This is why you should learn the Elixir programming language
What are the benefits of Elixir? Image: Maya Kruchankova/Shutterstock

This is why you should learn the Elixir programming language

29 Nov 201747 Shares

Expanding your programming repertoire to include some of the newer, emerging programming languages such as Elixir could really give you an edge in the technology sector.

The benefits of learning and expanding one’s knowledge of computer programming are manifold and, arguably, need little introduction.

The increasing competitiveness of the industry, coupled with evolving trends therein, may lead you to wonder whether the languages in your programming repertoire are sufficient for your career needs or desires, or how you can change your approach to kick-start your career.

Many questions can arise when considering where to look to beef up your skills. Should you be a jack of all trades, or a master of none? In a sea of tech talent, how do you make yourself stand out?

There are many answers to those questions depending on who you ask and, while we can’t necessarily provide definitive truth, we do have a suggestion: check out Elixir, one of the most recent emerging stars of the programming language world.

What is Elixir?

Elixir was first introduced in 2012. It is a general-purpose, functional language designed for building scalable and maintainable applications.

The language complies with the bytecode seen on the Erlang VM (also known as BEAM). Its syntax is often compared to the ever popular Ruby on Rails development framework, and it arguably exceeds it, given that the productivity Elixir allows for is not counterbalanced by lagging performance, as it is with Rails.

Scalability

Elixir code runs inside lightweight, isolated processes, which allows for thousands of processes to run concurrently in the same machine. This in turn allows for vertical scaling and uses all of a machine’s resources as efficiently as possible.

These processes are also able to communicate with other processes running on different machines in the same network, providing a solid foundation for distribution and allowing for horizontal scaling.

Fault tolerance

Running into issues with running software is inevitable, but Elixir’s fault-tolerant system can make the process a little less painful. It provides ‘supervisors’ that you can program with descriptions of how to restart certain parts of a system when things fail.

These parts will then revert to a ‘known, initial state’, which is guaranteed to work.

Functional programming

Elixir allows you to write short, fast and maintainable code. Pattern matching allows developers to destructure data and access its contents. When mixed with guards, this allows you to match and assert conditions for code to execute.

These features keep software running as expected, with the handy supervisors there to have your back when needed.

Who is adopting Elixir, and why?

Social media giants such as Pinterest and Bleacher Report have switched over to Elixir, often with the Phoenix framework.

Bleacher Report, for example, said that the switch from Ruby on Rails to Elixir has led it to reduce its number of required servers from 150 to just five, and handle eight times more traffic.

Elixir is generally seen as a superior choice for high-traffic systems, which is becoming an increasingly pressing issue for developers given that the number of internet users has tripled over the last decade.

While Rails apps can respond in tens of hundreds of milliseconds to web requests, Elixir apps can respond in microseconds.

The evolving needs of companies means that it is in the best interests of developers to consider developing greater fluency in Elixir programming. Doing so could truly give you an edge over other candidates.

Eva Short
By Eva Short

Eva Short is a Careers reporter at Silicon Republic who, coincidentally, was raised in Silicon Valley and has been nicknamed a ‘digital native’. Her passions include Pomeranians, witchcraft, skincare, wearing exclusively dark colours and eating. When she’s not writing about tech professionals, she’s working backstage at festivals, yelling at musicians, and amassing a collection of crumpled gig tickets to stick on her wall.

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