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From the Frontiers of Research to the Heart of the Enterprise
O'Reilly Open Source Convention
Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina
July 22-26, 2002 -- San Diego, CA



Real Life "War Stories" on the Technical Challenges in Using Perl for Commercial Software
Gurusamy Sarathy, ActiveState Corporation

Track: Perl
Date: Thursday, July 25
Time: 3:45pm - 4:30pm
Location: Grande Ballroom A

Perl has matured as a viable technology platform, particularly as an embedded language engine that supports concurrent execution in multithreaded applications. This talk is a story of how this has been achieved, and the experiences behind this evolution.

We’ll examine the following factors behind Perl's success as an embedded language:

  • Concurrency: Perl was not initially designed with concurrent execution as one of the goals. However, as of the 5.6 release, the source code has been adapted for concurrency with minimal breakage of source compatibility.
  • Scalability: The advantages of concurrent execution may be limited if the system cannot be scaled up by corresponding increases in the number of threads of execution. Perl runs with minimal internal locking, leaving the management of all shared state up to the containing application.
  • Robustness: Embedded environments require that failure be handled gracefully without the whole application having to exit. Also, factors such as memory growth or leaks cannot adversely impact the health of the application. To support these forms of robustness, Perl has sufficiently abstracted its interfaces to the system, such that they can be overridden to handle boundary conditions in ways that are particular to the embedded environment.
  • Compatibility: Perl has evolved specific support for maintaining binary and source compatibility, even when the internals may change substantially. Such support has proven to be a key factor in providing a stable technology platform.

Case studies drawn from real-life projects will highlight the motivations behind the design of the solutions for these issues.

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