In order to prevent these issues, newer languages have guardrails in place that periodically clears out the memory that is no longer being used. Many will also put a digital wall around the physical hardware that programs cannot bypass, making programmers write code to ask permission each time from a kind of digital manager who is very strict about filing the proper forms whenever you need a new piece of office equipment.
Generally, computers are so fast now that the processing delays created by these guardrails aren’t always noticeable to the end user, but at a system level, the delays are substantial, and when these programs are scaled up to the level of cloud computing data centers like those used by Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, the seemingly insignificant inefficiencies in newer languages scale up along with them.
Which is what has so many companies interested in the Rust programming language.
What is Rust?
Rust is a programming language first created back in 2006 by a programmer frustrated by older programming languages’ propensity to crash unpredictably. In a new piece in the MIT Technology Reviewsthe origin story and development journey of the Rust language is laid out in detail and is well worth the read, but what really stands out is the long process of refactoring a close-to-machine-level programming language that can be freely manipulated by memory, but with the rigid system of bureaucracy of a language like Java.
When older languages were created, things like security vulnerabilities weren’t well understood, so these blindspots were effectively cured into the language’s foundation, never to be extricated or fixed. Rust, meanwhile, recreates the efficiency of those older languages in a so-called memory-safe way, giving it the stability and security of a more modern language without the resource overhead that can slow things down.
At the scale of a data center, shifting from these less efficient languages to Rust could produce absolutely massive energy savings and a reduction in the carbon emissions these facilities produce, and we’re not talking about a 5% or 10% reduction, we’re not talking about a 5% or 10% reduction, we’re re talking as much as 50% or more.