Java IoT Authors: Zakia Bouachraoui, Liz McMillan, Kevin Benedict, Elizabeth White, Yeshim Deniz

Related Topics: Java IoT

Java IoT: Article

Why Ruby on Rails Has Become a Popular "Next Platform"

A RoR Primer for Java Developers

ActiveRecord associations can be specified through a bit of metaprogramming:

class User < ActiveRecord::Base
    has_many :articles

class Article < ActiveRecord::Base
    belongs_to :user

The belongs_to expression in the Article class tells ActiveRecord to interpret a column from the database called user_id as a reference to the users. These constructs work in reverse as well with the has_many and has_one macros. With this knowledge, ActiveRecord can expose some interesting functionality that lends itself to writing very readable code:

article = Article.find(45)
user = article.user
users_articles = user.articles

The controller layer is used to control the flow of the site. It makes decisions about what template to render and if errors or notifications need to be displayed. The controller also ensures that any information received from a request is passed to the appropriate models and view templates. At a high level, each controller has a collection of actions. Early versions of Rails interpreted this as a way to construct URL paths (controller/action/id). The current mentality in the community is that each controller represents some sort of abstract or concrete "resource." Resources have four basic operations: create, read, update, and delete (CRUD). With this in mind, most controllers have the seven core actions (index, show, new, create, edit, update, destroy) and a few others.

For example, an events search page must query for a list of events and pass it up to the view. Moreover, this listing will be parameterized by some request parameters:

class EventsController < ApplicationController
   def index
     @events = Event.fulltext_find(params[:search_term])

   # ... other actions

Rails has some syntactic sugar here for filtering client requests and handling them in different ways. These come in the form of before_filter, after_filter, and around_filter. The most commonly used filter is the before_filter:

class EventsController < ApplicationController
   before_filter :login_required, :except => [:index]

   # ... other actions

The standard Rails template engine is called ERb. ERb looks very much like PHP but with Ruby:

<% form_for todo do |f| %>
     <tr><td><%= f.date_select :due_at %></td></tr>
<% end %>

The CRUD philosophy mentioned above exists at this level of the framework as well. This form_for uses information from the passed in todo ActiveRecord object along with some basic conventions to build the submit method and URL for the form. The object yielded to the form block has information about the todo object. This pattern will automatically fill in default values and can be customized and extended to reflect more complex widgets or formatting. Rails is making a lot of assumptions with this form of these helpers, but the end result is a very readable piece of code that's easy to understand and maintain.

The Ruby community has a very strong base in the agile development community. This has significantly influenced the development of the language and support libraries. There is an expectation that software and libraries are well tested. Rails is very strong in the agile space because changes to requirements are generally cheap. This "cheap bullets" property has allowed Rails developers to stay at the leading edge of the technology curve despite working in a fairly young framework.

Ruby is capable of very high code density. Unlike other structured languages, developers can easily create domain-specific languages (DSL) that simplify the expression of potentially complex ideas. You can see this technique throughout Rails. ActiveRecord has macros and constructs that come across to the programmer as a micro-language specific to ORMs. The controller layer benefits from this as well. There is no language construct for a before_filter, but Rails adds something close to aspect-oriented programming (AOP) as though it's a built-in feature.

Great, Now How Do I Show the World?
Deployment has been a sore spot for Rails since the beginning. Where Rails has made significant strides in streamlining the software development process, it's in many ways behind the times when it comes to deployment. Rails on its own is not thread-safe so parallelism must be found at the process level by running multiple application server processes.

Automation is a strength of Ruby and there has been some early progress with tools like Capistrano, which automated much of the deployment process. But most enterprise environments require a separation between the developers and operations. Most early Rails projects didn't have a differentiation and the result was tools that required an understanding of all aspects of the application to make a deployment efficient and effective.

In the last year, the JRuby project has made enormous progress in shrinking the gap when it comes to deployment. JRuby, now sponsored by Sun, is an implementation of Ruby under the JVM. A Rails application developed to run in JRuby will use JDBC as the database driver. Using a plug-in called gold_spike, a Rails application can be bundled into a .war file and be deployed onto a standard Tomcat server. Microsoft is beginning to take an interest in this as well and has started the IronRuby project (leveraging much of the work from the IronPython project) to develop a version of the Ruby interpreter that runs on the .NET common language runtime (CLR).

JRuby also facilitates Java-Ruby integration. Importing a library written in Java into Ruby and using it there is trivial with this new interpreter. This has dropped many of the pre-existing barriers to Ruby and Rails adoption in the enterprise. When you have all of the code that has already been written in Java available to your Ruby code, you gain much of the programmer-friendly features of Ruby with little downside.

Where Is Rails Going?
The core Rails team is pushing the framework towards a "resource-driven" design philosophy where a Web site is made up of many resources for which there are a few basic actions. This is illustrated by the focus on CRUD from ActiveRecord to view helpers. What Rails then adds to this structure is ultra-simple Representational Safe Transfer (REST) services. The end result of all of this is an implicit API for your application that's exported almost as a side effect of this development approach. So far this has proven a powerful abstraction in building very complex Web applications that will be integrated with larger systems.

Outside of the Rails core team there's a lot of work to drive Rails into very scalable deployments and even into the enterprise. JRuby and IronRuby are a few examples of this. Some of this development has come out of the necessity of a few successful applications that have had no choice but to blaze trails in this realm.

The Rails community is continuously working to find inefficiencies in the common tasks that we do as developers. Rails will continue to sand down the rough patches that appear in the development process.

•  David Heinemeier Hansson. "Rails 0.5.0: The End of Vaporware!".
•  TPCI - TIOBE Programming Community Index.
•  http://community.nascar.com
•  www.twitter.com
•  www.funnyordie.com

More Stories By Ryan Garver

Ryan Garver is CTO of ELC Technologies, a software-consulting firm based in Santa Barbara, California, that has the biggest team of Ruby on Rails developers bringing new applications to global 2000 companies and startups. He holds an MS in computer cience from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Comments (10)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

IoT & Smart Cities Stories
New competitors, disruptive technologies, and growing expectations are pushing every business to both adopt and deliver new digital services. This ‘Digital Transformation’ demands rapid delivery and continuous iteration of new competitive services via multiple channels, which in turn demands new service delivery techniques – including DevOps. In this power panel at @DevOpsSummit 20th Cloud Expo, moderated by DevOps Conference Co-Chair Andi Mann, panelists examined how DevOps helps to meet the de...
According to Forrester Research, every business will become either a digital predator or digital prey by 2020. To avoid demise, organizations must rapidly create new sources of value in their end-to-end customer experiences. True digital predators also must break down information and process silos and extend digital transformation initiatives to empower employees with the digital resources needed to win, serve, and retain customers.
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, will provide an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life ...
Smart Cities are here to stay, but for their promise to be delivered, the data they produce must not be put in new siloes. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mathias Herberts, Co-founder and CTO of Cityzen Data, discussed the best practices that will ensure a successful smart city journey.
"Space Monkey by Vivent Smart Home is a product that is a distributed cloud-based edge storage network. Vivent Smart Home, our parent company, is a smart home provider that places a lot of hard drives across homes in North America," explained JT Olds, Director of Engineering, and Brandon Crowfeather, Product Manager, at Vivint Smart Home, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
LogRocket helps product teams develop better experiences for users by recording videos of user sessions with logs and network data. It identifies UX problems and reveals the root cause of every bug. LogRocket presents impactful errors on a website, and how to reproduce it. With LogRocket, users can replay problems.
@CloudEXPO and @ExpoDX, two of the most influential technology events in the world, have hosted hundreds of sponsors and exhibitors since our launch 10 years ago. @CloudEXPO and @ExpoDX New York and Silicon Valley provide a full year of face-to-face marketing opportunities for your company. Each sponsorship and exhibit package comes with pre and post-show marketing programs. By sponsoring and exhibiting in New York and Silicon Valley, you reach a full complement of decision makers and buyers in ...
There are many examples of disruption in consumer space – Uber disrupting the cab industry, Airbnb disrupting the hospitality industry and so on; but have you wondered who is disrupting support and operations? AISERA helps make businesses and customers successful by offering consumer-like user experience for support and operations. We have built the world’s first AI-driven IT / HR / Cloud / Customer Support and Operations solution.
Data Theorem is a leading provider of modern application security. Its core mission is to analyze and secure any modern application anytime, anywhere. The Data Theorem Analyzer Engine continuously scans APIs and mobile applications in search of security flaws and data privacy gaps. Data Theorem products help organizations build safer applications that maximize data security and brand protection. The company has detected more than 300 million application eavesdropping incidents and currently secu...
Rafay enables developers to automate the distribution, operations, cross-region scaling and lifecycle management of containerized microservices across public and private clouds, and service provider networks. Rafay's platform is built around foundational elements that together deliver an optimal abstraction layer across disparate infrastructure, making it easy for developers to scale and operate applications across any number of locations or regions. Consumed as a service, Rafay's platform elimi...