Charles Nutter and Thomas Enebo, better known as “The JRuby Guys”, are joining Sun this month. Yes, I helped make this happen, and for once, you’re going to be getting the Sun PR party line, because I wrote most of it. [Update: It strikes me that thank-yous are in order. Given that Sun is in the process of (appropriately) slashing some of its engineering groups, new hires are a little tricky. A lot of people helped, but I think the biggest contributions were from our Software CTO Bob Brewin and especially Rich Green, who approved the reqs about fifteen seconds after Bob and I raised the issue.]
Jacki DeCoster, one of our PR people, tried to imagine what kinds of questions people would have, and we went from there.
Why is Sun hiring JRuby developers Charles Nutter and Thomas Enebo? · First, they are excellent developers. Technologies like Ruby are getting intense interest from the developer community, and Sun is interested in anything that developers care about.
What will their new role be at Sun? · First, they have to get JRuby to 1.0 and make sure that the major applications are running smoothly and are performant.
Will they work on JRuby full time? · Yes, but they also have a mandate to think about developer tools. Right now, developers who use dynamic languages like Python and Ruby are poorly served, compared to what Java developers have.
Will JRuby be “owned” by Sun? · No. JRuby has existed for a long time as a project; it has its own culture, community, license, and codebase, and there are no plans for significant changes.
What will Sun be doing with JRuby? · Perhaps most important, we hope to learn from this experience. Dynamically-typed languages like Ruby are only beginning to be accepted in the software mainstream, and many of the best practices and tools remain to be invented. Second, we'd like to ensure that the Ruby programming language, in its JRuby form, is available to the community of Java developers. Finally, there is a possibility that the Java platform may prove to be an attractive deployment option for existing Ruby applications in certain scenarios.
Does this mean that Sun is still operating in a ”Java-only“ world? · No. We are actively interested in supporting non-Java technologies such as PHP, Perl, Python, and Rails on our system and OS platforms. And we are quite aware that many Solaris systems are running non-Java workloads. In particular, I’m concerned about the slow progress on the next-generation native Ruby engine and would like to help there too.
Is Sun responding to hype? · Yes, if by “hype” you mean a genuine groundswell of interest in the developer community; for example, check Tim O’Reilly's book-sales data.
Why JRuby and not Ruby on Rails? · Rails is built on the Ruby language, and already (sort of) runs on JRuby. It may be the case that it will run better on JRuby than on the native platform in certain application scenarios. There are also things we can do to make JRuby on Rails a compelling option, not the least of which is integrating Rails into existing Java frameworks and applications.