There was another portion of the SDForum meeting titled "Building your startup using Python". It was moderated by the creator of BitTorrent, Braham Cohen and had Steve Kirscho (CEO Propel), Francis Kelly (Founder Loomia), and Peter Yared (CEO ActiveGrid) on the panel. It was interesting to have an assortment of startups that are using python extensively in different areas (client, infrastructure and web service). I've blogged on Activegrid previously, but didn't really know what Propel or Loomia did.
ActiveGrid provides a "commercial LAMP stack". They have an apache mod that lets people create apps that scale easily. They have an application builder created using wxpython, and enable developers to program in python, php and perl using their framework. Since they come from a Java background, they are using lots of XML, SOAP, WSDL etc. (The demo is impressive, I'd call them the anti-thesis of Rails, since ROR tries to avoid XML situps, ActiveGrid appears to be doing situps all day long). Peter mentioned that one of the issues he had with python was the lack of XML tools. When pressed on what that really meant, he said SOAP tools.
Peter came from a smalltalk background before delving off into Java, so he said returning to Python felt natural for him. Most of his developers get up to speed on python quickly and haven't had much trouble grokking it.
Propel provides network "accelerators". They have clients that you download and install on Windows and Mac. According to Steve, one can't tell that they aren't native. Kirsch has had lots of experience using Python and worked with Infoseek (who had a python based search engine). Supposedly Propel's competitors use C for their implementation and Propels python version is faster and more featureful. Kirsch attributes this to python allowing their engineering team to focus on algorithms and not implementation details. In the Alex Martelli session the issue of pythons lack of code compiling (hiding or obfuscation) was raised, Steve briefly mentioned that it was possible to obfuscate python code (probably somewhat important to one delivering proprietary client code it python).
Loomia appears to have a web 2.0 search engine. Francis mentioned that he began to learn python about 2 years ago and it came pretty quickly to him. They are building their services ontop of Zope. Francis said that while python was easy to learn, Zope had a really steep learning curve.
There wasn't much time for questions in this session, but the basic gist of it was something like this. Python allowed these companies to rapidly build and deploy applications. Along they way they ran into hurdles that they might not of had previously. These hurdles might be incomplete documentation, or incomplete implentation, basically "stuff not working". But the notion was that the stuff would start working, either by their own efforts of the efforts of the community behind tools that they were using. And that writing in the missing gaps in python was not too hard.
Braham noted that he re-implemented some of twisted's functionality in bittorrent because twisted didn't provide him what he needed. He also wrote his own SCM system (talk about NIH! :) ), but he also told people he didn't recommend that route.