Thursday, 2 July 2009

Erlang Factory 2009 - New Kids on the Erlang Block

I went to Erlang Factory again this year thanks to my employer, and it was even more exciting than last year's event. There were some great speakers (Joe Armstrong - entertaining as ever, Simon Peyton Jones), I got to meet some interesting people (e.g. Rusty Klophaus, creator of the Nitrogen web framework) and I got to see some awesome projects. Although Erlang is experiencing a surge of interest, it is by no means "new". it has been used for years in robust and highly scalable applications. That is why I refer to the "new" - as opposed to the solid Erlang VM, tools, libraries and frameworks that have been around for at least a decade.

So, wo are these the New Kids on the Block? These guys?

Nice hair! No, not them. Here are some of the New Kids on the Erlang Block:
Heroku is a platform for deploying Ruby or Rails web apps. They've built their routing mesh in Erlang. This routing mesh is used to load-balance and route requests to their application work units (dynos). This is a really cool piece of cloud infrastructure.

HyperNumbers is a startup that is "doing for numbers what hypertext did for text". Think GoogleDocs, but each cell can be a resource that's located on another spreadsheet. Coming soon.

CouchDB is a non-relational document database written in Erlang, and it is going from strength to strength. Look at this graph from Google Trends:

If you don't know what CouchDB is, you should definitely have a look it. Even is it's just to make you challenge you preconceptions around databases, and relational ones in particular. There is also a book coming out soon. It's open source.

RabbitMQ is an open source, high-performance enterprise messaging system, and an implementation of the messaging standard AQMP. It is written in Erlang. I've heard rumors that ActiveMQ (Java) has 20 times more lines of code. (NB: If anyone can give me a reference or link to proof I would be grateful). Update: See comments for line counts.

This is my favourite web framework. It's a real Web 2.0 framework, and it's highly productive. Some of the main features are:
  • Event-Driven Development
  • Brainlessly Easy Ajax
  • Ridiculously Simple Comet
  • Complex Interfaces: Dragging, Dropping, and Sorting
  • Flexible Templating
  • Data Binding
  • Erlang Power
I've used this to create my own pet Erlang project, Check it out. It's also open source.

I didn't go to this talk, but I've been to one given last year at the Erlang London User group. Smarkets is an online betting exchange which allows users to bet on anything they wish. It is implemented in Erlang and close to launch.

Campfire is one of the applications from the guys at 37Signals. If you don't know who 37 Signals are, they created Ruby on Rails. The functional C polling for Campfire service that was being used was replaced by an Erlang implementation:

The Erlang implementation is as fast as the C implementation, modular and extensible, and much easier to administer with 1 OS process instead of 80.

ProcessOne - OneTeam Media Server
"OneTeam Media Server is a new project launched by ProcessOne which is a Media server for Flash clients implementing the FLV and RTMP protocol. The project is designed so that it can work hand in hand with ejabberd, ProcessOne Instant Messaging platform."

This one is very exciting. The media server has Flash in the front end, and Erlang in the back. It makes thing like writing video chat in the browser ridiculously easy. And it's open source! Look out for it in July.

Webmachine is the best way to implement a REST interface to your Erlang application that I've seen to date. I've blogged about REST and Erlang in the past, but instead of rolling your own, you should look at this. Especially considering how it handles all the response codes correctly, does all the correct caching responses etc. Another open source project.

And the point is...?

I think it's a very positive indicator for the future of Erlang that it is being used in these new and exciting areas and companies. It is performing very well in the field of high-scalability infrastructure. It is well suited to Cloud computing. But most importantly, very clever and innovative people are using it and loving it. That, above all else, means the future looks good for Erlang.

P.S. I'm sure I missed some great talks again this year, but lucky for me and you, you can find the talks and videos here.


Pichi said...

RabbitMQ vs ActiveMQ? Just load source and count it. It's best to see on your own eyes.

Ulf Wiger said...

Process-One presented at the Erlang User Conference 2005. They've been around for a while. :)

Benjamin Nortier said...


According to, ActiveMQ has 908,577 lines, and RabbitMQ has 27,127.

I'm a bit wary of comparing these two like this, as I don't think it's comparing apples with apples. Illustrative nonetheless...

Benjamin Nortier said...

@Ulf You're right, Process-One is a well-established Erlang company, and definitely not a "New Kid". I should apply that label to the new media platform, as opposed to the company itself...

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