Rails + .NET (feasible?)

Hi. I’ve got the task of creating a prototype for a web based project.
We started with PHP using absolutely no framework and it has finally
got to the point where is is insanely messy.

The question was whether we should move to a PHP framework, .NET, java
or Rails.

What we need is something that allows for rapid development but with
the capability of adding reporting, charts and other services at a
later date.

The problem is each technology/language have their strengths and
weakness. Rails is allows for faster development and enforces some
coding conventions but has no good third party support when it comes
to reporting compared to .NET.

The question is, is it feasible to have a primarily Rails front end
and then have separate .NET applications to handle things such as
reporting and web based charts? How do the Rails and .NET applications
communicate with each other? Is it through SOAP and/or ReST.

This has all come about because it was suggested that we just use .NET
but I’m concerned that the dev time is going to be too long, thus I
want to go with Rails. But I can also see some of Rail’s limitation so
was wondering if it can be overcome with using some web protocols.

I’m still getting to grips with all this so please fire away with
comments and suggestions.

Cheers

(NB: If this post looks familiar, it’s because I also posted it to
devshed.com)

The question is, is it feasible to have a primarily Rails front end
and then have separate .NET applications to handle things such as
reporting and web based charts? How do the Rails and .NET applications
communicate with each other? Is it through SOAP and/or ReST.

I don’t see a problem with using both. Find a MySQL ADO.NET adapter
and off you go. If all you want .NET to handle is reporting, there’s
no need for any communication between applications.

Depending on the load and amount of data you are reporting on. If it’s
so big you are worried about performance and bringing in .NET, I
wouldn’t recommend reporting on your model tables any way. You should
denormalize the database and report using that data.

I think GlennNZ is refering more to the graphical part than to the
calculations because here Ruport does a pretty good job once you get
used to it. But getting pretty charts isn’t the strength of rails and
tools such as Crystal Reports and many others are quite important in
the business context.

As we have to deal with exactly the same issues here I am interessted
in the topic as well. Unfortunately we are quite busy and still
couldn’t find the time to look into the topic. But my personal
favorite is a combination of JasperSoft and Rails. As I read somewhere
there seems to be a webservice bundled to Jasper which can deliver
reports based on XML (or other formats) input and returns the graphs
and documents. So this seems to be a really nice combinaton as they
offer a free version of their tools as well. So I would recommend to
have a look at that tool as well.

It would be nice if you could share your experience with us as soon as
you found a solution :wink:

Max

IMO, the best thing that can happen to your graphs is Flash and XML :slight_smile:

Alex G
http://www.noobkit.com - RDoc on steroids.

The main things I’m concerned about (other than dev speed) are the
ability to

  1. allow users to populate the database with their own data (i.e. an
    asset register)
  2. allow the users to generate reports and charts
  3. perhaps have the system integrate with other tools, such as asset
    management software and the like

This is all an issue because we are starting to lean towards .Net.
However, I’ve done little of either of .Net or Rails. This project is
about to take on a learning curve no matter what direction we take,
but I’ concerned that either one might result in me shooting myself in
the foot.

However, I wonder if much of this functionality is done by interacting
directly with the database, or is there some kind of convention
whereby you go indirectly through the application itself i.e. Rails
or .Net.

On 8/16/07, Alex G [email protected] wrote:

IMO, the best thing that can happen to your graphs is Flash and XML :slight_smile:

Alex G
http://www.noobkit.com - RDoc on steroids.

I looked into this, but they don’t print so they wern’t any good to me.

Thanks. This was exactly the type of reply I was after.

I was in discussions today with the people I’m working with. The
arguments for swaying towards .NET are two fold. The first one is
interfacing with existing .NET tools. I think they have a content
management system (or something) that is in .NET. Also, because of a
foreseen pressure to get the product to market, we are looking at
outsourcing and .NET is apparently the thing that many developers
know. That being said, we haven’t actively sought out Rails
developers.

I was trying to get the best of both worlds by doing user interface
elements with Rails and the more specialist tasks with .NET. I’ll look
further into SOAP and REST then.

If anyone else has some insight into a Rails + .NET world, I’d be
interested to know.

Cheers

In my company we’ve migrated away from 100% .NET to using:

  • Rails on front-end administration apps (what the users see)
  • .NET on back-end for reports (crystal) and legacy apps where it
    would take a big investment to convert
  • Rails sends SOAP messages to .NET when it needs .NET apps to do
    something
  • .NET interacts with Rails REST API when it needs to interact with
    Rails app
  • We’ve built a sort of “task queue” in .NET to handle dependent tasks

The goal is to eventually eliminate 100% of reliance on ASP.NET which
I believe to be quite inferior to Ruby on Rails on many levels. And
the long-term goal is to completely eliminate .NET in favor of Ruby
but I’d need a report writer with features > Crystal Reports before I
could do that – and it would take a long time to move that
programming over.

So for now we’re content with the plan to have .NET apps be a “black-
box.” Presently we’re still popping some .aspx pages in our
architecture (for example, pages that generate Crystal reports, save
as PDF, then present link to user in real-time).

So we have a slice from SliceHost running RoR w/ MySQL, and a trio of
Windows machines (web, app, db w/ SQL2000) running the .NET stuff. The
databases don’t communicate to each other, only the apps.

-Ryan


Ryan Walker
VP, Technology
The Devine Group, Inc.
[email protected]

Hi there,

Don’t think that there is anything in the rails space that will give you
printable web reports quickly. As time to market is your priority, then
you should probably leverage what you have.

You can then migrate away from .Net without the pressure.

To my way of thinking, there is not a lot of difference between
communications between 2 Rails apps, a Rails app & a .Net app, or any
other system.

You agree upon an interface, send messages back & forth, & there you go.
It should not matter what lies behind the interfaces.

For example, your rails app could query your .Net app for graphing data,
then render the view, with Google charts providing the graphs. Just two
services at the end of an interface.

Keep in mind that using external services will add additional time to
Rails servicing a request; this will have scaling implications.

It’s been a year now since I used ASP.Net, but here are some Rails &
.Net ramblings…

From a business point of .Net lowers the risk of project because it:

  • has a large pool of developers
  • has been proven to support large commercial applications
  • has the backing of a major corporation whom you can have reasonable
    confidence will still be around in 5 years.

These are all good things & it looks like a rational decision to
recommend .Net. Particularly if your not involved in Rails as closely as
most people on this list would be.

My feelings on .net

  • C# & VB.NET are a right bitch to programme in compared to ruby -
    so.much.code.to.do.simple.things. Yes, there is intellisense in Visual
    Studio… things would be close to impossible without it.
  • .Net is a mammoth framework. There are so many libraries. Even after
    coding for a year, I still spent almost 50% of my time reading
    documentation. Socket programming is a complete nightmare.
  • Visual Studio produces rubbish html view code. If IE is your only
    target browser, then you can get away with it. But your designers will
    probably use mac’s & keep asking you why their lovely design now looks
    pants; oh dear… more css tweaks. Its amazing how much time disappears
    this way.
  • executes quite fast and is really stable, as long you have not done
    something really, really stupid.
  • has well proven upgrade paths.
  • you have to make a concerted effort to do things in an agile way [BDD,
    code testing, etc], its just not as natural as rails & there is no MVC
    [coming in ASP.Net 3.5, but even that looks like hard work]. Although we
    intended to do some automated code testing, due to rapidly approaching
    deadlines we skipped this bit; leading the first few weeks of release
    being plagued by lots of bugs.
  • is easy to recruit for

Having said all this… you won’t go wrong going 100% .Net. Your job is
safe.

My feelings on Rails

  • after the 2-3 month learning curve, I was 3-4 times more productive -
    not just not looking at documentation - ruby is just faster to get
    things done.
  • Ruby is optimised for programming rather than computer performance.
  • is easier to produce well tested code [the MVC nature of rails really
    does make Agile processes easier to implement].
  • is not difficult to host & scale, just different & I think involves
    much less brain power than scaling out .Net. The framework is just one
    small part of the whole. Look at www.joyent.com & www.engineyard.com for
    examples of how to do things.
  • If anyone says to you that they have heard “Rails does not scale” you
    immediately know that they have not done any independent research, put
    very little intellectual effort into this thought, and have probably put
    just as much intellectual effort into everything else that they say.
    Treat their advice with caution.
  • can happily talk to legacy databases - its just a bit more work
  • does not need visual studio [w00t…!!] I use Netbeans on Vista &
    Ubuntu.
  • Major vendors, Sun, Oracle, IBM, & Microsoft all have projects to
    bring ruby & rails into their product suite.
  • resourcing is a problem; there are some really dodgy contractors &
    companies who say they do Rails out there trading on their names [yes…
    I mean you… you know who you are]. Reference check - more than once.
  • I think its fair to say that 2 very good rails guys [they all seem to
    be guys with longish hair, goatees and very pale skin…why is that?]
    will build you a web app at about the same speed as 4-5 average .Net
    guys [I know its a horrible and unfair comparison] - but my point is you
    should think of it as a higher cost per resource, but each resource will
    give you much higher value. Problem will come when you need to resource
    your team permanently & you may have to recruit & train.

A great symbol of the differences between managing .Net & Java, and
Rails developers is the kind of conversations you have. With .Net, &
Java, it tends to be very technical, what’s the best way to structure
this, what is affected with this change, which library should we
use…etc. With Rails developers almost 100% of the time talking about
business logic.

Rails is great for building and maintaining SEO friendly web apps. It
works really well. And if your programmers are good, you will get to
market faster than .net & Java with equivalent resources. To me these
are the reasons to choose rails.

In a corporate environment, It still seems slightly irrational to
recommend Rails. The management challenges are definitely higher;
resourcing, convincing risk adverse management, then continually
defending your choice from interested parties.

I think that was more for me than for you… I feel better now.

If you can arrange it that the sole point of contact between the rails
app and the .net code and even the reporting code is the database then
you will be way ahead. Even if you have to put somewhat more data
into the database than you had planned.

Second most desirable configuration is software-as-a-service where
everything that needs to communicate does so by REST.

Learning R. well enough, from scratch, takes more than a few days,
depending on who you are, what you’ve done…

I’m skeptical that you can currently do your .NET coding in Ruby. If
you can, you’re way ahead. But I’d guess another year is needed for
that.

Once you get your data in the database okay, you will be generating
reports for the screen using HMTL, even if only as a test. Your
customer might like reading it on the screen rather than wading
through all that paper. Rails is really good at this.

You may find that building a crystal reports system and producing a
ton of paper results in reports that nobody reads. This is normal in
a big IT shop.

The quickest way to get the users access to the data is to dump it
from the database to the screen. This is a quicker way to find bugs
in the app; Some that only the users will see, as they have the
domain knowledge to know.

Rails has some database conventions (the primary key is named ‘id’
and is numeric) that are not requirements, but it takes an extra line
of Ruby or two to work around when not followed. You’d like to avoid
that extra line if you can.

There are also pathological personalities in this world. I mean the
kind of person who will change the database schema the day before the
deadline, to break your software. When you have teo groups, say one
Rails and one .NET, somebody might get to feel threatened and act
out. It isn’t a normal expectation, but I’ve seen stuff like it. So
keep backups and such.

Matt S.1 wrote:

My feelings on Rails

  • Major vendors, Sun, Oracle, IBM, & Microsoft all have projects to
    bring ruby & rails into their product suite.

I think that was more for me than for you… I feel better now.


Hi Matt,

Very well said.

In fact this should be published as a blog… so that maximum can
advantage of your explanation. If you already own a blog… then pl.
blog it for mass. This will spread knowledge about Ruby and Rails as
well.

Since IronRuby is flowing to version 1.0 soon, it would make Ruby work
as easy as Rails, on .Net too.

I think the IronRuby team would most likely giving a demo of IronRuby on
rails at the Rails Conference next month on May 29th.

With Ruby you can enjoy best of three worlds.
(1) Rails
(2) Java via - Jruby and
(3) .Net via IronRuby.

Stick to Ruby… thats the golden rule.

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