Feeds

Why is Ruby on Rails so darn slow?

'Weird and hard to understand'

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

Tim Bray, the co-creator of XML turned Ruby on Rails enthusiast, has told developers to face up to lingering performance problems in the scripting stack.

In a keynote at the Silicon Valley Ruby Conference last week, Bray called Rails "a big deal, a hot deal". And the Sun Microsystems director of web technologies is walking it likes he talks it: he's using a lot of Ruby for his development.

But...

"Let's face the facts: Ruby is too slow," Bray told delegates. He says Ruby 1.8.6 - which dominates the enterprise landscape - is up to 20 times slower than Java.

And, despite tests, the cause of the problem remains unclear - is it compilation of Ruby or "some pretty freaking complex and scary stuff" in Rails.

"When you start to run Rails, you get wildly non-linear performance. Rails has worked well on Ruby 1.8.6... everything else is a work in progress. It's weird and it's hard to understand," Bray said.

"Ruby is richly festooned with core libraries and APIs that aren't built in Ruby, they are built in C," he said.

Fellow keynote speaker John Lam, a Microsoft project manager who's leading work porting Ruby to the .NET Framework with IronRuby, also noted "strange anomalies" in the way Ruby works.

Various initiatives are underway to address the Ruby speed problem. These include the Smalltalk-inspired Rubinius that Sun is supporting; the somewhat obscure Maglev; and - of course - JRuby. This runs on the Java Virtual Machine and is up to five times faster than Ruby, according to Bray.

In spite of the go slow, Bray delivered a robust endorsement of Ruby on Rails. For him, the Rails framework drives Ruby's success and gives Ruby an edge over PHP and Sun's beloved Java in speed of development, scalability and maintainability. "The majority of Ruby in the world is driven by Rails," he said.

Rails offers a clean, prescribed and predictable framework that - like PHP - get some of their advantage from choosing to do less. Java Enterprise Edition, meanwhile, is designed for "infinite flexibility".

PHP is widespread and is used in massive applications such as Facebook and Wikipedia, but the accompanying PHP frameworks such as CakePHP, have not followed in terms of deployment, breeding "spaghetti code" that's difficult to fix and extend.

According to Bray, the prescriptive nature of the Rails framework suits most web front-ended applications' database batch needs when it comes to create, repeat, update and delete. The downside? If you need your database calls to do something a little different, you're on your own.

Rails also encourages best practices, through the use of test-driven development to improve construction and model view controller to help maintain applications.

Speed of development is the number-one reason that CTOs at big banks and airlines are calling Bray in to advise on Ruby. "They've heard it gives them applications in months rather than years. That's why Ruby came out of nowhere," he said. "You can get something done faster in Ruby once you've got it built, you can do updates and maintenance faster than you can in PHP."

Other languages could learn a thing or two from Rails and Bray predicts frameworks would become more "Rails-like" - meaning the future does not belong to Ruby on Rails alone.®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Apple fanbois SCREAM as update BRICKS their Macbook Airs
Ragegasm spills over as firmware upgrade kills machines
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
NO MORE ALL CAPS and other pleasures of Visual Studio 14
Unpicking a packed preview that breaks down ASP.NET
Captain Kirk sets phaser to SLAUGHTER after trying new Facebook app
William Shatner less-than-impressed by Zuck's celebrity-only app
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
EU dons gloves, pokes Google's deals with Android mobe makers
El Reg cops a squint at investigatory letters
Chrome browser has been DRAINING PC batteries for YEARS
Google is only now fixing ancient, energy-sapping bug
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.