Matt Asay wrote a well received post about dynamic scripting languages such as PHP, Perl and Python ‘crashing the enterprise party’. While the job trends chart that Matt used is somewhat misleading, the chart isn’t central to his point. I say somewhat misleading because the chart tracks percentage growth of jobs seeking “Java”, “PHP, “Perl”, “.NET” and “Python” skills. It’s not surprising to see languages with little enterprise penetration growing faster than languages, or platforms in the case of .NET, that are virtually de facto standards for non-legacy applications. The ‘absolute’ version of the job trend chart is more reflective of the market demand for Java, PHP, Perl, .NET and Python skills.

In any case, Matt’s concludes:

“No, Java and .Net aren’t going away anytime soon. But then, neither are the dynamic programming languages, which are increasingly blessed “enterprise ready.””

I completely agree. Forrester’s Jeffrey Hammond’s research supports the growing enterprise interest in dynamic scripting languages:

“It’s also no surprise to see that dynamic languages such as Ruby, Python, PHP, and JavaScript are proving most popular with developers in the 45-and-under cohort. Dynamic languages are useful when it comes to assembling components into composite Web applications, especially if runtime composition is important.

The implications? As the development staff at a shop turns over, the new generation will push to adopt these dynamic languages. IT managers must ensure that processes and application life-cycle management tools can handle the changes that these new languages bring to the development shop. “

Hammond’s research also found that developers are increasingly comfortable working on multiple programming languages. Hammond writes:

“Developers used to identify themselves by the languages that they used — “I’m a COBOL programmer,” “she’s a Java developer.” But that’s changing — less than 15% of the developers we surveyed spend all their time writing in a single language. “

I started to wonder if the increase in dynamic scripting language job postings is being driven by companies seeking enterprise developers with multiple programming language skills. For instance, if a job required Java skills and another job required Java, Python, MySQL, Ruby on Rails and PHP skills, Matt’s job trends query would find 100 percent of jobs seek Java skills while 50 percent of jobs seek PHP skills. Clearly, the first job has an emphasis on Java development, with Java coding likely making up the majority of the work week. The second job may also be a predominately Java job, but there may be the odd PHP coding task required. As such, claiming that the second job is a “PHP” job while the first job is a “Java” job is somewhat of a difficult conclusion. This can be remedied with Boolean search operators as I’ve done, as shown in the chart below.

The overwhelming majority of jobs requiring PHP skills do not require Java or .NET related skills. My hypothesis that the growth of PHP jobs was a byproduct of companies seeking a Java or .NET platform developer who also knew PHP appears to be unsupported by the data. Java developers tend to be compensated at higher levels than dynamic scripting language developers. Companies may not want to pay a Java developer to work some percentage of her day on PHP coding when a PHP developer could be hired for lower cost. Makes sense, but I would have expected more overlap between Java and PHP jobs or the .NET platform and PHP jobs. You learn something new every day!

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PS: I should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.”