Ruby on Rails - Deserves the Hype?

The rapid feedback loop

Another feature of Ruby on Rails that enhances developer productivity is the rapid feedback loop. The feedback loop is the amount of time between making a change in code and seeing the results in the execution of your application on the screen. In Rails, you get nearly-instant feedback as you code. There is no compile or packaging phase needed. You can immediately load a browser page to see the results of your changes. Managers should take note of this feature, because with enhanced productivity comes improved client satisfaction. Say you are in a meeting with a client, and they have some edits that they would like for you to incorporate into their Web application. With Ruby on Rails, you can make changes promptly and see the results immediately, improving the overall client experience.

It is important to note that introducing a radically different framework such as Ruby on Rails can be detrimental to a company's development, testing, and production infrastructure. For example, Rails applications are installed differently than common development platforms such as Java or Microsoft's .NET. Operations managers need to understand how to deploy it effectively.

But Rails acceptance is already being witnessed in large companies such as IBM, Microsoft, Apple, and Sun Microsystems. Sun Microsystems supports a project called JRuby that enables Ruby applications to run in a Java Virtual Machine. Efforts like JRuby will make it easier for companies to transition and adapt to Ruby on Rails since it will become a part of a familiar structure. Apple Computer has announced that Ruby on Rails will be included in the next release of its flagship operating system, OS X 10.5 (Leopard). And, even Microsoft has included Ruby programming language support in its newest rich-Internet framework, Silverlight. The world's largest technical publisher, O'Reilly Media, has even acknowledged Ruby's rapid growth and now considers it a major language with triple digit growth between 2006 to 2007.

A common question regarding Ruby on Rails relates to its performance relative to its peers. Some companies claim that Ruby on Rails does not perform as well as comparable systems. Comments such as these must be looked at objectively and balanced against productivity gains. Managers then need to make the decision of whether it is cheaper to hire people or purchase additional hardware, and chances are they will find that purchasing more hardware makes better financial sense.


People are paying more and more attention to Ruby on Rails, and for good reason. With the advent of the Rails framework, the Ruby programming language is making its way towards the top. By focusing on convention over configuration, Ruby on Rails is lowering the barriers of entry to programming and positively impacting employee productivity--ultimately proving that all of the hype is true and well-deserved.


1. "Crossing borders: What's the secret sauce in Ruby on Rails?," Bruce Tate; May 9, 2006.

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Francis Wong Francis Wong is an independent consultant and senior technical trainer for WestLake Training and Development. He has developed software applications for many well-known companies such as AOL, Hitac...


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