Scala Programming Language

Designed to overcome the shortcomings of Java

Scala is a statically-typed, general-purpose programming language that can be both Object-Oriented as well as Functional, which makes it a very flexible language. Scala even has its own Integrated Development Environment (Scala IDE), which is capable of connecting to the Eclipse Java tool. That is an important feature of Scala, which holds several similarities to Java. Case in point, Scala is coded similarly to Java and many of the Java libraries can be used in Scala.

But Scala isn’t just a clone of Java. This particular language offers higher flexibility, with code that is easier to test and reuse.

What is Scala?

To put it simply, Scala is an object-oriented language with elements of functional programming that give the language serious scalability. In fact, the name itself stems from “Scalability,” so you know what you’re getting into from the beginning. This is a general-purpose language designed for applications at a large scale, so enterprise businesses should pay attention.

Scala was developed by Martin Odersky, and the first release was in 2003. For nearly 20 years, Scala has continued to grow and impress developers and businesses. With this language, you can deliver more apps and services with less work and code.

But given their similarities, why would you choose Scala over Java? There are a few good reasons:

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    Where Java uses a complex syntax, Scala is far simpler.
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    With Java, code rewriting is often necessary, whereas with Scala it isn’t.
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    Java is a dynamic language and Scala is statically typed.
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    Java offers no assurance of bug-free code, Scala does.

Scala was written to be the “better” Java. To that end, Scala was written to run in the Java Virtual Machine (JVM). But Scala sheds a number of the areas where Java is too restrictive. Because the original developers decided to not simply clone Java, they made a number of changes which resulted in Scala being a completely different language. That equates to Scala not being quite as simple to learn as Java. And, just because your developers know Java doesn’t mean they’ll be able to immediately pick up Scala.

The good news, the work they’ll put into learning Scala will be worth the effort.

Why use Scala?

One advantage Scala has over Java is that the code is easier to write, compile, debug, and run. Scala code is also more concise and readable. One other very important aspect of Scala is that it supports concurrency.

What is concurrency? Concurrency makes it possible for multiple computations to occur simultaneously. This is an incredibly important concept in computing, especially as you scale up your applications. As demand grows for an app or service, you want the deployment to be able to handle as many processes/computations as possible. 

Without concurrency, your apps and services would struggle to keep up with demand. Because of that, your business should consider making use of programming languages that offer this feature, otherwise, you might be unable to scale enough to meet an ever-growing demand.

But don’t think Java is without concurrency, as it does include that feature. The difference is that Scala uses an Actor model for supporting modern concurrency, where Java uses the conventional thread-based model. And Scala supports both thread-based and type-safe Actor-based concurrency.

What can you build with Scala?

You might be surprised at how many open-source projects are built with Scala. Some of the most popular use cases for Scala include:

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    Kafka - a framework that provides a unified, high-throughput, low-latency platform for real-time data feeds.
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    Flink - an open-source, distributed streaming dataflow engine.
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    GitBucket - a Git-powered code repository.
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    Snowflake - a network service used to generate unique ID numbers at scale.
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    Apache Spark - a general-purpose engine for large-scale data processing.
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    Finagle - an extensible RPC system used to build high-concurrency servers.
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    Akka - used to build distributed applications.
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    ADAM - a genomics processing engine.

What companies use Scala?

Scala is used by several very large companies, including:

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    LinkedIn
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    Twitter
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    Foursquare
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    Netflix
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    Tumblr
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    The Guardian
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    precog
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    Sony

That list only scratches the surface of the large-scale companies that have opted to employ Scala. At the heart of their decision to do so is Scala’s ability to massively scale. Since Scala apps can be containerized, it makes the shift even easier. In fact, by using the SBT Native Package, it’s possible to dockerize Scala apps without having to maintain custom Dockerfiles.

How can your developers get started with Scala?

Because Scala is open source, you install it and use it for free. Scala can be installed on Linux, macOS, and Windows. You can even check out the source on the official Scala GitHub page. And, because Scala has been around for so long, there’s plenty of great documentation to be found (and even an easy-to-follow Getting Started page for those new to the language).

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a language that handles concurrency well enough to scale out to meet the ever-growing demands on your business’ apps and services, you should seriously consider Scala. This language will out-Java Java with a few added modern conveniences, and for any developer already familiar with Java, C++, C, and Python, adapting to Scala will be a no-brainer.

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