Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Back in the saddle

So I have been working on Wall Street for the last year+ and last week decided to quit my job. And non-too-soon, as my job will most likely no longer exist in a few months if you have been following the news over the past few weeks.

I am going back to school, moving out of NYC and off to Maryland so over this summer I should have a lot of free time and I am working on possibly being involved in sort of a freelance project in order to make money (details are still pending). Anyways, the current design of the project has a typical web-app interface, then a manager layer that encapsulates the database. The manager layer handles caching data and moving it back to the database when needed, and event dispatching, blah blah blah.

Immediately I think this is the perfect use case for Erlang. We want it to be fault tolerant of course (the downside of a web-app is when things go wrong it affects everyone) and be able to handle a lot of data moving back and forth (although I'm unsure of the specifics since this is so early). Basically this sounds like a standard Erlang app with mnesia as the cache most likely, spanning a few nodes and moving data back to a DB in a write-behind method.

Some people have a bit of a concern about Erlang, how will we find developers and so on, which are perfectly valid. My response to that is:
Erlang is such a simple language it does not take much time to learn, and while OTP is not as simple, it does not take much time to learn either. In the end, one needs to be less of an expert in Erlang to get an equal or better application (in terms of Erlang's strengths) than they would have to be in another language such as Java.

One possible alternative language being considered is Java because of JBoss. I haven't looked into JBoss in-depth yet, but at a quick glance it looks like it has some really nice and really mature features. The JMS implementation sounds pretty solid and the clustering. Everyone knows Java, or at least puts it on their CV, but this sounds misleading. How good does one need to be in Java in order to not make a mess of an application written using JBoss compared to Erlang? My opinion is that the way one learns Erlang is fairly similar to how they would write production software with Erlang, but perhaps not the same for Java. The features we use in our 'Hello World' are the same that we use in a production environment, this is not true of Java in my experience.

We are still looking into things but I'm currently hoping for Erlang.


  1. I work for a company that does system administration for many large ecommerce web sites. What do I spend a big chunk of my day doing? Restarting Java apps, usually ATG Dynamo. There is jboss in the environments we support, but that is a bit higher up the stack that I worry about, so I couldn't tell you how it stacks up compared to the other stuff out there.

    But I'm sick of babysitting java.

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