Is Ruby on Rails the next Java? Benchmark Capital thinks so. It just invested $3.5 million in Engine Yard, taking its entire series A round. Ruby on Rails is an increasingly popular Web application programming environment because it is dead-simple, open-source and very fast to develop on. The downside is that it is not always as robust as more mature frameworks such as Java.
In fact, Ruby on Rails is getting a lot of the same criticisms that Java got in its early days. Namely, that it can’t handle millions of users or handle huge transaction loads. “Everybody considers it a great prototyping language, but not serious enough for enterprise quality environments,” notes Benchmark partner Mitch Lasky. But Engine Yard wants to change all of that by providing a hosted environment for Ruby-on-Rails apps that is is stable, kept up to date, and lets the applications scale to millions of users. Combine that with the simplicity of Rails, and Lasky thinks he has a winner:
Rather than it being top-down the way Java was, Rails has grown up out of the grass roots of the programming community. Rails allows you to innovate and iterate so rapidly that it has accelerated the rate of innovations.
Rails is making it fun to program Web apps again. Java is not fun. Happy programmers are productive programmers.
Engine Yard wants to be to Ruby on Rails what Red Hat is to Linux. By figuring out the best, enterprise-class implementation of Ruby on Rails, and keep it maintained, its customers don’t have to worry about it. Engine Yard already hosts Ruby on Rails apps for 250 customers, including Kongregate and divisions of several Fortune 500 companies. Competition could come on the hosting side from companies like Joyent, and on the technology side from Sun’s own JRuby initiative, which is a Java implementation of the Ruby programming language.