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Announcing OCaml Labs

(last updated on Oct 2012)

I’m very excited to announce OCaml Labs, the latest project to hit the Cambridge Computer Lab. As anyone that hangs out near me probably realises, I very much enjoy functional programming. My weapon of choice tends to be OCaml, as it condenses decades of research into a pragmatic blend of functional, imperative and object-oriented programming styles. What’s perhaps less well known are the steady inroads that OCaml has been making into mission-critical areas of industry. At Jane Street, billions of dollars of transactions are routed through a huge ML code-base that is designed to catch bugs at compile-time. At Citrix, the Xen management toolstack that powers millions of hosts in the cloud is largely written in OCaml. Facebook does sophisticated static analysis using OCaml over their vast PHP codebase to close security holes.

The OCaml community is small but dedicated, but there is always more to do to improve the language and ecosystem. So, thanks to a generous platform grant from Jane Street, we are launching a program to help with the open-source development of OCaml from Cambridge.

The OCaml Labs are based in the Cambridge Computer Lab and led my myself, Alan Mycroft and Ian Leslie. We’re closely affiliated with other groups, and will be:

Research efforts

Of course, it is difficult to hack on a language in a void, and we also use OCaml heavily in our own research. The other half of OCaml Lab’s goals are more disruptive (and riskier!):

Getting involved

So, how can you get involved? We are initially advertising three positions for full-time developers and researchers (junior and senior) to help us get started with the OCaml Platform and compiler development. These aren’t conventional pure research jobs, and a successful candidate should enjoy the open-source development cycle (you retain your own copyright for your own projects). The Computer Lab offers a pretty unique environment: a friendly, non-hierarchical group in a beautiful city, and some of the best faculty and students you could hope to hang out with.

And finally, there is a longer lead time on applying for PhDs, but this is a great time to get involved. When I started at the Lab in 2002, a little project called Xen was just kicking off, and many of us had a wild (and oft great) time riding that wave. Get in touch with myself, Alan, Ian or Jon soon if you are interested in applying! There’s some more information available on the OCaml Labs pages about options.