Scala to close Java gap? You bet

$14m capital funding, Scala is ready to take on Java

Chris Mayer
Typesafe-Scala

Today’s latest news is the surest indication so far that JVM language Scala has positioned itself to challenge Java and can only mean good things for Scala devs.

Typesafe,
the company behind multi-paradigm language Scala

touted as a Java killer, have no doubt been
heading the right direction in recent years. Since Scala’s
creati
on by Martin Odersky
in 2001, the highly scalable language has
progressed from an elitist language to a viable commercial
option.

This enterprise assault was arguably fueled by

the creation of Typesafe last year
, a
commercial arm that would be central to the language’s development,
but also a software stack comprising of Scala, concurrency
framework Akka and Play, the open source web application framework.
Scala had already garnered attention from websites with huge
scalability needs, such as The Guardian, Twitter, LinkedIn, Amazon,
and Foursquare – all of which command huge traffic levels.
Another
high-profile switch to Scala
was
Twitter’s(from
Ruby
)
- which has
influenced a number of open source projects in
due course.

But with the arrival of a company
housing the entire Scala development, only then could more and more
enterprises switch on to the benefits of using the language in this
multicore age. Today’s news that Typesafe has closed a $14m Series
B round of funding led by Shasta Ventures should give further
indication that Scala is a language on the rise.

In this latest round of funding,
Juniper Networks pledged money through its Junos Innovation Fund,
whilst existing investors including Greylock Partners (who have
already pumped in $3m) and former Oracle executive Francois
Stieger
, backed the expansion. Along with
the funding, there is the news that Typesafe has appointed Shasta
Ventures Managing Director Jason Pressman to its board, alongside
the likes of Java godfather James Gosling.

Pressman spoke of what this would allow Typesafe to achieve,
saying:

Typesafe allows developers to effectively develop robust
applications that address the dual challenges of large-scale
distributed “cloud computing” applications and massively multicore
hardware platforms while still integrating seamlessly with the Java
infrastructure.

Whilst news of further funding is undoubtedly good news
for the Scala community at large, what precisely does that mean for
the collection of products themselves?


Writing in a blog
, the team say that their
mission – to build the most scalable software platform for
multicore, parallel and cloud applications
- hasn’t
changed
. The capital will aid that by allowing further
investment in the Typesafe Stack – the aforementioned Scala, Akka,
Play and the newly released database connector Slick. By bolstering
the projects surrounding the core language, we should see things
progress nicely. As well as the TypeSafe Stack receiving loving
attention, supporting crucial infrastructure like the

Scala IDE
for Eclipse
, sbt,
and
zinc
will also see enhancements, as will the commercial side of
the operation that provides services and
training
.

However, the most important area that Scala must address (and
no doubt are already looking at) is reaching out to a broader
audience. The key to this is to continue what they’re doing: build
upon existing Java projects and prove once again that they can
offer more. One of the biggest stumbling blocks for some developers
is its complexity. It’s definitely a hard language to grasp at
first, bearing resemblance to Java (being statically typed and
object-oriented) but bringing in functional programming concepts
from the likes of Haskell.

Overcoming this hurdle for some developers is too much, but
that shouldn’t necessarily be a turnoff for others – there’s a
reason why Scala was touted by Groovy creator James Strachan as a
potential successor to Java. It takes what Java does well and mixes
in other ideas for something new. There’s not necessarily a need to
dumb down Scala – in fact that’s why we love it.

However, it is clear to us that further education of what
Scala can do for developer could be the catalyst it needs to bring
the gap down between itself and Java, and this investment should
see that happen.

Typesafe say they are hiring developers too, and with more
onboard, we could well see Scala reach the top tier of popular
languages.

Stephen O’Grady of RedMonk
made the point back in
February that Scala was beginning to separate itself from the Tier
2 language – we believe today’s news means it definitely will do in
the coming months. Now the big challenge is to sustain that
grassroots interest from the developer community into something
much more tangible. They’ve already got the big guns on side, now
it’s down to the community itself to promote Scala’s
worth.

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