20 years of open source Erlang: OpenErlang Interview with Jane Walerud

(Watch the full video here: https://www.erlang-solutions.com/blog/20-years-of-open-source-erlang-openerlang-interview-with-jane-walerud.html)

The #OpenErlang Interviews

Erlang wouldn’t be what it is today without the community surrounding it! On the 20th anniversary year of the language being open sourced, we have been holding the #OpenErlang celebrations, highlighting the enthusiasts surrounding Erlang as well as the language itself.

From the developers who built Erlang from the very beginning, to individuals like Jane who helped spread Erlang across the world, we have been interviewing many contributors and asking “What does Erlang mean to you?”.

Of course, we know of the creators (Robert, Joe and Mike) but there is a whole host of other generations adopting Erlang, and we’ll be speaking to them and the companies that use Erlang in the coming weeks.

Continuing our #OpenErlang Interview series is entrepreneur, Bluetail founder and tech investor Jane Walerud who used Erlang to start Bluetail in 1999, soon after the language was open source.

Jane talks about how Erlang has developed and contributed to other languages such as Elixir to appeal to a whole new generation, how influential the decision to make Erlang open source by Ericsson was, and how precious the growing Erlang and Elixir community is.

About Jane

Jane Walerud describes herself as a “serial entrepreneur”, which is a pretty accurate description! She has helped multiple tech startups since the early noughties as not only an investor but also as an active team member of every startup she worked with. She was instrumental in promoting and open sourcing Erlang back in the 90s. Her work has spanned across many influential companies who use the language including Klarna, Tobil Technology, Teclo Networks and Bluetail, which she founded herself.

Jane has always been impressed with the language, hence starting Bluetail and continuing the legacy of Erlang until she sold the company for a whopping $152 million to Alteon Networks. Since then, she has continued her entrepreneurial activities, helping launch countless startups within the technology sector from 1999 to present day.

Other roles have included Member of the Board at Racefox, Creades AB and Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences, and a key role in the Swedish Government Innovation Council. Her current role is Walerud Ventures, a family-run business based in Stockholm, Sweden.

You can follow Jane on Twitter.

About Walerud Ventures

It seems Jane and her husband have passed on this spirit to her daughter and they currently own their family business Walerud Ventures helping further tech startups reach their full potential. This is founded in 2002.

Walerud Ventures devote their time, money and energy to tech companies in the early stages. The main four startups that have done extremely well are Bluetail, Klarna and Tobil as mentioned, and also Lensway.

Interview Transcript

At work with the boss breathing down your neck? Or don’t want to be one of those playing videos out loud on public transport? Here’s the transcript, although not as exciting as the real thing..

Jane Walerud: I’m an entrepreneur and met the Erlang gang early on. The first company I started with Erlang was called Bluetail, which basically was clustering technology on the Internet.

That was a great success. We sold the company about a year after we founded it for $150 million. Back when I was selling Erlang, I said that one, you could split work over many different computers smoothly. Two, that it didn’t really matter if one of the computers is broke. There would be immediate recovery without the customer or the end user noticing that anything actually happened. And three, it’s very efficient programming. One person doing Erlang can do the work of 10 to 100 other people.

When we released open source, it was sort of a secret weapon. Ericsson could have kept it themselves and had a secret weapon where they could finish huge distributed software projects and nobody else could.

They decided instead, just to let it out as Open Source, at the same time that the internet really took off. Its main good quality of being able to split work between many different machines became exactly what was necessary in the industry at that moment.

The Erlang community is growing quickly with the use of Elixir instead of just Erlang, which is popular among the younger set.

It’s wonderful to see the younger ones joining in and learning how to use Erlang, using Elixir and it feels that the generations are rolling and the communities are growing. That’s just lots of fun!

[00:01:45] [END OF AUDIO]

OpenErlang; 20 Years of Open Sourced Erlang

Erlang was originally built for Ericsson and Ericsson only, as a proprietary language, to improve telephony applications. It can also be referred to as “Erlang/OTP” and was designed to be a fault-tolerant, distributed, real-time system that offered pattern matching and functional programming in one handy package.

Robert Virding, Joe Armstrong and Mike Williams were using this programming language at Ericsson for approximately 12 years before it went open sourced to the public in 1998. Since then, it has been responsible for a huge number of business big and small, offering massively reliable systems and ease of use.

OpenErlang Interview Series

If you enjoyed Jane’s #OpenErlang Interview, why not take a look at our others in the series so far!

Robert Virding and Joe Armstrong
Robert and Joe gives us a fantastic insight into the early days of Erlang when they were at Ericsson. From the development to the release to the community it has become, this is a delightful story straight from the founders.

Watch the video and read more about Robert and Joe’s Erlang journey.

(P.S. Mike is safe and sound in Wales…)

Christopher Price
Last week was the launch of our second #OpenErlang Interview from Ericsson’s Chris Price. Currently the President of Ericsson’s Software Technology, Chris has been championing open source technologies for a number of years.

Chris chats to us about how Erlang has evolved, 5G standardization technology, and his predictions for the future.

Other Erlang Solutions Activities…

Strategies for Successfully Adopting Elixir
If you haven’t heard already, we have a webinar coming up! Continuing the #OpenErlang buzz, Ben Marx from Bleacher Report will be in session next Monday (17th September). It’s worth signing up even if you can’t attend on the day as you’ll receive the slides and recording personally before anyone else.

It’s All About The Runtime
Next Wednesday (19th) is our September meetup to knock the chilly cobwebs out of the way. Jeremey Barrett from Alert Logic is presenting at our London offices; he will go through why he uses Erlang and how to build complex and distributed systems.

If you’re interested in contributing and collaborating with us at Erlang Solutions, you can contact us at general@erlang-solutions.com.