“If you can master C++, you can master anything. Except parenting, perhaps.”
Steve Vinoski from Basho, setting the tone for the Erlang shindig in Berlin last week.
Around 130 programming and systems freaks, among them our very own CTO Marc Canaleta and his team, flocked to the Erlang Factory to hear about everything Erlang. From Big Data Real-Time Analytics to Taking the Printf out of Printf Debugging, via a Hitchhikers Guide to the BEAM, attendees got to hear from the likes of Robert Virding from Erlang Solutions and rub shoulders with one of the Erlang inventors, Joe Armstrong – pictured with Marc and Ronny below.
We caught up with our Social Point Tech Team hot off the tarmac at El Prat airport and asked them a few questions about the conference.
What’s the big deal with Erlang?
Because it was designed for high concurrency and high scalability, Erlang is a programming language that has the potential to sit well with the needs of social gaming. Erlang is a functional programming language designed by Ericsson in 1986. It is much older than Java or PHP, so it’s a very robust and stable language; and it’s enjoying a major resurgence in popularity. The sheer number of attendees in Berlin was much higher than the organizers expected for instance. And we saw quite a lot of animated conversation on Twitter during and after the event.
We’re really interested in Erlang because of its potential for creating game servers. But it’s a field that we don’t know well so we went to the conference in order to learn as much as possible about it and to meet the people working in the World of Erlang.
What is the potential for Erlang in gaming?
Gaming has interesting and specific needs. We tend to use PHP which has certain limitations based on concurrence and real-time. Erlang was designed especially to support distributed, fault-tolerated, soft real-time, non-stop applications. This is interesting in gaming, because when a user connects he or she will be assigned a process that is specifically dedicated to them. That means that all the actions they perform in the game can be controlled by a unique process. In other words it’s easier to control an individual user’s state.
So could we see Erlang being used in the gaming sector?
Definitely the potential is there. The difficulty is in making a systemic switch from one language to another one which is completely different. So before making any kind of transition, you would have to go through a process of evaluating the advantages and disadvantages and how applicable Erlang really is to gaming. A good starting point is to migrate small sections of your games systems to Erlang and test them rigorously – just because something looks good on paper, doesn’t mean it will swim if you push it in the water. And then you have the issue of Erlang being a really small language. At the conference we heard on good authority that there are only 1,000 Erlang programers in the world. So we would have to learn the language and teach our team if we wanted to test it. Lots to think about!
So what were the highlights of the conference?
Well, meeting one of the inventors was awesome. Kudos should go to all the speakers because this really was an excellent and interesting event – well organized and really informative. But in particular we enjoyed the sessions led by Steve Vinoski from Basho, Mats Cronqvist from Klama, and of course, Joe Armstrong from Ericcson.
Thanks to our tech team! Take a look at the Erlang Factory Lite line up.