Why Ricoh Used Ruby to Develop New Online Storage Service

by Ostatic Staff - Oct. 01, 2009

Ricoh, best known for its digital camera and office technology product lines, recently launched a public beta of its new online storage service called quanp. Short for "quantum paper," its goal is to give users a secure place to upload video, image, and document files for storage and sharing.

The service is easy to use -- simply place the jar-shaped quanp widget on your desktop (Linux systems require Adobe AIR), then drag and drop files into right into it for automatic uploading. Although quanp isn't open source, it was developed in Ruby, a programming language that some say is coming back into vogue.

Sho Harada, senior manager of quanp, says that Ruby was the most logical choice for a variety of reasons. "First and foremost, we wanted to use Ruby because it's Ruby. In order to survive in the online world, we have put heavy emphasis on development speed. For that reason, we've implemented Agile project management and needed an object oriented programming language like Ruby. There were a lot of other important reasons, too. There's a wide array of support options, Ricoh is always interested in challenging itself with new technologies, and, since Ruby is clearly a hot technology, it's easy for our development team get all sorts of up-to-date info on web app development or patches so we don't miss anything.

"Also not to be overlooked," continues Harada "Ruby started in Japan by Yukihiro 'Matz' Matsumoto. Some of the Ruby development team is just a one hour drive away from where our team is located in Japan. It's exciting to be so close to a technology with worldwide fans, building literally a new world day by day. Pretty fascinating to be connected with that. We didn't want to miss the chance."

Harada says that, as a longtime contributor to The Linux Foundation, Ricoh often relies on open source tools for product development. "Within quanp,... we use Apache and many other open source tools. I'd have to say, we neither look specifically for open source nor do we avoid it. There are times when it's obviously the best choice. In those circumstances, we have no hesitation in picking open source."

Although open source appears to be gaining a little traction in Japan, the country isn't typically associated with open source technology. Harada says the resistance may be partially cultural. "In my personal opinion, not speaking for Ricoh as a whole, I'd say where there's still resistance to open source in Japan, it's on a corporate level. It's believed that with open source there's 'no guarantee.' Commercial open source companies are addressing this, but that's moved forward more quickly in the US market. When you're delivering software to customers who need support instantly, open source can scare big companies."

Harada is quick to point out that quanp's use of Ruby doesn't necessarily indicate the start of a growing trend. "I wouldn't say that quanp somehow shows Japan is changing. That's probably giving us too much credit. Still, Ruby is open source and happens to be developed in Japan and has certainly spread worldwide. That might be an indication of more to come. I certainly hope and expect that to be the case."