[erlang-questions] Benchmarks

James Hague james.hague@REDACTED
Tue Jan 12 15:44:39 CET 2010

>> they are irrelevant as none of those things are what Erlang is designed to
> Certainly that's the expected defense. Could you spell that out
> specifically?

There isn't an easy answer to this, but I'll try.

The Shootout benchmarks are mostly about doing heavy, straightforward
data manipulation. The kind of thing that's a best case for C: static
memory allocation, fixed data sizes. In Erlang you pay the price for
dynamic typing, garbage collection, data structures full of pointers
instead of simple structs, and floating point values boxed on the

Where Erlang--and indeed any functional language--shines is when
things get messy. When you're building and rebuilding data structures
on the fly, when there are lots of complex decisions, when you can
often go for a symbolic solution instead of just plowing through
blocks of bytes. Often I've found I can implement optimizations that
would be too painful in C. And truthfully, C is still faster, usually
by a lot, but it doesn't matter. The Erlang code is fast enough and
more reliable.

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