After three years effort, Microsoft's open source IronRuby stable and available

IronRuby v 1.0 integrates open-source Ruby with .Net but will IT professionals cheer or yawn?

Microsoft developers today released v 1.0 of IronRuby, an open-source project that integrates .Net code and the .Net framework with the popular open source programming language Ruby. IronRuby is released under the Microsoft Public License, which is OSI-certified and similar to a BSD-style license, but is not compatible with the GPL (more on that in a minute).

To be more specific, IronRuby let's Ruby run natively on the DLR that runs on top of .NET (and Mono). And now a disclaimer, I am not a developer, so I don't have first-hand knowledge of working with Ruby and can't offer a personal thumbs-up or down of it.

I can tell you these facts:

IronRuby is available in two forms, according to the RubyInside blog, "a .NET 4.0 Windows installer, and a .NET 2.0 SP1 Windows installer.

The .NET 4.0 version integrates better with .NET but the .NET 2.0 SP1 version will run on Mono.  Mono is the tool, built by Novell, required to run .Net on Linux.

The RubyInside blog also points out that IronRuby performs far better than the previous releases, though is far from perfect.

"As of today, IronRuby passes 85.95% of RubySpec (as opposed to MRI Windows Ruby's ruby.exe score of 97.84%) with most of the gap in the library tests. IronRuby does particularly well with the language tests (98.31% pass vs 99.89% forruby.exe). IronRuby promises Ruby 1.8.6 compatibility (mostly) and supports Rails 2.3.5."

According to a published interview with Shay Friedman, author of IronRuby Unleashed, the above performance metrics are excellent and are "more than two times faster (some say even four times faster) than the popular Ruby implementation, MRI. These statistics put IronRuby in a great position to become the primary Ruby implementation for Windows (even though it is also supported by the Mono project -- not officially though)." (Note, Friedman works for ActionBase and not Microsoft, which gives his viewpoint a bit more weight, IMO.)

IronRuby is important because it represented, back in 2007 when it was announced, Microsoft's bent knee towards the open source community. Microsoft had to make up its own open-source license in order to call IronRuby "open source," (and other, similar projects like IronPython). Even so a bridge between .Net and open source development tools was applauded at the time. Since 2007, Microsoft has done a stream of things that angered the open source community. We don't need to list them all here, we'll mention TomTom, and Amazon and leave it at that.

I still believe that the entire ecosystem of IT users (which includes everyone who can walk and talk these days) is best served by Microsoft figuring out cooperative ways to merge its aging proprietary code into the new, open world order. Microsoft is trying to walk the line of crushing competitive OS Linux, while embracing various shared code practices. And Visual Studio 2010 is a step in the right direction, featuring support for IronRuby, IronPython and jQuery.

The things is, can IronRuby still fire up developer interest? Many custom corporate applications are invested heavily in .Net. It can can only be a good thing for those companies that Microsoft marries trendy tools like Ruby and Python (favorites of young, hip coders), and stodgy old mission-critical .Net.

But when looking at the numbers of people following the IronRuby project on Github, the site that hosts all the other Ruby tools, I have to wonder how hot it will become. The IronRuby project has a mere 75 "watchers" on Github, meaning people who are following the project closely. Compare that to the over 5,000 watching Rails. Admittedly, that's not the end-all statistic -- and there have been 1600 downloads of it as of today on CodePlex. But it's hardly encouraging either.

More IronRuby resources:

IronRuby on Github

IronRuby website

The IronRuby roadmap of features planned and implemented

IronRuby Unleashed and Getting Started with IronRuby

What's down with IronRuby

Download IronRuby on CodePlex

Posted by Julie Bort

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