Evolution and research of programming languages are continuous! From the development of first high-level programming language in 1942 to development of open source languages, different generations of programming languages have defined different decades of programming activity. There are hundreds of programming languages to choose from, so the basic question is which the best language for any particular project is? PHP, Python, and Ruby are amongst the most popular programming languages. Over the past years, another language has gained a lot of traction – Elixir.
A very young language, Elixir has brought new technology into the discussion. The efficiency and performance of Elixir have put behind the concurrency problems faced in Ruby and other similar languages. There are several reasons why Elixir has become preferable as a general-purpose programming language for programmers. Before going into details about the pros and cons of Elixir, you need to know the basics of this language.
About Elixir Programming Language
Elixir is concurrent, dynamic, functional and general-purpose programming and it runs on the Erlang Virtual Machine. It is an open source language that provides extensible design and production tooling. As it is built on top of Erlang, it shares its similar abstractions for building fault-tolerant and distributed applications. This language is being used for building embedded systems, web development, news services, social media platforms, and highly scalable applications. Since its introduction, demand for Elixir development has grown rapidly over the past several years.
The Elixir programming language was officially released in 2012 by a famous Ruby developer Jose Valim. The goal behind the development of Elixir was developing a programming language that had low latency and high concurrency. This language is not a replacement or a better version of Ruby. It is a completely new language with a unique set of goals and objectives.
Elixir combined the best attributes of the following programming languages –
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The Pros of Elixir Programming Language
Elixir is the trend of the hour in programming languages. Better scalability, proper compilation and high availability give a better performance to this language. Here are a few pros of this language that has made it so popular in a short time –
Elixir offers low latency, so it is possible to process a very high volume of messages with minimum delay. This makes it possible to support any operation that requires near real-time to data that is rapidly changing. Low latency is really important for any system and costs a lot to implement low latency in an already designed system. Low latency also acts as an important factor in algorithm trading.
Coding done in Elixir is quite explicit and easy to understand. This is seen as a sigh of relief for programmers used to working in ruby. The language has a modern, simple and tidy syntax. As you can directly use the Erlang libraries, developers no longer need to deal with the unfamiliar syntax of Erlang. So, it is possible to write understandable code easily without lowering the productivity of the developer.
Power of Erlang Virtual Machine:
The base of Elixir is the Erlang Virtual Machine, a powerful virtual machine that has long been known for its concurrency and other features. This platform has been around for more than 25 years and is a solid foundation of several amazing, fast applications.
Powerful Web Framework:
Elixir has a strong web framework named Phoenix. It is an MVC based framework and does not compromise on maintainability and speed. It offers a good toolset for programmers. This strong web framework is a big advantage for programmers. Scaling of applications is actually easy with this framework. This framework has all the advantages of Erlang ecosystem.
Elixir has high concurrency levels, so applications made in this language can handle several thousand users at the same time. As several processes are executed simultaneously, the system developed using this language operate fast and have minimal lag. In this language, the concurrency model relies on communication with other processes through message passing.
“Most software and apps developed today target millions of users across the world. So, it is crucial to run several processes simultaneously without slowing the app. This is the point where concurrency of Elixir comes into the picture and is highly used by social media apps.” – as elaborated by Mr. Vadym Petrychenko, the CEO & Co-founder of 7ninjas.
Another USP of Elixir is its provision for built-in safety mechanisms that help in fault tolerance. It is tolerant to two major types of programming mistakes – issues within an app and issues outside the app. Elixir has a compiled nature, so internal app errors can be handled. The Erlang Virtual Machine also has the mechanism to isolate modules that have mistakes. These mechanisms allow the product to work even if something goes wrong. When there is a failure in the system, processes send alert to servers and dependent processes so that it can be fixed immediately.
When a system has low speed, it results in a waste of money, energy, and resources. Tests on the performance of Elixir show that it is faster than Ruby and Phoenix. The speed of a system is a critical factor for user experience.
This language can be used across development for different niche and industries. Programmers can use Elixir to create applications that have any degree of complexity or any set of features. It is especially the right fit for projects requiring –
- A lot of traffic and users.
- Embedded system.
- Low latency.
- Distributed system.
- Real-time applications like video chat, instant messaging, real-time data capture and more.
The Cons of Elixir Programming Language
Despite the power and elegance of the language, there are some limitations to this language too. Few cons of Elixir include –
The time required for switching to new syntax:
Elixir is a functional programming language. Though this syntax seems easy to read and write code, programmers find it difficult to switch to this syntax of programming from programming in an object-oriented language.
A young language:
Elixir is a young programming language, so it is changing each day. It is difficult to predict the future of this language and how will it turn. Though it is based on an established and matured runtime environment, there are still chances that the language will evolve in diverse ways. So, existing systems developed in Elixir will require changes to keep up with the evolving changes to the language. The biggest question is whether it is safe and reliable to go for Elixir. There is a lot of hype surrounding Elixir at the moment, so there is no clarity to where this language is exactly going. Programmers cannot jump into Elixir programming expecting it to be just like Phoenix or Ruby programming.
Knowledge of Erlang:
Elixir uses the Erlang ecosystem and runtime environment. Programmers can also directly use different Erlang libraries from Elixir. So, to use Elixir efficiently, programmers need to have a sound knowledge of Erlang. If a programmer is new to Erlang, it will take them some time to gain familiarity with the system. It can make the learning process even harder.
Though Elixir is open source, the community supporting this language is limited. The community is welcoming and supportive but needs to grow. So, the number of libraries and tools available for Elixir developers is also limited compared to other popular languages.
Raw CPU power processing speed:
If your project requires Raw CPU processing speed or power, Elixir may not be the best choice. So, if there is a number-crunching application, then you may need to use a different language for that purpose and then integrate the code into Elixir.
The demand for Elixir developers in the job market is quite low and expensive. Also, there is a lack of experienced Elixir developers as the programming is not widespread. It will take time for the job market to catch up. Even if you have an in-house team of developers, there is a rare chance that they are well qualified in Elixir. They will need to learn the language before taking up any Elixir projects.
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Weighing the pros and cons of the language, it can be seen that Elixir can be utilized for a wide array of projects. Its usage is not limited to any particular industry or niche. Since its release, the popularity of this language has grown steadily. Stack Overflow named Elixir as one of the most loved programming languages in 2017. The adoption of this language is continuously growing, right from government websites to social platforms like Pinterest. Elixir offers development speed and performance, two factors most developers look for. Thus, feedback offered by programmers is quite positive and motivating other programmers to enter into this language. Facebook, WhatsApp, Pinterest, and several known names have already turned to Elixir. This language can be used for functional and general-purpose programming.
With its impressive benefits, Elixir has a strong future. Planning to enter to Elixir programming language? Have you made up your mind yet?