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Why Java’s Spring Framework Continues to Be So Popular

by | Apr 1, 2019

According to Oracle, more than 3 billion devices around the world run Java in some form. Indeed, Java powers much of the technologies you use every day. However, Java alone is just a programming language and a secure, efficient virtual machine. In the event that you want to write complex applications, you’ll want some type of framework to help you manage the complexity. Therefore, the open source community has built and supported the Spring Framework.

Explicitly, Spring is an application context manager and inversion of control architecture. In general, when you create new objects in a Spring application, Spring will manage those objects. It also makes sure the objects have access to the dependencies they need. Furthermore, Spring provides modules for writing to databases and creating web applications. The modules dramatically simplify these two common tasks (among many).

Spring Framework Essentials

Spring is not a new framework. In fact, Rod Johnson released the first iteration of Spring in 2002. Subsequently, the framework grew in popularity due to its intuitive handling of common application architecture issues. Specifically, Spring’s greatest strength is as a container for the application.

When you create your application within Spring, Spring will manage all of the challenges of maintaining references between objects. Significantly, Spring injects dependencies before the creation of new objects. Moreover, it gives developers greater control over the application’s control flow, all while managing that flow for developers.

Mistakenly, developers often refer to Spring as a web framework. However, Spring can work in any Java application, no matter the context. While Spring does provide a module and extensions for building web applications, it’s not limited to the web.

Spring has been open source since its release. Pivotal Software currently maintains the project. However, the community plays a large contributing role in its development.

Java’s Dominance

Spring’s success as a framework is largely due to Java’s success as a language. It’s difficult to beat the Java Virtual Machine in terms of speed and security. In addition, Java has a long history, tons of tools, and a massive community. For this reason, you’ll see Java at the top of any ranking of the world’s most popular programming languages.

Presently, Java is the dominant language used for enterprise development. C# is perhaps Java’s only rival in the enterprise space. Furthermore, popular new languages like Klojure, Scala, and Kotlin all compile to Java bytecode. While the language and syntax may change, Java’s foundation is solid and here to stay.

Therefore, there’s a huge market for Spring as well. With Spring’s introduction of a model-view-controller web framework and other web-based extensions, it allows Java applications to live seamlessly online. Java’s dominance is still unmatched in enterprise use. Spring allows Java’s strengths to extend to the web.

Spring’s Features

The best way to think of a Spring application is as various components wired together. Whereas you create the components, Spring handles the wiring.

For example, say you create a service class that needs to be accessed throughout your application. Spring will make sure there’s only one instance of that service class. It will also ensure that every other object that needs the service class has access to it.

This management of objects and their relationships is what dependency injection means in Java. To that end, you design objects in Spring so that they rely on outside forces to supply what they need. Then, you expect that those outside dependencies will always be injected when you need that object to do its job.

Moreover, Spring has messaging, caching, and transactions capabilities built into the framework. There’s also a data access module that dramatically simplifies the process of connecting to a database. For data access alone, Spring is worth using. However, the framework also provides web services. Spring’s model-view-controller framework wasn’t initially planned to be part of the project. However, it was later added based on demand and the belief that Enterprise Java Beans had problems of its own.

Spring Boot & Beyond

Perhaps the most important development to come from Spring is all its extensions and community-created tools. One such tool is Spring Boot, an opinionated microframework for quickly bootstrapping new apps. Whereas Spring leaves a lot of configuration up to the developer, Spring Boot is opinionated about configuration out of the box. The upshot is Spring Boot allows you to create a new web application in a few lines of code. Spring Boot allows Java to compete with Python, Node, and Ruby in terms of web application startup time.

If you have a specific use case you’re looking to build as a Java application, then there’s almost certainly a Spring extension to help you along your way. Over the past 16 years, Spring has become incredibly powerful and important in software development. The trend doesn’t appear to be slowing.

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