5 ways Elixir programming can improve business performance

Elixir is a simple, lightweight programming language that is built on top of the Erlang virtual machine. It offers straightforward syntax, impressive performance and a raft of powerful features. It uses your digital resources in the most efficient way.

This is all very well, but what does that mean in practice? Aside from impressing your web development team, what can Elixir do for your business?

In this blog, we’ll look at how Elixir’s benefits translate into competitive advantage, and how it helps you reduce cost, time to market and process efficiency. Or to put it another way, here are five ways Elixir programming can improve business performance.

The joys of simplicity 

In comparison to other programming languages, Elixir is relatively simple to master. It borrows from other languages, which means experienced programmers tend to pick it up quite quickly. It uses easy-to-grasp syntax, which helps developers work more quickly using less code. 

Essentially, Elixir focuses on function. It’s all about getting the desired result in the simplest possible way. 

What does that mean for your business? Most obviously, Elixir programming can speed up the development of new software or updates to existing applications. It allows developers to do more with less, which is a major advantage during a talent shortage. 

In addition, it tends to produce more reliable programmes. Simple code is easier to debug, while complexity increases the chances of something going wrong.

The virtues of concurrency

Concurrency is the ability to handle lots of tasks at the same time, and Elixir is designed with concurrency at its core. 

It’s a lightweight language, which means it runs processes in a highly resource-efficient way. With processes that typically use less than 1KB of RAM, running lots of them simultaneously is no problem for Elixir-based applications.

But why is this beneficial in wider business terms? Well, it means applications can handle large numbers of users and instructions without slowing down, creating better experiences. Concurrency also improves reliability. Concurrent processes run independently of each other, which means a problem with one will not affect the performance of the rest. 

Making the most of your resources

As we’ve seen, Elixir helps you make the most of your human resources. At the same time, it also helps you to fully utilise your digital ones.

Elixir automatically uses all of the processing capacity at its disposal. If that capacity increases, it will utilise the extra resources without requiring your developers to write lots of new code. Put simply, Elixir-based applications always tend to run at the optimal performance for their hardware environment.  

This has a number of advantages for your business. Applications make full use of available processing power to provide faster, smoother user experiences. From an ROI point of view, it means none of your expensive IT kit goes to waste.

By using resources in an optimal way, Elixir also makes it easier to quickly scale your software and applications. More about that below. 

Elixir means simple scalability

Scalability is everything in a digital world. Can your applications serve ten thousand users as easily as 500, without any drop in performance? How about 100,000? 

In other words, can they grow as your business grows? And how easy is it to add capacity quickly, so that you can grasp new opportunities before they disappear?

Elixir is designed for easy scalability. As we’ve seen, it automatically makes full use of your hardware resources, making it the perfect language for applications that experience frequent spikes in demand. The lightweight nature of Elixir processes also means you can grow to a significant size with limited processing power.

But when you do reach the limits of your current hardware, Elixir’s adeptness with concurrency makes it easy to share workloads across a cluster of machines. 

An Elixir-based application can run multiple processes on a single machine. Alternatively, it can run millions of processes across lots of machines, creating a highly scalable environment. Elixir creates seamless communication channels between all the elements of a distributed system, which further encourages the efficient use of resources.

You can do a lot of this with other programming languages, but not generally so easily. You may need to integrate third-party tools, for example. That adds to the cost, development hours and time to market. The beauty of Elixir is that scalability is built in.

Elixir in practice

When you add all this together, it creates significant performance advantages. Everything we’ve discussed so far – simplicity, concurrency, optimal resource use and scalability – coalesce to create more robust, efficient and future-proof applications. 

This is highlighted by our work with Bleacher Report, the second-largest sports website in the world.

Bleacher report Elixir

At peak times, the site’s mobile app serves over 200,000 concurrent requests. Bleacher Report wanted to transition the app from Ruby to Elixir, after it started presenting technical challenges at scale. That transition, supported by Erlang Solutions, created a much faster, more scalable application that was also significantly less resource intensive. The system now easily handles over 200 million push notifications per day. The number of servers it needs has reduced from 150 to eight. If you’d like to know more about that transformation, and what we did to support it, you can read the full case study here.

The Elixir business performance benefit

As we’ve seen, programming language matters. It matters for performance, cost, speed to market and scalability. Elixir, based on the powerful Erlang engine, produces positive results in all these areas.

Elixir is still a relatively young language – barely a decade or so old, in fact – but that is to its benefit. It was designed for the challenges that digital-first businesses face today, and not for an era when the mobile internet was still in its infancy. It is already used by scores of top-tier companies to create better user experiences – and to create them faster and at scale.

Want to know more about efficient, effective development with Elixir, and how it can enhance your own business performance? Why not drop us a line?

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