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GemStone Reveals Plans for MagLev Ruby VM at RailsConf 2008

by Nick Laiacona on May 31, 2008 |

At RailsConf on Friday, Avi Bryant and Bob Walker of GemStone revealed plans for the MagLev project. MagLev will run Ruby on Rails within GemStone's distributed object technology. The MagLev VM, although only partially implemented, so far outperforms MRI 1.8.

MagLev is a Ruby VM based on the GemStone S64 VM, which runs Smalltalk. The Smalltalk VM has been extended with special byte codes to make it Ruby compatible. GemStone's Smalltalk VM has been used for over 20 years in sectors such as real time financial markets and the worldwide shipping industry. It as a mature, fast, stable, distributed, and transactional data store which can hold over a trillion objects or 17PB (Petabytes) worth of information. The goal of the MagLev project is to bring this distributed object technology to the world of Ruby on Rails.

Avi Bryant, core team member on Dabble DB and SeaSide, demonstrated MagLev's distributed object technology running Ruby. Using an irb session on one Ruby VM, he was able to share object data to an irb session in another VM by simply instantiating global objects. Avi then demonstrated the BEGIN, COMMIT, and ABORT keywords that provide a fully transactional and ACID compliant concurrency strategy. He was also able to access persistent data storage using this same mechanism. In essence, MagLev was filling the roles not just of the VM but also the caching and persistent storage layers.

Bob Walker, who is the project manager for the MagLev project at GemStone, then spoke about the progress of the effort. As of today, Bob Walker's team has MagLev running about 36 of the Ruby Shootout Benchmarks significantly faster than MRI 1.8. They plan to use the Rubinius project's Ruby Specs in order to verify compatibility. They are currently three months into implementation. Portions of the project will be open source, but the core VM, which is written in C, will likely remain closed source.

GemStone is still pondering a pricing model for MagLev. Bob Walker did state that there will be a free version available. GemStone management speculates that a two or three tier pricing model is possible with either storage size or number of transactions defining the tiers. GemStone has set up a project page where they promise ongoing information about the project will be available soon.

Read InfoQ's exclusive interview with Gemstone's Bob Walker on MagLev.

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