Matt RaibleMatt Raible is a Java Champion and Developer Advocate at Okta.

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Over 10 years ago, I wrote my first blog post. Since then, I've authored books, had kids, traveled the world, found Trish and blogged about it all.

How do you get up to speed on Rails and Grails quickly?

What's the best way to learn Rails and Grails and satisfy one of my New Year's Resolutions (read more) at the same time? Books:

Thanks to connections with publishers, I was able to get PDFs of most of these for free. The only ones I paid for were the beta books (Groovy Recipes and Programming Groovy) from the Pragmatic Programmers. I doubt I'll read them all, but I've had fun so far.

I polished off Getting Started with Grails in a few hours. I expect to finish Rails for Java Developers this week. I used to hate reading PDFs, but I've enjoyed reading these books. A 30" monitor might have something to do with it.

After honing my Grails and Rails knowledge, I hope to become a GWT and Flex Ninja. For those GWT and Flex experts out there, what are the best books for those technologies? By "best", I mean the most advanced and up-to-date.

Posted in Java at Jan 31 2008, 11:29:19 AM MST 10 Comments

Is there room for both Rails and Grails in a company?

For the last week, I've been knee deep learning more about Rails and Grails. The reason is because I think developers (and companies) are going to have a hard time deciding which framework is best for them. The real question is: do they both do the same thing or are their different applications for each? Is "Grails vs. JRuby on Rails" a "Struts 2 vs. Spring MVC vs. Stripes" argument - where they're all so similar it probably doesn't really matter which one you choose?

Of course, the Stripes folks will object, but I really don't think it's that much better than Spring MVC 2.5 or Struts 2.1. Sorry guys. ;-)

If it is a Spring MVC vs. Struts 2 type of argument, then it seems to make sense for a company to standardize on one -- don't you agree? Does it make sense to allow both frameworks in a company if they're so similar?

Google has had much success in restricting its allowed programming languages to C++, Java, Python, and JavaScript. Shouldn't other companies do something similar? It seems like a good idea to restrict allowed web frameworks to a few as well. For companies with successful Java infrastructures, it seems logic to allow one Java-based web framework and Rails or Grails for getting things done as fast as possible.

Here's the sticking point: Ask any Rails developers and they'll say Rails wins hands down. Ask any Grails developers and they'll say Grails is the easy choice because it builds on top of Java's strong open source projects. Blah, blah, blah - where's the objective voice that's identified the "sweet spot" for each?

The Relevance guys, particularly Stuart Halloway, has a post about How to pick a platform. The logic in this post seems to imply that both frameworks do solve the same problem - just in different ways. Stu seems to recommend Rails for most applications, because Ruby is a better language. He says Grails might win if you have "an established team of Spring ninjas".

I know Stu and believe he does know his stuff (in both Java and Ruby). So is this the definitive guide on which framework to choose? If you have a staff full of Java developers, they should start learning/using Rails rather than doing the easier transition to Groovy, which they pretty much already know?

I don't know what the answer is, but that's what everyone seems to be saying. The problems is, the authorities on this matter (Rails vs. Grails) are often "head honchos" in companies that have a vested interest in seeing their respective framework/platform succeed. Since the Relevance team employs some Grails developers, it seems they're less biased. But who knows.

Is Rails really head and shoulders better than Grails? I don't think so, but I've only been programming with both for a week.

Posted in Java at Jan 30 2008, 11:48:14 AM MST 11 Comments

Migrating a Rails app to Grails

There's an interesting trend I've seen happening at companies over the last year. More and more, they're experimenting with Rails and/or Grails for both prototyping and real applications. I think this is an excellent use for these frameworks as they both are very productive. The reasons for their productivity is simple: zero turnaround and less code.

For a Java-based company that's built their bread and butter applications on Java and been successful with it, both frameworks can be disruptive. Bread and butter applications tend to be large and somewhat difficult to maintain. In my experience, the biggest maintenance headache is not writing code or fixing bugs, it's the turnaround time required to make changes, run tests and build the application to test in your browser. Since Rails and Grails eliminate the turnaround, it's only natural for developers at companies with a lengthy build process to love their increased productivity.

Over the next couple weeks, I'm going to do some experimenting with porting a Rails application to Grails. Why? Because I think companies are going to have a difficult time choosing between these two frameworks for rapid prototyping and (possible) production deployments. While both frameworks are great for prototyping, the last thing most developers want to do is throw away the prototype and develop it with something else. They want to continue to enhance the prototype and eventually put it into production. With Rails and Grails (and many others), it's possible to build the real application in a matter of weeks, so why shouldn't it be put into production?

For most Java-based companies, putting a Rails application into production is unfamiliar territory. However, a Grails application is just a WAR, so they can continue to use all the Java infrastructure they know and love. So for companies with an established, tuned and successful JVM infrastructure, does it really make sense to use Rails over Grails? The only thing I can think of is language reasons - there's a lot of Ruby fanatics out there.

So again, the purpose of my experiment is simple: to see if a Grails app can do everything a Rails app can. As for language features and scalability, I'm not really concerned with that right now. I'm not looking to prove that either framework should be used for all web applications - just certain types.

Has anyone out there ported a Rails application to Grails? If so, are there any gotchas I should watch out for?

NOTE: I realize that Rails can be deployed on the JVM with JRuby. However, I think many companies have existing Java-based tools (logging, JMX, Spring backends, etc.) that more easily integrate with Grails than Rails. I could be wrong.

Posted in Java at Jan 22 2008, 09:37:49 AM MST 12 Comments

AppFuse vs. Grails vs. Rails

In the comments of my Choosing a JVM Web Framework, Graeme Rocher writes:

no offense Matt, but I fear you are a grossly inappropriate person to be writing such a study given your past history of claiming frameworks like Grails are competitors to AppFuse. Any such study will come laced with doubts over its honesty and I'm sure this doesn't just apply to Grails.

In the post Graeme linked to, I said:

I think Grails and AppFuse are more likely competitors rather than compatible. Grails uses Spring, Spring MVC and Hibernate under-the-covers, whereas AppFuse uses the raw frameworks. Of course, it would be cool to allow different classes w/in AppFuse to be written in Groovy or JRuby. At this point, I think it's probably better for users to choose one or the other.

Since writing that post a year ago, I've changed my opinion about AppFuse being competitors with Grails or Rails. Why? Because they're different languages. I don't think you should choose a web development stack first. I think you should choose your language first. For those that choose raw Java, I think AppFuse provides a good solution. To be more explicit, here's a private conversation that David Whitehurst (author of The AppFuse Primer) and I exchanged.

David: Have you been looking at Ruby on Rails any? And, if so, I'm sure you're as impressed by those who command the language as I am. But, I think the J2EE web application is not dead yet. Do you think any comparison of the complexity of AppFuse vs. Rails should be mentioned in the book?

Matt: I'm highly aware of Rails, have attended talks and tutorials on it, even bought books about it - but I've never written an app, done a tutorial or used it in the real-world. I'm afraid of it. I'm almost certain I'd like it, and I'd likely like Grails as well. However, the reason I stick with pure Java is because that's where my clients' demand is and hence the consulting dollars for me.

It's probably also possible to create AppFuse for both Rails and Grails. I believe Rails' Streamlined in much like AppFuse. I like to think of AppFuse as language agnostic - it's always been designed to eliminate ramp up time. While Rails and Grails simplify the programming API and make it possible to develop code with less lines of code, it'd be nice to have user management, file upload and other things like AppFuse has. When I start using these frameworks, it's likely I'll develop some sort of features like AppFuse has and use them on projects. Of course, if they already have all the features of AppFuse via plugins, I wouldn't reinvent the wheel - I'm simply use what's already there and be happy about it.

I don't know if it's relevant to mention Rails, but it probably doesn't hurt. There's no reason to ignore the competition if they're indeed competition. I don't see them as competition, and I almost don't see Grails as competition either. AppFuse (in its current state) is for developers that've chosen to use the language and frameworks that AppFuse supports. It's not trying to solve everyone's problems - it's merely trying to simplify things for those using the frameworks it supports.

There's nothing saying that AppFuse can't have a Rails or Grails version in the future. For me, it'll happen if I start developing applications using these frameworks and see the integration needs like I saw with the Java frameworks. The good news is most of these frameworks have done the integration work, so it's really just a matter of creating features or using plugins.

David: I keep getting these "dream-squasher" friends of mine showing me Rails, Grails, and how wonderful Ruby is. It's impressive, but I'm not convinced that big business is ready to adopt it any time soon.

Matt: As a Java programmer, I think you'd be a fool to ignore Rails or Grails and not at least be familiar with them. There's no reason to discount technology until you've used it on a real-world project - at least 6 months or longer - IMO.

Just because you're productive in Ruby and like it - that doesn't make you a bad Java programmer.

I hope this clears up any confusion on how I feel towards Rails or Grails. I would welcome the opportunity to use them on a project. If I was starting a products-based company, I certainly would give them a shot in the prototyping phase. However, I'm a consultant that makes money from clients hiring me to explain/do what I know best. At the current time, that happens to be open source Java frameworks.

I do plan on learning a plethora of other frameworks, in other languages, I just haven't had the time yet. When I do, I hope that I can somehow become proficient enough to help companies adopt them as well. However, to build up that experience and expertise will likely take years. I think this is how lots of companies feel. Can you blame them for not "jumping ship" on their current skills and knowledge?

Of course, then you have the Relevance guys who seem to be doing exactly what I hope to be doing in several years from now. Not only do they specialize in Java and its frameworks, but they also do consulting and training around Rails, Grails and Ajax. I can't help but admire them tremendously.

Posted in Java at Aug 08 2007, 10:22:34 AM MDT 13 Comments