Why should I switch to Scala ?

Mon 17 August 2009

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This post is a role-play and does not reflect my individual opinion about scala accurately. I am convinced about the capabilities and features of Scala along with the fact that it deserves the mantle of a long term replacement for Java. However language adoption goes beyond technical capabilities, and this post is a speculation on what a typical manager might be dealing with when attempting to decide whether to switch to Scala.

So I have been reading a lot about Scala lately and even opinions about how it will be a long term replacement for Java. I've also read some interesting writeups about Scala adoption such as On Scala's Future and A Tipping Point for Scala. While I used to code a lot, my responsibilities today require me to interact with and address a lot of issues including those faced by our customers, our development teams and also engage with my peers and superiors on many other difficulties bedeviling our organisation. This gives me little time to try out Scala. I know I should be doing that, but sincerely I do not have the time. So I rely on the feedback of my team, the trade journals and other influential architects within and outside my organisation.

I have heard about many developers switching from Java to Python / Ruby. However I have heard of relatively only a smaller number of large Java shops which have done the shift - most of the switch stories I've heard reflect a smaller sized teams. I can feel the excitement Scala has generated amongst the development teams - the brevity, the functional programming model introduction, the exciting stuff being done concurrently et al. I have no doubt that, given so much excitement it must really be a good language.

To introduce my organisation - it is one of those shops which service many projects concurrently. Given the tremendous business and growth, I must confess we do not always have the luxury of being able to hire the most top notch talent. We do have a lot of projects we use Java for, and thats a language our customers are comfortable with. I've had some of the senior people check out Scala to gain some feedback into the language. But at this stage I must say I am inclined to evaluate the shift but not convinced enough to do so. I am sure that I could if convinced drive the change to Scala incrementally. However my fear stems from the fact that if things don't turn out well, despite all the great advice I've received - its going to be my rear end on the line. So here's some of my concerns regarding evaluating the shift to Scala and there are many of them, so some of you might be able to help me through this thought process.

So folks, I am asking for your help. And while a lot of you may think that people like us who balk at the thought of limited IDE support are wimps, please remember that 80% of us don't fit into the top 20%. And if you would like Scala to be popular, you need us as much as we need you. And if you are not too sure, please remember Lisp and Smalltalk are great languages as well.

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