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Taking advantage of multithreaded environments with Ruby

If you have ever tried to write parallel scripts / applications using Ruby’s threads, you may have stumbled over the fact that, sometimes, some cores are left unused. You may be especially sad if you notice that your brand new war-machine, with 2 physical cores or more, is not fully exploited.

Then, you would be right to wonder if using Ruby and taking advantage of multicore (i.e. writing multithreaded applications) are compatible.

The simple answer is yes. Let’s dig into the more complicated answers: we’ll first explain how Ruby’s threads work, then explain why they sometimes seem to be broken, and eventually suggest four efficient solutions to get rid of their limitations.

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Why you should probably not bother about Ruby’s speed

The expressivity and power of Ruby make it a really efficient programming language. Its dynamic nature results in lots of enjoyable benefits (introspection, dynamic class reopening…); it is also responsible for a part of its performances, which are sometimes believed to be poor.

Is Ruby really slow? While being obviously slower than most natively compiled languages, is the performance gap really worth noticing and should it prevent you from using this great language?

If all you’re coming for is pure performance benchmarks, you may directly skip to the last part of this article (“Lies, damned lies, and benchmarks”), since this article does not aim at benchmarking Ruby.

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