Salesforce.com and Engine proclaim Ruby to be the language for cloud applications. Yet, recent announcement by Amazon.com and Oracle’s NetBeans project raise questions about Ruby’s current and future enterprise adoption.

Ruby, the language for the cloud?
Salesforce.com acquired Heroku, a Ruby and Ruby on Rails (RoR) platform as a service (PaaS) provider in early December 2010. At the time, Salesforce.com CEO, Marc Benioff, spoke highly of Ruby’s future:

Ruby is the language of Cloud 2 [applications for real-time mobile and social platforms]. Developers love Ruby. It’s a huge advancement. It offers rapid development, productive programming, mobile and social apps, and massive scale. We could move the whole industry to Ruby on Rails.

Tom Mornini, CEO of Heroku competitor Engine Yard’s, echoed Beinoff’s views about Ruby’s affinity with cloud-based applications.

I’ve previously highlighted data from the Tiobe Programming Community Index that indicates Ruby’s usage declined in 2010. Additionally, amongst enterprise job postings on Indeed.com, the actual number and growth rate of jobs requiring Ruby skills trailed jobs requiring PHP and Python skills.

If Ruby is in fact the language of the cloud, enterprises haven’t received the memo as yet.

Amazon.com endorses Java, not Ruby, first
Amazon.com recently announced the AWS (Amazon Web Services) Elastic Beanstalk beta, based initially on Java. While Amazon.com did allude to other languages being supported by AWS Elastic Beanstalk in the future, they started with Java, not Ruby.

As I said last week, “when the de facto public cloud provider, Amazon.com, launches a Java-based cloud platform offering ahead of another language such as Ruby, it speaks volumes about Java’s future.”

Amazon.com’s AWS success has been largely outside of the enterprise, with the very same small companies, departments, startups and developers. This audience should, we’re told, have an affinity for Ruby.

NetBeans drops Ruby on Rails support
Just this week, Oracle’s NetBeans IDE project announced yet more news bad new for Ruby adoption amongst enterprises and developers alike. The NetBeans team explained:

“After thorough consideration, we have taken the difficult step to discontinue support for Ruby on Rails in the NetBeans IDE. … Although our Ruby support has historically been well received, based on existing low usage trends we are unable to justify the continued allocation of resources to support the feature.”

Ruby on Rails will continue being supported on NetBeans 6.9.1 or earlier. However, as of NetBeans 7.0, NetBeans developers building Ruby on Rails applications have to decide between staying current with NetBeans releases or Ruby on Rails support within their IDE of choice.

Making sense of the Ruby hype
According to analysis by RedMonk’s Stephen O’Grady, the alpha geeks on Hacker News are quite interested in Ruby on Rails. As RedMonk has previously stated, the alpha geeks are typically ahead of the IT adoption curve. If this holds for Ruby, enterprises should start seeing more of their developers interested in using Ruby and Ruby on Rails for the next project at hand.

IT decision makers are encouraged to use caution when considering Ruby for new enterprise projects. Jumping on the Ruby bandwagon, when usage statistics and vendor actions suggest caution, doesn’t appear to be a winning IT strategy. On the other hand, using Ruby for a new application in order to learn the pros and cons of including Ruby into the IT toolkit would be valuable, especially if the alpha geeks are in fact correct about Ruby and Ruby on Rails.

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