Ruby on Rails: Overview & Comparison with Other Backend Technologies


This article delves into the different backend technologies that are currently running the development landscape. We will focus on doing a detailed comparison between Ruby on Rails and other backend programming languages.

Discussions about backend technologies often revolve around Ruby and Rails. These have become two of the most popular technologies as a lot of companies build their projects with these solutions. The tandem is inseparable and often creates confusion due to very alike names.

Understanding whether Ruby and Rails are suitable for your project is impossible without knowing all the pros and cons involved. In this article, we provide a full overview of these backend technologies and dive into an in-depth comparison with other solutions.

Difference between Ruby and Ruby on Rails


The names of the technologies often cause confusion, so let's clear it up first. For that, we need to define each technology and its purpose.

Ruby is a programming language that was created in the 1990s by Yukihiro Matsumoto with the idea of building high-performance projects. As Ruby is a general-purpose programming language, the sphere of its use is immense.

While it was designed to be a high performing programming language, its general complexity resulted in the slow development process. That is why a dedicated framework was developed, aimed to assist developers and simplify the process of building software.

Ruby on Rails (or Ruby) is the said framework developed by David Heinemeier Hansson in Ruby language and introduced to the public in 2003. The main task pursued was to streamline software development by enabling developers to reuse components and spend less time dealing with repetitive tasks and elements, which helped to significantly reduce app development cost.

Secrets Behind Ruby on Rails Popularity


According to Slant, Ruby on Rails is listed among the top backend framework. This one is popular across different areas and spheres, including science, education, business, entertainment, etc. Up until now, over 496,000 websites are built using the technology.
The reasons behind its popularity are numerous and are due to the following aspects:
  • Open-source status – anyone can contribute to its prosperity
  • Huge community – availability of a huge number of free add-ons and ready-to-use components
  • Fast development – almost any problem has a solution or functionality that can be used in the development of your own solution
The above factors only cover a small portion of reasons why companies often choose Ruby on Rails for their projects.

Let's dive into more techy, juicy details, and compare Ruby and Ruby on Rails framework with some other common backend technologies.

Ruby on Rails Pros and Cons

As this has been already mentioned, a lot of advantages make Ruby on Rails a top choice for software development among companies. Even though the pros are numerous, we can name the main points that turn Ruby on Rails into a powerful backend technology.

In general, developers love Ruby on Rails for the following factors:
  • Ruby gems
  • MVC
  • DRY
  • Scalability and security
  • RAD (cost efficiency)
  • Self-documenting
  • Convention over configuration

Let's review each benefit in more detail.

Ruby Gems


The extensive ecosystem plays a huge role in the popularity of Ruby on Rails. The whole community works on providing solutions for various problems and allowing others to use them. Such components are called RubyGems and are designed in the form of add, libraries, and so on aimed to speed up the development of software.

MVC


MVP stands for Model-View-Controller, which divides the architecture of the app into three systems. Each subsystem plays its role in the work of an app. For instance, there is a model that is responsible for data handling and business logic, other for controllers work UI, and other views handle graphic UI elements.

By dividing each solution into separate subsystems, developers can work on different parts of the app structure simultaneously.

DRY


DRY (Don't Repeat Yourself) principle underlies Ruby on Rails and allows back-end developers to reuse already written blocks, streamlining the development process.

Scalability and security


These are two main cornerstones of RoR, making it a great framework for applications that process a lot of data. High performance allows solutions to process thousands of requests per second without a huge server load and quick scalability based on business needs. Shopify, which is built with Ruby, serves as a very vibrant example as it processes 80k requests every second.

Built-in functionality makes Ruby on Rails very secure and immune to different types of hacking attacks and techniques, like SQL-injections and XSS attacks. Even more, a wide range of RubyGems address security issues that can strengthen projects even more.

RAD


The capabilities of RoR allows using it in rapid development, which is especially suitable for startups and small companies that don't possess huge budgets. The technology allows сhanging application functionality according to business needs quickly.

Self-documenting


This feature is very important if a team works on a solution. The syntax of Ruby language is very easy to understand, which allows newcomers to quickly grasp the concept of projects and join the forces with fellow developers.

Convention over configuration


This development paradigm reduced the time developers need to spend making various decisions regarding file configuration. This way, even beginner developers can jump into the development process right away.

The above-listed benefits clearly showcase why developers share the love with Ruby and the Ruby on Rails framework. This back-end technology is suitable for projects of any sizes and complexity, leaves a lot of space for scaling and provides many off-the-shelf components.

Being a powerful back-end solution, it is impossible to say that does not have its cons.
  • Lack of documentation, which is especially persistent in the Gems community, can cause some problems with the use of framework and gems.
  • Runtime speed is often listed among disadvantages, which is longer compared with some other frameworks. Still, in most cases, it won't cause any bottlenecks.
  • Boot speed is another disadvantage of RoR. It may take quite a long time for the framework to start, depending on the number of files and gems. However, the Spring application preloader partially tackles the problem.
  • Hosting is another factor that should be considered. Not all hosting providers support the framework, especially if we talk about hosting providers that cannot provide extensive processing powers.

Ruby on Rails vs. Other Backend Technologies


Will Ruby on Rails become a sufficient choice for your next software? It is impossible to answer the question with a single "Yes" or "No" as a lot of aspects are involved. Further, Ruby and Rails are compared to other possible backend solutions.

Ruby and Rails vs. Python and Django


Ruby and RoR and Python and its framework Django are used for building the backend of applications. Even though they don't differ much in terms of a purpose, they are different in nature and the way they solve different problems.

Languages


Ruby and Python both belong to object-oriented and dynamically-types languages. They became popular thanks to being open-source and having huge communities that are ready to offer a lot of valuable solutions.

The differences are more prominent if you look at their syntaxes. Ruby is designed for the code to have a good style. Python, on the other hand, is written in such a way that developers can read the language with no difficulty.

Performance


Both programming languages are designed to provide high performance and in this term the differences are non-existent.

Architectures


Ruby on Rails follows the Model-View-Controller paradigm. This means that developers can use the best architecture from the offered ones and don't spend much time on building their own structures.

Python and Django have a different approach. They don't put pressure on developers by using ready-made architectures as they allow strong teams to come up with their own solutions designed for specific business needs.

Magical vs configurational


Ruby on Rails is often called a magical framework because this framework allows developers to code less while achieving great results. This way developers can quickly launch the first version of the software and work on further iterations.

When we compare the two solutions, Django requires a lot more coding to do, relying on configuration and personal approach to coding.

Summing up everything said above, it is possible to say that Python and Django are a good choice for complex projects, especially if machine learning or artificial intelligence is involved. Ruby and Rails become a powerful solution in the hands of knowing developers, and their solutions allowing for quick development of projects.

Ruby on Rails vs. PHP and Laravel


Let's continue the analysis of backend technologies with PHP and Laravel, which are also two popular solutions.

Languages


There is not much difference in terms of languages. Both Ruby and PHP are open-source and dynamically-typed languages with huge support from the community and thousands of companies from around the world.

Performance


The main difference in performance lies in runtime speed, where Ruby on Rails lags behind its opponent. Aside from it, the overall performance of Ruby and Rails and PHP Laravel is the same.

Architectures


Relying heavily on the configurational approach, Laravel offers a more complex way of building software. The differences become even more prominent in the syntaxes of two solutions. PHP is often called a language that is easy to write and difficult to read and maintain. Ruby is very opposite to this approach, allowing for simpler software maintenance.

Development speed


RoR is ideal for startups as it is possible to quickly create the first version of a product. Even though Laravel also aims to simplify the development process, its functionality is far from the benefits that Ruby on Rails can offer with thousands of gems.

RESTful APIs


In regards to building RESTful APIs (application program interface), PHP and Laravel are unquestioned winners. The provided routing system allows developing RESTful APIs quickly and creating applications that share data with other solutions.

All in all, Ruby and Rails offer unprecedented speed of development while PHP and Laravel allow creating solutions that rely on REST APIs.

Ruby and Rails vs. Java and Spring


Very often the choice of backend developers falls on Java and Spring, two solutions that are widely used together in backend development. Let's get to their analysis.

Languages


Ruby and Java belong to dynamically and statically typed languages accordingly. It is impossible to say which of the types is better since it depends on the personal preferences of developers. However, there is a fact that Java has a better runtime performance thanks to prechecking types before running. Still, Ruby offers an easier way to implement software changes.

Performance


These solutions also differ in performance. Ruby and Rails provide high performance while Java and Spring cannon always ensure it because of some features that heavily rely on CPU powers, as a garbage collector.

Development cost


When compared, Ruby on Rails provides developers with an easier way to develop web applications thus, reducing the time and money needed. With Java and Spring, the development process becomes more complicated, thus more time and money consuming.

When it comes to the sphere of use, there is no doubt that Java and Spring are great for big companies with extensive budgets and those that have enough time for development. Before specialists start developing software, they should know what will be the final result, as any changes to the code are expensive and take quite a long time to accomplish.

Ruby and Rails vs. Elixir and Phoenix


Elixir and Phoenix are the youngest among the backend solutions. Over the years the popularity of this technology stack saw rapid growth among different companies. Still, its popularity cannot be compared with others.

Languages


Being a functional language, Elixir sits apart from the vast majority of modern backend programming languages. Elixir code is shorter and easy to read, test, and debug. At the same time, some say it is not adapted to the requirements of the modern world.

Performance


Elixir is a compiled programming language, which means that together with Phoenix it provides higher performance as compared to the one of RoR.

Concurrency


Concurrency is not the strong point of Ruby and Rails, as it is more suitable for solutions that can work only with one busy core at a time. Elixir is an entirely different story as it is created on top of the Erlang Virtual Machine, one of the oldest VMs.

Thus, Elixir is a suitable solution for software that needs to have multiple simultaneous connections. That's why it is often used to created OTP (Open Telecom Platform) solutions.

Ecosystem


Elixir and Phoenix still have small communities that contribute to their development. The number of libraries that you can access with Elixir and Phoenix is very limited. When compared with Ruby and RoR with thousands of gems available, it becomes clear that their opposing tandem still lags behind.

Unlike RoR, Elixir and Phoenix are used for applications with concurrent connections that have high user load, as well as for distributed systems and IoT projects.

Overview of Backend Technologies


Every day backend developers face the need to choose the best solutions for their projects. A lot of advantages make Ruby and Rails the number one choice for a variety of purposes. Its benefits as compared to others are described above and here you can see a hand-by-hand overview of all technologies and their advantages.

Criteria

Ruby

Ruby on Rails

Python Django

PHP

strong>Laravel


Java

Spring

strong>Elixir Phoenix

Programming paradigm

Object-oriented programming

Object-oriented programming

Object-oriented programming (since PHP 5)

Object-oriented programming

Functional programming

Architecture

MVC

MVC

MVC

MVC

MVC

Performance

Fast

Fast

Fast

Slower

Very fast

Spheres of application

Web applications

Web applications, science, machine learning, artificial intelligence

Web applications, e-commerce

Complex and data-heavy applications

Web applications, OTP

Talent pool

Medium

Big

Big

Big

Small

Companies using

Airbnb, CrunchBase, Bloomberg, GitHub, Zendesk, Dribble

Disqus, Instagram, Spotify, YouTube, The Washington Post, Dropbox, Eventbrite

9GaG, UNION, Geocodio, Webedia, Needful Co.

MIT, FitBit, Edify, Zillow, BillGuard

BBC, Adobe, Canvas, Discord, Envato


Author's Bio


Ana Lastovetska is a technology writer @MLSDev, a web and mobile app development company in Ukraine. She has been researching the field of technologies to create educative content of distinct topics including app development, UX/UI design, tech & business consulting, etc. The opportunity to deliver information for people who want to understand more about IT and app development processes is something that inspires Ana. You can get in touch with her on LinkedIn or reach her at ana.lastovetska@mlsdev.com.


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