By Steve Mezak
Ruby on Rails, an open source Web application framework for the Ruby programming language, is coming down the track and picking up steam in Latin America. Not only are many North American companies interested in using this framework to speed development of their Web applications, but many Latin American software development firms are building practices around it.
The cost of outsourcing Ruby on Rails development to Latin America is from half to two-thirds that of hiring developers in the U.S. That’s a little more than other global software development locations such as Eastern Europe or India. But it’s often justified because of the ease of working with a Latin American based software development team, such as the time-zone affinity that makes real-time communications easier.
Yet another advantage of Ruby on Rails is that its origin and history is intertwined with the growth and popularity of Agile software development. Since many Latin American companies already have a lot of experience with Agile software development, they fit into the technology culture already surrounding Ruby on Rails, making it a pretty easy addition to their offerings.
Open Source Shift
To date, Latin American companies development firms have specialized in using commercial development tools, such as Microsoft .NET, and Java (now owned and maintained by Oracle). While the popularity of open source has lagged, the use of the PHP scripting language is common, and now programmers are becoming familiar with the benefits of Ruby on Rails as well.
The big benefit of Ruby on Rails as a framework is that it improves productivity for programmers. Many of the tasks that a programmer must do to add a feature to a Web application are automated or at least semi-automated. For example, adding a text field where a user will specify a country name in a Web form typically requires creating a place in the database where that field is stored in a table. Rather than writing the Structured Query Language (SQL) to define and update that field, using Ruby on Rails the developer only has to indicate the new country field that is being added to the form, what the field is going to be named, and how many characters it can contain. Ruby on Rails takes care of the rest of the work required to maintain that field within the database.
Boost to the UI
A growing number of companies are interested in Ruby on Rails, and they often have a strong technology background. Our client is often the VP of engineering at a software company, and he or she recognizes the value of Ruby on Rails from a program or productivity perspective. Ruby on Rails also contains libraries, APIs and other tools that allow developers to create a very dynamic user interface. Even non-technical people appreciate the look and feel of the Web applications created with Ruby on Rails, which is another plus for Latin American firms that specialize in attractive UIs as well as the technical underpinning of Web sites.
Can you say that in two years every Web application is going to be written using Ruby on Rails? Perhaps not, but it will continue to grow in popularity, and should be on your shopping list as you look for Latin American development shops.
Steve Mezak is founder and CEO of Accelerance Inc., which helps customers engage the right nearshore/offshore software development team to create high-quality software. He can be reached at Steve@Accelerance.com.