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fiveruns.JPGRuby on Rails, a programming language useful for making web applications, has gained a strong following in the development community because it is much easier to code and maintain than competitors like Java and PHP.

Initially adopted by small and independent developers, Rails is now getting some attention from corporations. Popular sites like 37signals, which is also the company that developed Rails, have used Rails for their Web 2.0 projects since its release three years ago.

FiveRuns CEO Olivier Thierry told us that tech departments in companies including Fidelity, Sony, Boeing and Nike have held conversations with FiveRuns about adding Rails to their websites. Also, Leopard, the new Mac OS that just shipped, includes Rails tools, making it simpler for developers unfamiliar with Rails to begin using it.

So while there are plenty of smaller companies using Rails, from Jobster to Twitter, the language may be ready to enter a much bigger market.

Explaining why companies might need help from FiveRuns, Thierry said that although Rails is easy and effective, there are still problems that pop up, like scaling its use to larger audiences — for instance, processing thousands of credit card transactions, which can become significantly slower than just processing one or two. In that case, the FiveRuns team would go through the code to streamline and correct errors.

Other pain points arise in different parts of the development cycle. FiveRuns, which employs a number of the original members of the Rails development community, can use its inside expertise to help developers, as well as provide some software to monitor Rails applications.

When we asked whether FiveRuns had any serious competition, Bruce Williams, one of those early developers who is on FiveRun’s board, told us he didn’t think so, because Rails has been going through its early adoption stages, and used mainly for smaller projects.

However, larger corporations like Borland (under a subsidiary called CodeGear) are likely to make more of an attempt to provide similar tools as the market grows larger.

FiveRuns, which is based in Austin, Texas, took its funding of $6.2 million from Austin Ventures. Its first round was for $3 million, from Austin Ventures and Silverton Partners.


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