Why Modern Industries Need Functional Programming
As businesses increasingly rely on technologies and big data, they need more customized software solutions adapted to their specific needs. Whether you are a retailer, a streaming service, or a financial firm, processing, handling, and securing large amounts of data is critical to your performance. Today, the most advanced IT solutions for fintech, biotech, edtech, and other innovative industries are based on functional programming languages such as Haskell, Elixir, Scala, Racket, etc. In this article, we look at one of these languages, Haskell, and its applications in various industries.
Big data, big challenges
What are the major challenges that companies and organizations face today? If we were to answer in a couple of words, it would be “big data.” Depending on the industry, it can take different forms. Scientific research, for example, needs reliable, maintainable, and shareable systems that allow easy data input from various sources, regular updates, and quick access to the database of experiment results and academic libraries. In drug discovery, pharmacists need solutions that enable them to model medications and predict their efficacy and side effects using AI. In manufacturing, it is vital to control all production steps to ensure the quality of each detail and the assembly process. In-store and online retailers, for their part, count on complex CRMs in their operational activities and in-depth data analytics for strategy development and business growth.
What all of the above cases have in common is the need for effective software. Python, one of the most common and widely used programming languages, is excellent for most standard tasks requiring ML solutions. However, it fails when you need advanced customized software that can work in a complex data environment. This is where Haskell comes into play. In addition to flexibility, its advantages include shorter development time, scalability, and extra safety. Scalability means that Haskell-based solutions can be adjusted to the needs and size of your business or project in, say, five or ten years. And, of course, you can not underestimate the importance of data protection, whether it’s personal, government, commercial, or research data. It should be noted that not many IT firms specialize in functional programming. Serokell, for example, is among Haskell developers with a strong portfolio who are always willing to share their experience and give advice about software development.
What is functional programming?
As a brief introduction to Haskell, we first need to look at the concept of functional programming. As the name implies, it is a programming paradigm used to develop clean and maintainable software with mathematical functions.
Functional programming is often defined in contrast to object-oriented programming (OOP). While the former works with variables and functions, the latter uses objects as basic elements. In the first case, data is unchangeable; in the second, data is mutable. In practice, this means that you should opt for functional programming if you are developing, for instance, a banking app, a blockchain, or a genetic research platform with a lot of variables. If you are building a static website that only provides information, OOP is sufficient. Simply put, OOP offers ready-made solutions for generic tasks, while functional programming addresses specific cases.
The beauty of Haskell
Haskell is a functional programming language, the first version of which was released in 1990. It was named after the mathematician Haskell Brooks Curry, whose work on combinatory logic (1920-1960) served as the basis for functional programming. Today Haskell is considered a kind of gold standard for functional programming languages.
Programs in Haskell are represented as mathematical functions. The main advantage is that these functions have no side effects. As long as you have the same input, the applied function always produces the same result.
Companies, especially in the financial sector, typically cite three factors as to why they use functional programming languages like Haskell:
- Strong typing helps avoid programming errors that could cause problems later. “Strong typing” means that the programming language imposes rigid limitations on changing the variable data type while running the program.
- Code is easy to read and maintain, so programmers can detect errors faster, reducing the risk of system failure. This language has an open-source native code compiler called GHC (the Glasgow Haskell Compiler) that provides a cross-platform environment and supports a variety of extensions, libraries, and optimizations that speed up code creation and execution.
- Haskell, as well as functional programming languages in general, is better at handling concurrency. Therefore, it is ideal for complicated tasks that involve simultaneous activities.
All these factors make Haskell optimal for business, where the ability to adapt to change quickly is crucial. Thus, Haskell’s immutability and ability to manage distributed computation make it a perfect choice for dealing with blockchains. Cardano (ADA), for example, was the first blockchain platform based on Haskell. It can also be used to create domain-specific languages, such as languages for smart contracts.
Examples from other fields include online learning platforms that need to adjust to student progress fast, supply chain optimization software, biomedical engineering software, etc. Overall, Haskell has a wide range of commercial applications: aerospace and defense, web startups, and telecom, to name a few.
What companies use Haskell?
Numerous heavyweights such as Meta, Microsoft, Google, Barclays Capital, Alcatel-Lucent, and many others opt for Haskell for various tasks.
Meta, one of the main sponsors of the Haskell Foundation, uses Haskell in its anti-spam program Sigma and data retrieval framework Haxl.
Microsoft uses Haskell in Bond, a production serialization system for working with schematized data.
Google applies this programming language to numerous internal projects. One example is Ganeti, a tool for managing virtual server clusters.
The company turned to Haskell to develop an embedded domain-specific functional language to identify exotic equity derivatives.
Alcatel-Lucent used Haskell for prototyping narrowband software radio systems that run in real time.
Among the lesser-known cases is the American Museum of Natural History, which uses Haskell to study phylogenetic graphs that reflect evolutionary relationships among species. Another example is Chordify, a service that converts music from YouTube, SoundCloud, and other audio sources into chords. Its analysis of musical harmonic sequences is based on Haskell.
Functional programming languages such as Haskell open up wide-ranging opportunities for almost all industries to obtain a fully customized, effective, and secure software solution for their needs. When weighing your options for software development, start with a small project based on Haskell and scale it up once you fully understand its potential and applicability to your needs. You can combine several functional programming languages, each responsible for a specific aspect and functionality.
There are many debates around Haskell, but pioneers in software development see this language among the most promising/budding ones.