Switching to Erlang, Part 1

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Given our customer needs and the coming changes in technology, VHT is in the process of moving our software development to Erlang. Switching languages is as significant change. What reasons could there be to move from C++ to Erlang? Let’s talk about this in three parts:

  • History
  • Industry Trend
  • Moving Forward


Erlang was created in the late 80’s by Ericsson. In particular, by the research arm of Ericsson. The purpose of Erlang was to design a language that was highly fault tolerant, distributed and concurrent. (Learn more about Erlang here.) In the mid 90’s, OTP was created (what’s OTP?). OTP provides Erlang the software infrastructure needed to support a typical fault tolerant concurrent application. It was used to create an Ericsson switch that achieve NINE 9’s of availability. That is a switch that is available 99.9999999% of the time. In other words, once you start an Erlang application, it stays running even when you upgrade it.

The leadership at Ericsson decided that Ericsson was in the switch business and not the language business; thus they banned the use of any proprietary language including Erlang. The creators of Erlang convinced Ericsson to release Erlang to the open community. Ericsson did, and the creators left Ericsson to start Erlang-Solutions. Now that Erlang is no longer proprietary, the Erlang ban has been lifted at Ericsson, and some of the creators of Erlang have returned to Ericsson. Erlang is alive and well in the open source community, at Ericsson and other companies.

In my next post, I’ll discuss the way the industry is trending.