Charles, Tom and Nick to EngineYard – and the future of JRuby

Most people have already heard the news that Charles, Tom and Nick are going to Engine Yard to work on JRuby. I’ve been asked for my opinion by a few people, and I’ve also seen some common reactions that I would like to comment on. Of course I only speak for myself, not for Charles, Tom or Nick, and definitely not for neither Sun, Oracle or Engine Yard.

Lets get the congratulations in order first. This is great news for Charles, Tom and Nick, and I definitely wish them well with at their new work. I totally understand their move and would have done the same thing if I had been in the same situation.

This is also good news for the JRuby project. The main concern from Charles and company has been to ensure that the JRuby project doesn’t suffer – that has been the overriding concern in this decision. Of course, having Nick be able to work on JRuby proper will also be great. Another full time resource.

Now for some of the comments and worries. Tim Anderson writes in his blog about it: The problem with some of the conclusions in this blog, especially that Oracle should have done a better job at reassuring Charles & co about the future of JRuby, goes totally against what is even possible for a company in this situation to do. I’ve heard this comment from several different places, so let me make this very plain. It would have been grossly illegal for any representative from Oracle to give ANY indication to Charles, Tom or Nick about what their intention for JRuby was. It will continue to be this way until the buyout is done. For all we know, Charles, Tom and Nick might have asked any Oracle person they could find what would happen, but they wouldn’t have been able to get an answer they could rely on. That’s how these things work.

Seeing as that insecurity would be around for quite some time, and since this merger is pretty big, it was a reasonable doubt from the JRuby guys perspective that Oracle wouldn’t give any indication for quite some time. During that time the JRuby development would be in jeopardy. So they made a decision to ensure the safety of the project. (When I mean safety of the project, I of course mean continued full time resources for working on it). From this perspective they didn’t really have any choice. This is no indication whatsoever of anything else. It is no indication of Oracle’s future Java strategy, it is no indication of what will happen with languages on JVM in the future. It is just a rational decision based on what can be known right now.

Many from the Ruby and JRuby community has expressed concerns that Engine Yard is primarily a Rails company, and that Rails bugs will take priority over Java integration or other pieces of the JRuby story. This is simply not true. Read any interview with Charles or any of the official announcements. The JRuby focus from Engine Yard will definitely not have overriding Rails concerns.

Another worry I’ve heard is that Engine Yard now “owns” core developers for MRI, Rubinius and JRuby, and as such can use this power to control the future of Ruby. <insert evil laugh here>.

Yes. Engine Yard does have lots of power over the future of Ruby right now. Is that a bad thing? All the above projects are proper open source projects, and nothing EY can do will stop that. EY is a next generation company. They understand open source and they swear by it. Just look at how much internal infrastructure they have opened up and released for general consumption. There can be no doubt that EY believes in open source.

If you’re really worried though… This is your chance to influence things. Submit patches to MRI, Rubinius or JRuby. Contribute enough and you will become a core developer, and you will have as much power as Engine Yard or any of the other core developers. (Remember that only 3 of the 8ish JRuby core developers work for Engine Yard). Once again – if you’re worried, do something about it. Don’t spread FUD.

Personally, I think the future of Ruby is looking bright.

8 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. Personally, I’m cautiously optimistic. To be honest, I was never comfortable with Sun controlling JRuby by being the money behind the development. Granted, JRuby was and is OSS, but at the end of the day, Charlie, Tom and Nick were Sun employees. They had to work on the projects that *Sun* wanted done, and those projects didn’t necessarily coincide with JRuby’s best interests (I think Kenai is a good example of this).

    Engine Yard is a Rails shop, yes, but they’re also a really great company which has shown a consistent commitment to the Ruby community at large. Of course they will be leveraging the core JRuby team to further their own interests (that’s what companies do), but I think those interests will be closer to our own than Sun’s. I have absolutely no doubt that EY will allow JRuby to proceed forward as the core team sees fit. The fact that the first JRuby release with Engine Yard funding is focusing on *Java* more than Ruby is a fairly conclusive bit of evidence on this score.

    So in short, congratulations to everyone involved! I look forward to the next few years of JRuby development.

    July 30th, 2009

  2. Thanks for this reasoned treatment. I think many people are not aware of the legalities surrounding public company mergers and acquisitions, quiet periods, etc. All of the “Sun should’ve” and “Oracle should’ve” blogs and tweets must be dispatched from a better planet which lacks securities and exchange lawyers.

    Anyway, “Sun” long ago ceased to connote brightness for me, and instead makes me think “large gravity well.” So I’m excited about the Engine Yard move announcement — and congratulations to the whole team.

    July 30th, 2009

  3. I’m not a Rubyst myself, but I follow your blogs and tweets (esp. Ola and Charles) with great interest as I love to track Java tech in general, programming language and VM research; and you’ve certainly done a terrific job in JRuby. You deserve some big kudos for pushing Sun and the general Java community to open up the platform for a wider choice of languages; JDK 7 is so far looking another major win for anybody who cares about the Java-the-platform ecosystem.

    I not only understand Charles, Tom and Nick’s move, but I think this may be very good for Ruby because EngineYard is a company that seems to be more focused on Ruby. Sun is a very big place – soon a much bigger place. They support several programming languages and platforms, and Ruby is not their main choice and will never be. Sun’s legacy and cash-cow is ol’ good Java; their next big thing is JavaFX. As for other languages, they will support anything that seems to be in fashion and contribute to their bottom line – see Jython, or NetBean’s support for C/C++, PHP and Groovy, not to mention upcoming langs like Scala and Clojure, other research like Fortress etc. Sun may have been a great sponsor of JRuby and might continue to be, but [J]Ruby would always be yet another language for Sun, even more for Oracle. Now [J]Ruby is the crown jewels for EngineYard, and this can only be a good thing. Congrats, guys.

    July 30th, 2009

  4. Well put, Ola. I’m both sad and happy that the JRuby trio have left, but I know they’re in good hands at EY.

    July 30th, 2009

  5. I enjoyed reading your note, Ola. As you indicate, the current situation at Sun is tricky. JAG has a comment about that his recent post [1]; we are all waiting for the completion of this phase so we can move to the next one.

    I wish the best to Charlie, Tom and Nick at EY. While they were at NB we (the GF team) enjoyed working with them (and the JVM and the performance folks and many others) to help them improve JRuby. And I hope we will continue to do that at EY.


    July 31st, 2009

  6. Good article, as always.

    In my opinion from this movement from EY will benefit all Ruby developers. Since ruby is they flagship language, and the better ruby implementation is better for them (and for all of us :)) Other good thing is that they now “have” people in 3 major Ruby implementations so I think there will be even better communication between these projects.

    I just wanted to mention, that Engine Yard, have also a big involvement in Merb and other popular Ruby projects.

    July 31st, 2009

  7. I’m confused on what EY plans to do with so many opensource projects being funded by it (through it full time employees). Some may argue that Sun’s strategy of giving out free software was the cause of its demise. Whatever the case, I wish EY luck and hope they have their monetization strategy clear.

    August 8th, 2009

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