

Ten years ago, if I were betting millions of dollars on a new system, 
Java sure would have looked a lot safer than Erlang (and probably still 
does).  At the time (I may be off by a few years), Ericsson was all set 
to kill Erlang - it would have been crazy to bet any kind of major 
system on it.  It was a positively brilliant move on Joe Armstrong's 
part to open source Erlang and build a larger community around it.  That 
makes it a much safer choice today - but the existence of a robust 
ecosystem is relatively recent, and it's still a LOT easier to hire Java 
coders (or C, or PHP, or even Ruby coders) than to find experienced 
Erlang developers.

Miles Fidelman

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice.
In practice, there is.   .... Yogi Berra

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