IDE for Haskell Functional Programming Language Bows

Michael Vizard, July 30th, 2013

There’s a lot frustration in the world when it comes to software, especially first with how long it takes to develop anything and, second, with the number of bugs that need to be continuously addressed. The good news is that this is an issue that the people that built programing languages have been aware of for some time. In fact, a significant amount of progress in the form of functional programming languages such as Haskell has already been made.

The bad news is that not many developers know how to program in Haskell, which as far as most organizations that develop software are concerned creates an intractable problem.

The good news is that there is now an integrated development environment (IDE) from FP Complete in beta that promises to make it easier to master Haskell.

According to FP Complete CEO Aaron Contorer, functional programming languages such as Haskell make use of advanced compiler technology that not only dramatically reduces the amount of code required to write an application, it isolates code in ways the prevent the vast majority of errors from ever occurring in the first place.

For example, Contorer says it’s possible to rework the entire MapReduce interface to create an implementation in Haskell that would only require a single page of code. The compiler technology in Haskell also reduces errors in any application by, for example, making sure that business logic is always isolated from operating system logic. And now that there are fewer lines of code, Contorer says the potential for quality and security issues is almost non-existent.

Because developers are writing less actual code Contorer adds they are no longer spending half their time on maintenance issues, which means each individual developer is a whole lot more productive. The end result, says Contorer, is that each individual developer is more productive by orders of magnitude.

The main issue with Haskell is that it does require developers to adjust their thinking in terms of developing code that takes greater advantage of the inherent parallelization capabilities of multicore processors. To help developers rise to that change Contorer says FP Complete developed its IDE to give developers a commercial-grade IDE that would make mastering Haskell much simpler.

As a one time disciple of object-oriented programming languages such as C++ during his tenure at Microsoft, Contorer says Haskell represents a major leap forward in developer productivity that has been long overdue. In fact, given the current demand for more application development than ever, Contorer argues that most organizations can’t afford to ignore the promise of functional programming models.

The challenge, of course, is going to be getting hundreds of thousands of developers out of their existing comfort zones. But when you think about the potential productivity benefits, it may be that time to explore functional programming models as an alternative to existing labor intensive development constructs is now finally at hand.

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