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Scala designer cites goals, directions for JVM alternative

Paul Krill | Sept. 20, 2011
Developer Martin Odersky discusses origin and plans for Scala, a statically typed language that can be used to build Android apps

InfoWorld: Why did you want to use the Java Virtual Machine for Scala?

Odersky: Two reasons. The first one is my personal experience. I've been on the JVM from the time it was still in alpha. I actually wrote, I think, the second Java compiler in 1995. That compiler then with twists and turns, eventually became Java C, so the standard Java compiler. I also found that the JVM would be an excellent target because of essentially two things. The first is it was a high-performance runtime, and the second thing is it had a garbage collector. Scala is object-oriented and functional; a high-performance garbage collector is absolutely essential to make this run well.

InfoWorld: What types of applications are ideal for development with Scala?

Odersky: It's really a very, very broad set of applications, The uptake is particularly strong in Web companies, so it runs on quite a few of the most high-traffic websites on the Internet and in the financial sector.

InfoWorld: Recently you've cited a need for better development tools for Scala. Has any progress been made in that regard?

Odersky: Yes, we have made steady progress. We have now the Eclipse IDE in beta, and we're nearing the final version [of] Eclipse 2.0. The uptake has been pretty good and the response has been very good, as well, that people are finally no longer worried about lack of IDE performance.

InfoWorld: What's happening with your company, Typesafe, and why did you recently step down as CEO?

Odersky: That was essentially a schedule change because I have a dual role. I'm at Typesafe and at EPFL (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne). I have to go back to teaching next week actually, and because of that and also because I wanted to focus more on the technical part, the architecture and less on the management parts, I was very happy to have Donald (Fischer) take over as CEO. As you can imagine, the company has grown quite a lot since its launch, so with a growing company the demands on the management side, of course, they also grow.

InfoWorld: What is the company doing these days? What's the business plan?

Odersky: The business plan is to continue to build and expand the Typesafe stack, which consists of the Scala runtime, Akka middleware, and we're going to announce some other components of this Typesafe stack very, very soon to provide support for that and to add some products around that. As a second part of the business, we have a very active training business, so we give a lot of courses on both Scala and Akka, and we see a lot of demand for that right now.


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