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April 22, 2005

"Spring: A Developer's Notebook": A Better, Simpler Way to Build Enterprise Applications

Sebastopol, CA--Bruce Tate describes himself as a bona fide weekend extremist. "I've done some pretty crazy things on a mountain bike," he confesses, "and I love to kayak." So naturally, Tate begins his introduction to the Spring Framework with a tale of running the Little River through the Great Smokey Mountains one March: "As we put in, two inches of snow frosted the landscape, and flakes lightly dusted our boats on another memorable, incredible day..." The intensity of the run left him sleepless for a week. "The cold weather that starts a new paddling season adds an indescribable kind of energy to a run," he explains. "There's just something magical about the thaw--the springtime."

The Java community, however, is encountering a Spring of a different kind. In Spring: A Developer's Notebook, (O'Reilly, US $29.95) Tate and coauthor Justin Gehtland speak of the spring that follows the great freeze of Enterprise JavaBeans 2.x. "Tens of thousands of applications lay in frigid, near-death conditions in this well-intentioned, massive block of ice," they observe. "EJB can suck the life out of developer if you're not careful, and sometimes, even if you are."

After all, Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) was supposed to be simple, but it didn't turn out that way. Tate and Gehtland list several reasons why EJB hasn't been the cure for J2EE developers' headaches that it was hoped to be: you can't test EJB applications well, EJB is incredibly intrusive, EJB forces unnatural design decisions, and so on. The Spring Framework, on the other hand, cuts through layers of overhead and makes enterprise application development simple again.

"As Java developers embrace the notion that not everything has to be hyper-complicated to work, enabling technologies, such as Spring, will see a big boom," says Gehtland. "Spring is more than just a 'lightweight container.' It allows Java developers who are building J2EE apps to get to the heart of their real domain problems and stop spending so much time on the minutiae of providing services to their domain."

"Spring is one of the most important, rapidly growing open source projects today," agrees Tate. "Spring freed me from thinking about the details of transactions, security, and persistence. Spring simplified my code in ways that EJB couldn't. Justin and I wrote about this experience in our Jolt Award-winning book, Better, Faster, Lighter Java, but weren't able to give Spring the full treatment it deserved. The Developer's Notebook series was perfect for this."

"After we delved into it for Better, Faster, Lighter Java, Spring just became more and more the enabling tool of choice for me when creating Java applications," adds Gehtland. "Spring solves a lot of the configuration and management problems so many teams struggle against, and the framework provides a lot of sensible default implementations of emerging technologies--like a good AOP framework, solid MVC implementation, and support for more specialized frameworks like Tapestry and JSF."

Spring: A Developer's Notebook shows how to take advantage of Spring to write lightweight applications that perform heavyweight tasks: how to put effort into writing code that matters, not writing interfaces and descriptors that make the container's bookkeeping come out right. Using a hands-on, lab-style approach, the book shows developers how to:

  • Use the Inversion of Control pattern to simplify wiring classes together
  • Use Aspects to add services like transactions and security without pain
  • Use tools like Hibernate and iBatis
  • Use Spring MVC and Spring Rich to build web frontends and rich clients
  • Use Spring with frameworks such as Struts and JSF
  • Lightweight containers, aspect-oriented programming, and Inversion of Control have a reputation for being confusing and difficult. And, in earlier implementations, they were. They are simple and powerful in the Spring world, however, especially when explained by someone who has been there, struggled with the alternatives, and come to realize that there is indeed a way out of the J2EE mess.

    "With Spring: A Developer's Notebook, Bruce Tate and Justin Gehtland offer a great way to get started with the Spring Framework," says Rod Johnson, the creator of Spring, in his foreword to the book. "You'll find the consistent structure helpful, as it takes you step-by-step through important development activities. You'll find many code examples demonstrating exactly how to use Spring to address common requirements." Johnson notes that although Spring has a large and growing literature, with more books coming out every quarter, this one fills an important gap: "If you're new to Spring and need to get started quickly, you need this book."

    Additional Resources:

    Spring: A Developer's Notebook
    Bruce A. Tate and Justin Gehtland
    ISBN: 0-596-00910-0, 184 pages, $29.95 US, $41.95 CA
    order@oreilly.com
    1-800-998-9938; 1-707-827-7000

    About O'Reilly

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