How Companies and C++ Developers Can Transition to Rust

8 min

As software development continues to evolve, the search for safer and more efficient programming languages has prompted many to consider alternatives to the well-established C++. With its focus on memory safety, zero-cost abstractions, and concurrency, Rust has emerged as a compelling choice. Whether you are a C++ developer looking to future-proof your skills or a company looking for a more secure programming language, Rust programming language will allow you to reach new heights. 

In this guide, we’ll delve into why C++ and Rust have become popular mainstays of the industry, comparing their features and advantages. Then, we’ll explore the best practices for C++ developers looking to learn Rust and explore the key tips companies should follow if they wish to make the switch to Rust. 

C++ Vs Rust: Comparing the Features 

C++ and Rust are two of the most widely used programming languages, and while the up-and-coming Rust is making waves in the world of software development, C++ has most definitely stood the test of time. 

With research from analysis firm SlashData revealing that Rust is now the fastest-growing language, developers and companies have to consider the following questions - why is Rust enjoying such a rise in popularity? How do C++ developers adapt to this ever-evolving situation? 

Let’s delve into how C++ and Rust compare with each other to provide you with a clearer idea of why Rust is becoming a go-to option for many: 

Memory Safety 

One of Rust’s most fundamental advantages lies in its built-in memory safety. Owing to its ability to enforce strict ownership and borrowing rules, the language succeeds in eliminating common memory-related glitches. Rust’s reputation for being far less prone to memory errors is a key reason why so many have chosen to transition to it. On the other hand, C++ has manual memory management, making it more susceptible to memory-related bugs like buffer overflows and null pointer dereferences. 


With a concise and contemporary syntax, Rust boasts a variety of modern language features, including pattern matching and type inference. The language has an expressive type system, enabling it to identify errors at compile-time. In contrast, C++ is renowned for its complex syntax, a feature which deters some from learning it. However, C++ has a wide array of language features that can produce concise code, such as templates and operator overloading. 


Given that C++ has been around a lot longer than Rust, it is unsurprising that it has a much larger ecosystem. The language features a broad spectrum of libraries and frameworks, all of which are well-maintained and regularly tested by a large community of C++ developers. Although the Rust ecosystem is by no means as large as C++’s at the moment, it is growing rapidly, and there is a rising number of libraries and tools for Rust developers to utilise. 


Capable of delivering high-performance code, Rust and C++ have both earned acclaim for their speed. C++ can outcompete the speed of other languages like Python and Java, as programs written in C++ get compiled directly into machine code without any translation time needed when it comes to runtime. Although C++ is fast, skilled Rust developers are often able to write code quicker than C++ developers, largely owing to the language’s systems for preventing bugs.  


With an ownership model that prevents concurrency errors such as data races and null pointer dereferences Rust's concurrency features are designed to be safe and easy to use. C++ boasts impressive concurrency features that are arguably more powerful and versatile than Rust’s, however, it is more prone to concurrency errors and can be difficult to debug. Ultimately, if you’d prefer to use a concurrency system that is straightforward and secure, Rust is a more favourable choice. 

If you are interested in learning how Rust sizes up against another contemporary programming language, check out our ‘Comprehensive Guide to Golang Vs Rust’ guide. This detailed piece explores the advantages that both of these modern programming languages offer and the reasons why companies should consider recruiting Golang and Rust developers. 

Best Practices for C++ Developers Learning Rust 

So, you are a C++ developer who has decided to transition to Rust - well, you are certainly not alone. In fact, according to the 2021 Rust survey, 81% of respondents claimed to use Rust on a weekly basis, as opposed to 72% in the previous year’s survey. These figures demonstrate that Rust usage is growing, and given that the language is predicted to become even more popular in the future, now is a great time for developers to keep their skills up to date by learning this exciting and promising language. 

However, becoming fluent in Rust is by no means an easy feat, not least for C++ developers who are not yet familiar with Rust’s unique features. Here are some challenges C++ developers may encounter when learning Rust for the first time: 

  • Steep learning curve: Although Rust comes with an array of beneficial features, it also has a reputation for its steep learning curve. Developers who are accustomed to the permissive nature of C++ may find it difficult to adapt to Rust’s functional programming concepts. 

  • Not as many libraries and frameworks: Given that Rust is a relatively new language, it is understandable that it doesn’t have as many libraries and frameworks as more traditional languages. However,  C++ developers who are used to utilising a wide selection of resources may consider Rust’s limited ecosystem to be a pain point. 

  • Ownership and borrowing: Rust has a wide variety of distinctive features, one of which is its ownership and borrowing model. As C++ developers are used to managing memory manually rather than relying on memory safety, they may find it difficult to master Rust’s ownership system.

While these common challenges may seem difficult to navigate at first, if you are willing to put in the time and effort, learning Rust can be a fun and enriching experience. It’s only natural for learners to run into teething issues, but by remembering the various advantages that Rust offers, they can feel confident that their decision to transition to Rust will benefit and rejuvenate their development careers. 

Let’s explore the key best practices C++ developers should follow to enhance their Rust learning experiences: 

Identify Similarities Between C++ and Rust

Identifying similarities between C++ and Rust is a great way to make the learning curve a little bit easier to deal with. As we discussed earlier, there are various similarities between the two languages, including a comparable syntax and having no garbage collection or runtime. Beginning your learning in these areas may make the transition between C++ and Rust all the more smoother. 

Get to Grips With the Basics

Before delving into convoluted Rust topics like dependency trees, the borrow checker, and lifetimes, it is vital to understand the language’s basic functions. You should focus your initial learning on relatively straightforward concepts like Rust’s syntax, data types, numbers, and ownership model. If you feel like you need support with getting your head around the language’s basic principles, be sure to reach out to members of Rust’s growing community on forums like the Rust subreddit

Embrace the Challenge

While learning a brand new programming language may be frustrating at times, it is important to embrace the challenge and enjoy the learning process. Just remember that Rust gets easier the more you practise, and after a while, you’ll begin to relish discovering more about Rust’s concepts. You should also feel motivated because learning Rust will likely help you progress in your development career. 

Make the Most of the Available Resources

Although Rust lacks the amount of libraries and frameworks that C++ has, it still boasts a number of useful resources that will enhance your Rust education. The official Rust website is home to a variety of tutorials and documentation designed to enhance your knowledge of the language, and its active community forum is a brilliant place to ask for assistance from experienced Rust developers. Another key resource is the Rust Book, a comprehensive resource that covers beginner and advanced concepts, with examples and exercises to help you practise. 

Frequently Practise Writing Code 

Consistent practice is key for learning anything, not least a computer programming language like Rust. Whether an absolute beginner or near fluent, you should devote significant time to practising writing code. You can start with small, simple projects and gradually work your way up to more complex ones. A great place to put your Rust coding skills to the test is Rust by Practice, a platform that allows learners to practise their Rust abilities with exercises and projects. 

Top Tips for Companies Looking to Transition to Rust 

Transitioning from C++ to Rust can be a tall order for companies, especially given factors such as a general lack of Rust expertise, refactoring existing code, and convincing stakeholders. However, by following the right steps, you’ll be able to make the switch relatively smoothly, and before you know it, you’ll be reaping the benefits of Rust in no time. 

Why Hiring Rust Developers is Essential for Your Transition 

Though many developers choose to stick with traditional programming languages like C++ and Java, companies that choose to focus their recruitment efforts on pursuing Rust developers may be rewarded in the future. Rust has already made a significant contribution to the programming world owing to its versatility, efficiency, and memory safety, and there is every indication that the language will continue to be influential. 

The State of the Developer Nation 22nd Edition from SlashData revealed that the number of Rust developers increased from 600,000 to 2.2 million from 2020 to 2022, a remarkable rise demonstrating the language's growing popularity among developers. As Rust usage continues to increase, the demand for Rust developers is likely to intensify, and by proactively hiring Rust programmers today, businesses can gain an edge over the competition.  

To give you a clear idea of what Rust developers will be able to bring to your organisation, here are the language’s key uses: 

  • Network programming
  • Web development
  • System programming 
  • Game development
  • Data science backend

If you’d like to learn about these applications in greater detail, we encourage you to read our ‘5 Ways Rust Programming Language Is Used’ guide. 

Key Pointers for Transitioning from C++ to Rust

As well as upskilling your existing staff in Rust principles and bringing in high-quality Rust developers, there are several other tips and tricks you should adhere to to ensure a successful switchover.

An increasing number of companies have decided to transition to Rust, the most notable of which is the software giant Microsoft. They decided to switch from C++ to Rust back in 2019, mainly due to the language’s exceptional memory safety and concurrency capabilities. Other significant companies that have adopted Rust include Amazon, Discord, and Meta. 

With so many high-profile companies making the transition to Rust, now is the perfect opportunity for businesses to seize the moment and make the switch. By choosing to take this forward-thinking step, you’ll not only demonstrate that your organisation champions cutting-edge programming, but you’ll also be able to enjoy better security, enhanced memory safety, and excellent performance. 

Here are our top tips for transitioning from C++ to Rust: 

Use a Migration Tool

Using the right migration tools to assist your transition from C++ to Rust is an effective way to make the process smoother. While these tools are helpful, it’s important to bear in mind that they are not foolproof, and you’ll still need to review the generated Rust code to ensure it’s concise and efficient. One such tool is Immunant’s C2Rust, a migration toolset designed to assist companies in making the switch from C and C++ to Rust. Other suitable tools include Rust-bindgen and Cargo. Please could you link these also?

Hire a Rust Expert

If you are new to the world of Rust, calling on the assistance of a Rust expert would be a wise move that’ll increase the chances of a seamless transition. With specialist knowledge of Rust’s syntax, ecosystem, and ownership model, your expert will be able to make the most out of Rust’s numerous benefits. Not only will they ensure that your Rust code is efficient and bug-free, but they’ll also help you leverage the expertise of Rust’s vibrant community of developers. 

Begin with Small Projects 

As transitioning from C++ to Rust can be a lengthy and sometimes difficult undertaking, it’s essential to begin your switchover with a smaller, low-priority project. This will allow your team to become accustomed to Rust’s libraries and frameworks, and they’ll have the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them. For example, rather than beginning with a critical task like completely refactoring your C++ codebase, you can start with projects that involve writing entirely new code in Rust. 

Regularly Conduct In-Depth Testing 

Investing in training is paramount, and while it requires time and financial resources in the short term, it will ultimately provide you with a much more knowledgeable team who are ready to overcome the common challenges that affect C++ to Rust transitions. Earlier, we alluded to the importance of upskilling your existing team, and to ensure that your team has the required expertise, training should be done in tandem with hiring Rust developers. 

There are various in-person and online training resources that can be accessed via Rust’s website, while other acclaimed programmes include the Accelebrate Rust Training for Teams and the Comprehensive Rust Course by Google, both of which offer comprehensive training around techniques and best practices for using Rust. 

Encourage Code Reviews and Collaboration 

Code reviews are vital in transitioning your team from C++ to Rust.  In fact, according to a report released by TrustRadius, 36% of companies said that code reviews are the best way of improving code quality. They can help you to identify potential issues, boost team innovation, and bolster your code quality. Encouraging your team to review each other’s work and provide feedback is key, and by fostering a culture of collaboration and open communication, you can look forward to a much swifter switchover.

Navigating from C++ to Rust: The Key Takeaways 

The ongoing evolution of software development has given rise to a key choice for developers and businesses alike: whether to stick with the well-established C++ or venture into the promising world of Rust. While both languages have unique strengths and applications, learning and adopting Rust is necessary for those looking to boost career prospects and future-proof their businesses. 

For C++ developers venturing into the world of Rust, the transition can be demanding due to Rust's distinctive features and ownership model. Nevertheless, by recognising similarities, mastering the fundamentals, and consistently practising, they have a strong chance of overcoming the learning curve. 

Companies considering the shift to Rust should weigh the long-term advantages, including enhanced memory safety and performance. Employing Rust developers and adhering to best practices, such as utilising migration tools, commencing with small projects, and fostering collaboration, can facilitate a seamless transition.

As the programming landscape continues to evolve, embracing Rust represents a forward-thinking approach that can lead to improved code,  system security, and innovation. 

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