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How tech giants spread open source programming love

Paul Rubens | Jan. 11, 2016
Industry giants like Google, Facebook and Ericsson have already solved many of the large-scale problems that smaller companies are now facing.

These companies are discovering that many of the problems they’re facing have already been solved.

Acquia is just such a company. It uses Go for its software-as-a-service offering that provides enterprise services for the Drupal content management system. "More and more companies are becoming data companies, handling data from customers, mobile devices and so on,” says Christian Yates, a vice president at Acquia.

"These are exactly the things that the largest Internet companies had to deal with in the past and they built software to cope with it. They had the same issues of high degrees of concurrency and concern for latency and performance that we have today."

He says that his company did a bake-off involving different programming languages and found Go to be the fastest. The fact that it is open source also allowed coding teams to get up to speed and start innovating quickly, he adds.

"Broad adoption in the marketplace, and visibility into source code and how it is used certainly helps developers get productive much more quickly," says Yates. "And we have leveraged tools from Etsy and other Internet companies to help up manage our servers."  

Web tools before there was a Web

When Ericsson developed Erlang back in the mid-1980s, the World Wide Web had not yet been invented. But it turns out that it’s ideal for many Web applications, according to Gartner's Mark Driver.

"Erlang was for massive volumes of switching data, and it was well ahead of its time. Now many companies are building message-oriented, massive-scale high volume applications, and Erlang is perfect for that," he says. As an example, the WhatsApp messaging platform that Facebook acquired in February 2014 uses Erlang to support over 900 million users of the service.

Another such company is Bet365, a U.K.-based online gambling company. Today it has 7 million or more concurrent users of its services at peak times, with traffic growing by about 20 percent every year. The company originally built its online platform using Java and .Net, but struggled to keep scaling up. It also faced time-to-market challenges for new services, according to Chandrashekhar Mullaparthi, the company's principal software architect. This led to a switch to Erlang on which to build its platform.

"Erlang is ideal for us," Mullaparthi says. "It may have been developed by a telecoms company, but the challenges faced by a consumer-facing site like ours are actually very similar. For building an app that needs to scale, has high concurrency and needs "Five nines" availability [i.e., 99.999 percent], I can't see anything else better we could use."

Bridging the talent gap

With an increasing number of companies offering large-scale Internet-based applications, the main barrier to adoption of languages that originate from behemoths like Facebook, Google or Ericsson is a shortage of developers with appropriate skills.


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