Regular readers will know that I have been learning Ruby as my ‘new language every year’ so I am keen to take IronRuby out for a drive, so its obvious why I am interested, but the question is ‘why should you be’.
Let’s step to one side of Ruby for the moment and just note a couple of important policy issues that emerge with IronRuby. First IronRuby is going to be hosted on RubyForge, and will use the Microsoft Permissive License (which is IMO an ‘open source’ license). Microsoft will be accepting contributions to the libraries from the go, and to the language once the Dynamic Language Runtime (DLR) has stabilized. Actions speak loudly and this is a great response to the challenge that Martin Fowler laid down to Microsoft in his RubyMicrosoft post. In fact they seem to have pretty much gone the route that MF challenged them too, by opening it up to the community. Congratulations to Chad Fowler and others for stepping up to the plate and letting the MS boys play too. This looks like a fairly big win for the pro-open source camp in MS. This may resolve some of the issues around Ruby lacking a specification if Microsoft can engage the Ruby community.
The second point is that both the CLR and JVM are moving full steam ahead with ports of the Ruby language (the JVM version is JRuby). Moving Ruby to both of these platforms gives it the ability to run in the two sandboxes which dominate in corporate application development and interoperability with libraries on those platforms. That is a big boost in terms of reach, both in the number of shops that may now be willing to deploy Ruby and the libraries available for development. It also allows Ruby to work easily with existing software assets on those platforms. The upshot of this is that I suspect that more corporates are likely to begin experimenting with adding Ruby to their tool mix over the next couple of years. Of course the availability of Ruby skill sets is still a barrier to wider adoption, and the result of those experiments may not be adoption of Ruby in the tool mix; but it now becomes an easier option.
But whether you intend to play with Ruby or not, this is definitely a good day for MS developers.