Is Microsoft Relevant in a Post-Rails World?

by chromatic

I've used a free software desktop since 1998 (except for a six-month flirtation with Mac OS X). It's much easier to avoid proprietary software in 2007 than it was in 1998, and it gets easier every year.

If that's true on the desktop, it's more so on the server. My employer in 1998 (one of the top five computer vendors) had a Linux strategy best described by a division manager with unwitting irony as "Of course we were proactive about Linux! We were the first company to decide to wait and see what everyone else was doing!" Now that company not only has a Linux strategy, but it will happily sell and support you Linux servers.

If Microsoft's stranglehold has loosened, is supporting Windows as important as it once was? Is it important at all? A recent discussion on the O'Reilly editors list may provoke some arguments.


2007-07-03 17:09:33
If they aren't seriously targeting Windows, I don't see a big future for Ruby or Rails.
Perrin Harkins
2007-07-03 19:54:29
It's true that good Windows support seemed to help PHP. But I suspect it's mostly people who develop on PHP and then move their stuff to a Linux-based ISP or in-house server. Same with Java -- lots of people using Windows to develop and then deploying to a unix box.
Simon Hibbs
2007-07-04 00:55:06
I'll paraphrase Robert - If they aren't seriously targeting Windows, I don't see a big future for Ruby or Rails - on windows. I can't see any reason why it's future on Linux/Unix should suffer for that one whit.
M. David Peterson
2007-07-04 07:46:26

>> I can't see any reason why it's future on Linux/Unix should suffer for that one whit. <<

It won't -- on Linux/Unix. The question, however, is whether or not RoR will be made irrelevant by something that comes along that is *REALLY* good on Windows, and in particular fully integrated with the .NET platform.

If/When that happens the .NETwork effect suddenly kicks into to high gear, and with all of the clamoring taking place in regards to just how wonderful Ruby and RoR truly are, if a more flexible platform were to stroll onto the scene and that same mentioned platform had -- for example -- direct bindings to Silverlight (which, of course, IronRuby will have), and that same mentioned platform had -- for another example -- an OSS implementation with an active and vibrant community, then at what point do those same managers who *WOULD NOT* allow an OSS or RoR (or both) based solution suddenly state "Oh, we can do that?! Okay, let's do..." and then do just that?

Simon Hibbs
2007-07-05 10:32:50
@MDP - I really should have expanded that last post a bit. I do think a first class Ruby/Rails implementation on windows would be a good thing. I learned Perl on Unix, but almost all my Python programming has been on Windows and when I learn Ruby I would like to be able to run it on Windows, but the Ruby community doesn't owe me anything.

If RealyNeatFramework.NET turns out to be a better solution then it'll be better whether there is a Ruby/Rails implementation on Windows or whether there isn't. Likewise RNF.NET wouldn't make Ruby/Rails on Linux any intrinsically worse.

Basically if not having a Windows version isn't killing Ruby/Rails now I don't see why it should later.

2007-07-06 05:49:32
Microsoft adapts and assimilates. It has also historically placed a high value on its (paying) developers. My thinking is that it will keep itself relevant. (Innovative, maybe not.)

Remember it's also true that Microsoft/.Net-based open source projects exist (and some of Microsoft's own tech, like the DLR, is open). Of course, given that the cardinal sin to FLOSS is vendor lock-in, depending on closed-source components at any level in the stack requires some projects that run on Flash or AIR would seem to be in a similar bind.

2007-07-06 12:45:28
@Simon: The point is that someone will come up with Wuby on Wales, which walks like Rails, but works on Windows. A lot of small places run their apps off the local Windows box, so they'll hire Wales developers instead of Rails ones. Given that both have the same features, more developers will choose the one more likely to help them make a living.

This is just a business argument. From my experience, porting a Unix program to Windows is a soul-sucking nightmare that permanently damages the code, so the technical argument goes the other way. But what can you do?

M. David Peterson
2007-07-07 09:48:21

>> Basically if not having a Windows version isn't killing Ruby/Rails now I don't see why it should later. <<

Fair enough.

One thing I should point out: Take a look at where you will find a link to the following,

10 steps to get Ruby on Rails running on Windows with IIS FastCGI

Since the original tech preview release of FastCGI last year, we've been seeing a lot of requests for getting Ruby on Rails running with our FastCGI. Theoretically, since the FastCGI component uses a standard protocol to support FastCGI-enabled applications, this shouldnt be an issue - but, in practice, this is very far from reality. After factoring in setup problems, configuration, and variations in runtime behavior / protocol deviations, every single FastCGI application we've looked at has required quite some effort to support properly.

So, for FastCGI Tech Preview 2, I spent some time researching what it would take to enable Ruby on Rails, resulting in "experimental" RoR support in the TP2 release. It is "experimental" because we did only limited testing, and given our lack of experience with Ruby its very hard to tell whether a real Ruby application will work as expected at this point.

I am confident that the experience can be improved significantly with community testing, and any necessary fixes to both the FastCGI component and Ruby. I am looking forward to any feedback/bug reports that can help us get there - please feel free to leave comments on the blog, or post to IIS FastCGI forums.

Without further ado, these are the 10 steps get RoR working with FastCGI TP2:

You many not have been hearing about it in the the more .NET-centric blogs, but that should be for obvious reasons as this isn't a .NET-centric effort. None-the-less, there is most definitely a concerted effort to get RoR running and running well via IIS.

Tom von Schwerdtner
2007-07-10 21:54:05
I think there is a chance that if the Rails community does not take Windows seriously then someone in the Java or .Net world will create a "close enough" approximation. It probably won't be quite as nice as RoR, but if it's a little more legacy friendly and can draw on the power of the JVM/CLR then it will be something to contend with. Otherwise RoR might become the Apple of the webapp world (you know, the tool everyone wishes they could use but can't because it won't work with the sucky system they use at work... even though it as an insanely effective/annoying marketing machine behind it).