JRuby Developers Join The Sun Fold

Never underestimate the power of an impressive demo at a trade conference. Three months after two Java consultants showed off their project at JavaOne, Sun has hired them to make their after-work project a full time effort.

Charles Nutter and Thomas Enebo had been developing JRuby in their spare time. Now the two are full time software engineers for Sun, reporting to Tim Bray, Sun Fellow and creator of XML .

Ruby  is an object-oriented, interpreted programming language that has gained quite a bit of popularity on the Web since it was first introduced in 1995. It’s a free language, developed under an open source license. Bray said Ruby has found a natural home on the server, where JavaScript never quite got traction.

Bray’s reasoning behind the hiring of Nutter and Enebo echoes much of the sentiment Microsoft’s Jim Hugunin offered recently about dynamic languages on .NET: Dynamic languages are becoming very popular.

“This whole area of dynamic languages is one that’s getting a lot of attention and interest from the developer community so it was a no-brainer [to hire them],” he said. “They’re good developers, they’re working on something people care about and it makes the Java platform more useable. So it’s right in Sun’s sweet spot.”

For Nutter, it means he gets to work on JRuby “in the day time.” More seriously, he told internetnews.com, “It helps us speed things up and get JRuby where we want it to be much more quickly and leverage Sun resources at the same time.”

He also offered the same mantra as Bray regarding dynamic languages:

“Dynamic languages have been considered glue between other apps and other libraries. In this case, Java would serve in providing suites and libraries that are tested and production ready, and Ruby provides a much easier way to tie those together into new sorts of apps.”

JRuby is continuing along in development, able to run simple applications, and about 25 percent faster than when it was demoed at JavaOne, Nutter said. His goal is to meet Ruby’s native performance while running on Java and having as much functionality as possible.

And just as Hugunin talked about taking the lessons learned with IronPython on Microsoft’s .NET, Nutter and Bray hinted that they plan on bringing other dynamic languages to the Java platform.

“I’ve obviously made a commitment, saying Ruby is one of my favorite scripting languages,” said Nutter. “But that’s not the only language people want on the Java platform. In some cases, those languagess will benefit for what we’re doing on Ruby.”

“Their number one commitment is to get JRuby out the door. But the various kinds of glue and integration machinery to get that done will work well with other dynamic languages,” said Bray.

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