[erlang-questions] Go vs Erlang for distribution

Garry Hodgson garry@REDACTED
Sun Jun 22 03:32:46 CEST 2014

for me personally, i don't see Go as an alternative to erlang,
or python, or any of the higher level languages i've become
accustomed to. but i do see it as a potential alternative to C
for cases where i need to do low level, performance critical

On 06/21/2014 06:43 PM, Alexei Sholik wrote:
> Hi,
> Let me say from the beginning that this is not meant as a flame post. 
> I'm genuinely interested in some issues related to Erlang's adoption 
> and how people outside of its community see its fitness for the domain 
> where the insiders know it shines -- building distributed systems.
> My questions have been prompted by the apparent appeal of Go as a 
> suitable tool for that exact domain. I have noticed the appeal being 
> expressed both outside and _inside_ Erlang community (will explain soon).
> The reason for my asking on this particular list is twofold:
>   1. After discovering Erlang (not just the language, but in the wider 
> sense: Erlang VM, OTP, its founding principles) I see it as a great 
> fit for building distributed systems that can survive and auto-recover 
> from various kinds of failures. It has also been proven over the years 
> of being used in production. Erlang experts are the kind of people to 
> go to when looking for an advice in this area.
>   2. In his recent talk at EUC Garrett Smith showed us an interesting 
> slide[1] where Go appears to be one of the primary alternatives to 
> Erlang, as chosen by _Erlang programmers themselves_. To me this 
> implies that Erlang programmers have found in Go some of the 
> principles Erlang builds upon, the fact I'm going to dispute below.
>   [1]: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Bqr9xJJIgAIUewQ.png:large
> So now comes the question: what do Erlang programmers think about Go 
> stealing some of the mindshare (and job-share) in the area of building 
> distributed systems? Why would if be a good option? Or not an option 
> at all? Just professional opinions based on your experience with 
> Erlang please.
> Let me explain what suggests Go might be a viable alternative:
>   * the slide mentioned above
>   * Go has been used for teaching distributed systems at the Carnegie 
> Mellon University since 2011. (Go 1 was release in early 2012) See 
> this blog from the teacher: 
> http://da-data.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/teaching-distributed-systems-in-go.html
>   * increased activity on projects such as libswarm[2], libchan[3], 
> there are more.
>   [2]: https://github.com/docker/libswarm
>   [3]: https://github.com/docker/libchan
> If you haven't been keeping up with Go, here's a brief overview of its 
> principles:
>   * imperative, statically typed, garbage collected, lower level than 
> scripting languages, but higher level than C
>   * builtin concurrency with lightweight processes (called goroutines) 
> which are scheduled cooperatively
>   * single address space for all goroutines (modifying shared data is 
> discouraged, but possible); hence no isolation
>   * goroutines have no identity, communication between them is only 
> possible through channels; hence no ability to monitor or link to 
> goroutines, so no supervision
>   * writing to a channel is always synchronous; it is possible to make 
> a buffered channel, but once the buffer is full, the next goroutine 
> trying to write to it will block
>   * all errors must be handled explicitly; can be done at goroutine 
> level by setting up a catch-all handler. But crashing in the 
> catch-call handler will crash the goroutine. And crashing a goroutine 
> crashes the whole program. No Erlang-style "let it crash" or "let 
> someone else handle errors"
> From this short survey Go looks more like the ultimate antagonist to 
> Erlang, or at least its philosophy. What could justify its being 
> chosen as an _alternative_ to Erlang?
> Sorry if it turned out a bit too long. Ultimately, I'm curious about 
> the reasons Go appears in a huge font on Garrett's slide. Also, 
> finding out why Go has seen a tremendous growth in just 2 years since 
> initial stable release and is already seen as a good fit for tasks 
> Erlang is considered the best tool in these circles might shed some 
> light on which steps Erlang community could take to increase the 
> awareness about its merits (especially in the light of a few recent 
> threads on this list).
> This ended up rather convoluted, I know. If it was the wrong place to 
> bring up this topic, I apologize. Feel free to ignore this thread in 
> that case.
> Thanks for reading this far.
> -- 
> Best regards
> Alexei Sholik
> _______________________________________________
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Garry Hodgson
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