Use Cases of Erlang

Erlang. I know most of you may not have heard about this programming language. But most of the languages that are popular today have started somewhere. Erlang is not a language that is relatively new rather it has been in the industry for more than three decades. You may wonder, why one should be interested at all in learning this language or even read this article further. But trust me, learning this language is like attaining a key to a treasure chest.

Erlang is a functional programming language invented by Ericson. Its major strength is the concurrency and distributed programming. It has the ability to handle multiple threads (Process in Erlang terms) at the same time not utilising double CPU processing power. Unlike C program thread in which each thread uses separate resources from the CPU. It’s impact in recent years has been amazing especially as its been used by many companies for example WhatsApp messenger is written in Erlang, Goldman Sachs trading db, amazon db, Facebook back end for chat service are some examples. Also, in some of the embedded systems testing Erlang is used. As to go with the golden rule that if a software is developed in X language then the testing shall be done in Y language to find issues without limiting the programming language problems to test.

Large Companies using Erlang in their production systems like:

Amazon: uses Erlang to implement SimpleDB, providing database services as a part of the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2).

Facebook: Erlang have used to power the backend of its chat service, handling more than 100 million active users.

WhatsApp: uses Erlang to run messaging servers, achieving up to 2 million connected users per server.

WhatsApp server is almost completely implemented in Erlang.

  • Server systems that do the backend message routing are done in Erlang.
  • Great achievement is that the number of active users is managed with a really small server footprint. Team consensus is that it is largely because of Erlang.
  • Interesting to note Facebook Chat was written in Erlang in 2009, but they went away from it because it was hard to find qualified programmers.

Ericsson: uses Erlang in its support nodes, used in GPRS and mobile networks worldwide.

Erlang is used in lots of places. People however don’t really advertise it.

It’s usually used on the server side.

I am aware of its use in the following industries (there are probably tons more):

  • Game Companies
  • Social Media Companies
  • Financial Companies
  • Telecommunications Companies
  • Cloud Services Companies
  • Gambling Companies

Erlang is a niche language, but it is the niche with all of the very good developers. In a world full of C, C++, Java, etc, you will find a language that has a compelling advantage over other languages, the best developers switch to it early, and then later the mainstream switches. Java was this way in the early days. Erlang is that way now.

Further, the companies that choose erlang are going to choose it because it provides a compelling economic advantage. This means there will be better jobs in that area than in a mainstream language because there is less competition from other candidates. These fewer jobs will also tend to be higher level because people are hiring Erlang developers.


So, to conclude I can safely say that this learning this language will bring a roomful of opportunities to you. 

– Tanmayi Kantekar