Look no further than last night's Spring Dallas User's group meeting for indication of how deeply Spring has cut into the mindspace of java enterprise programmers.


Spring Rivals Java Enterprise In Developer Interest ?

This is a "special interest group" for the java community in Dallas, and last night was almost as large an attendance as some of our JavaMUG meetings.

JavaMUG is a hugely successful, well attended, and long lived user group, so this should not be ignored by anyone who is planning projects over the next decade, Spring really does rival enterprise java at this point

- I guarantee you wouldn't get this kind of attendance if JBoss or anything involving EJBs came into display their latest wares. The JBoss group couldn't even hold itself together, and disbanded last year, even though JBoss was the hottest thing going in EJB land for some time here.

There were no "wannabe" coders here, virtually everyone here was a serious developer doing real enterprise apps in corporations all over town, and the questions reflected that expertise.

Focus On Web Technologies


Keith Donald is known for other things as the creator of Spring Web Flow. He presented on four parts of the Spring lineup.

  • Spring MVC 2.5 introduces significant new features that simplify the core MVC programming model, including support for annotated @Controllers.
  • Spring Web Flow 2 adds significant new features for implementing conversational flows within a Spring MVC-based app.
  • Spring Faces, a new module, provides groundbreaking support for JavaServerFaces in a familiar Spring MVC environment.
  • Spring Javascript, a new module, integrates leading UI toolkits such as Dojo and Ext into a Spring environment.

I'll cover only the parts I'm interested in, below

All code, no Spring IDE

There wasn't a hint of Spring IDE in the presentation, at least nothing that I saw. This means, to me anyway, that they still aren't ready for that level of interest. Not so in the crowd, I counted several questions that were tooling oriented, and wanted to know how to do this with tooling that would keep things organized for you, such as we are increasingly seeing as expected in the IDE world.

Like one guy asks "Can I debug this Web Flow stuff?" Keith answered in the negative - it's not written in java, doesn't work like that.

Keith was very diplomatic about that shortcoming and quick to point out that the documentation and code by convention thing really helps. So I'll cover code by convention thing next.

Coding By Convention

No single trend in the programming community has added more over-all value in recent years than the "coding by convention" trend, or so it seems to this observer.

Everywhere throughout his presentation Keith was able to demonstrate the nifty-keen ease that code by convention added to the use of the frameworks. Lots of things he did would theoretically require use of documentation but maybe not as much because so much was done by convention that it was just easy to figure out as he was demo-ing it. I'll grant you that it isn't nearly so obvious without the demo, so the Camtasia crowd will definitely be the group with the greatest influence in this new world order.

Bottom line is you could over-ride lots of things or just do it by convention, and he showed us both and it seemed pretty intuitive and easy to understand. Especially when the URL and the methods and the navigation all seemed to follow the same semantics, it made things really easy to get where he was going.

Coding by Convention also starts out as the non-IDE answer to IDE ease of use. When stuff is this easy you may not need all those wizards to keep things straight. So it will be interesting to see how the IDE world responds to this new trend.

New Things Coming Down The Pike For Spring:

Pretty random here, but here is what I was able to glean, without the details.

  • Current Flow DSL becoming Site Definition Language
  • Moving to Groovy from "their own syntax" for Flow Language
  • JavaScript module today, Flex module tomorrow .......
  • Java Driven Validation Engine
  • Big focus on REST, especially as regards making the same data present in many forms with little effort. (JSon, Atom, other)


Other Random Observations:

  • One more JSF Framework, one more ho-hum from the audience. Keith commented on the limited use cases of the JSF tooling, which was OK given very few raised their hand when asked who was doing JSF. I think everyone but tool vendors knows how poorly JSF is regarded, it will be interesting to note whether the latest tooling eventually creates new market.
  • Good Graphics, understanding of clean design. Why are there so few people who understand clean visual design? Has no one noticed Apple in the last couple decades? It is refreshing that Spring definitely has. Their use of good clean visual design on their site and their documentation made this presentation and all related crusing of the Spring while watching the talk very engaging.
  • Spring gets bit by same practice they jive others for ! It was fun to hear Keith tell the story of wrapping various javascript packages and calling them SpringJavaScript. And some of the challenges they endured as a result. Chuckle. They don't look favorably on that practice when they are the library that gets wrapped. I guess I have a warped sense of humor.
  •  Annotations has arrived. There was some quite vocal resistance in the crowd, but what you can do with annotations and what you can do with xml are no longer the same. For a while it was merely an ease of use thing, that is no longer. Keith demonstrated capabilities you just can't do in xml, and it is very easy, and thus very cool.

What If Spring Platform Takes Off?

Hello, is there a game changer in the room?

Barely discussed, but still mentioned was Spring Platform.

Everyone gets to watch what they want to watch, and believe what they want to believe.

If it's rustling in the tea leaves that gets your attention, then this is the one I'm most intrigued by. There are lots of smart people in the world, but these guys seem to understand where markets are headed. I'm keeping my eye on this.

Interestingly, I'm not saying that I believe they will make money, because personally,  I have little faith in open source land for creating revenue. But will they gain market share and take it from others? My bet is yes, and that Oracle and IBM will both be forced to answer. This will ripple down through the marketplace, all while Sun buys non-revenuing shops, focuses on me-toos like FX, and generally misses the boat as it always seems to do.