Sunday, February 11, 2007

Ruby on Rails for enterprise gaining ground?

I work for a big systems engineering firm (big by Canadian standards) with over 30 years of system and software engineering success. Much of that success is attributed to the company's conservative, risk-averse engineering culture. Nonetheless, a few brave souls within the company are embracing and succeeding with Agile ways. Ruby on Rails promises to ratchet Agile productivity up a notch or two, even for conservative, risk-averse enterprise projects.

In December 2005, Quoted-Printable published a link to a thought-provoking article by Obie Fernandez on the business value of Ruby on Rails. Fernandez predicted a big gain for RoR in 2006, thanks to the "productivity arbitrage" gains of RoR . So, did RoR gain ground in 2006? Was Fernandez on the money? Here's my totally unscientific search for the truth:

David Heinemeier Hansson first released Rails to the world in July 2004. According to a graph produced on Google Trends, the phrase "Ruby on Rails" makes its first appearance in Google searches in early 2005, climbs steadily through the rest of the year, then declines in 2006. Google provides no scale for the number of hits in the vertical scale (there must be a more scientific term for this), so all of the comparisons that follow are relative.

Over the same period, the terms "Java" and "J2EE" declined slightly on Google. A search for "Spring framework", representing the latest trend toward lightweight Java, shows a gain through 2005 followed by a marked decline in 2006.

So does this mean RoR is not gaining ground, or that web users are not searching for these terms as much as they first did, sort of a "framework fatigue" setting in?

Currently in a search for the term "Rails" on Google, eight of the first ten results are directly related to Ruby on Rails. The first five results point to Ruby on Rails-related sites, followed by Rails of Sheffield's "New and used model railways." The result may reveal more about Google's indexing algorithms than shifting patterns in the search term, but it provides some insight.

In the mean time, the first Railsconf in mid-June 2006, sponsored by non-profit advocacy group Ruby Central, sold out to an audience of 600. This year Ruby Central partnered with tech publishing behemoth O'Reilly to double the number of seats at Railsconf 2007 in Portland, Oregon.

Prompted by a fevered posting to the Rubyonrails weblog, last Monday, I succumbed to the hype and registered, even before I had the go-ahead from my employer's professional development program coordinator (yes, they have a great training and pro-D program!).

As of this posting, the conference is already three-quarters sold out, one week after registration opened!

Glad I bought my ticket early.

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