SpringSource Boosts Java Framework with Spring 3

SpringSource today unveiled the latest version of its Java development framework, along with a new developer edition of its Apache Tomcat-based application server.

Spring 3.0 is a major upgrade of the popular dev framework, said Shaun Connolly, SpringSource vice president of product management. SpringSource, which was acquired last month by VMware (see VMware Reaches for the Clouds with Deal to Acquire SpringSource), is the chief commercial sponsor of the open-source Spring Framework.

Spring 3.0 features full support for RESTful Web services and a new expression language. The new Developer Edition of the tc Server is designed to give developers visibility and information when debugging and performance tweaking their Spring apps.

Slated for release next month, the company said Spring 3.0 will be 100 percent backward-compatible with Spring 2.5 applications. Spring 3.0 will also be compatible with the SpringSource Tool Suite, the free Eclipse-based dev environment for building Spring apps.

The Developer Edition of the tc Server is a free commercial product available now for download from the SpringSource download center. It’s also bundled in the free SpringSource Tool Suite. "The Developer Edition takes the Apache-Tomcat core of our broader SpringSource tc Server offering and adds deep insight for Java developers into the performance characteristics and execution details of their Spring applications,” Connolly said.

The tc Server Developer Edition ships with Spring Insight, a dashboard designed to provide developers with real-time Spring application performance metrics. The dashboard is aimed at agile developers and the QA team, Connolly said.

Deeper Into Spring
SpringSource unwrapped both products at its “SpringOne 2GX” developer conference, under way this week in New Orleans. This year’s fifth annual event combines the SpringOne developer show with the world's biggest conference on Groovy (the object oriented Java programming alternative) and Grails (the Web-app framework for Groovy). The conference includes eight simultaneous tracks covering Spring, Groovy/Grails, Apache and Hyperic.

Spring is a layered Java/J2EE framework based on code published in the book Expert One-on-One Java EE Design and Development (Wrox Press, October 2002), by SpringSource co-founder Rod Johnson. He also wrote the first version of the framework. Johnson now serves as general manager of the SpringSource division of VMware.

A key feature of the Spring 3.0 release is the new Spring Expression Language (SpEL), which made the rounds through the summer in several community releases. Connolly describes it as a kind of core parser for bean definitions.

“You can think of it as a mini-scripting language that’s grafted onto the Spring programming model that can be used to describe tasks and configurations across Spring projects,” he said. “It enables a richer interaction with XML configuration files when wiring beans, and it’s also useful in security and integration scenarios. It’s just an easier way for developers to do their job: Instead of writing 20 lines of Java code, they can write a single line using the Expression Language.”

The SpEL also sets the stage for even more interesting innovations, once SpringSource fully integrates with VMware, said Bradley Shimmin, principal analyst at Current Analysis.

“Being able to express the metadata they use in the [Spring] beans more fully is going to let them push the information down into the VM more readily, so that the VM is more aware of what’s going in the applications that you’re building in Spring,” Shimmin said. “And I think that’s going to allow VMware/SpringSource to do some pretty cool stuff in terms of helping customers build applications that can respond to environmental needs, such as processing cycles in real time in a much more flexible manner.”

No less important, Shimmin said, is REST enablement in Spring 3.0. “Whenever I talk to the vendors in this space that deal with the application infrastructure side of things, they all preach having open APIs and using both SOA and RESTful methods for concocting transactions between systems," he said. "So it was an important step for SpringSource to provide this comprehensive support for the RESTful architecture. This allows enterprises to interface with any vendor creating software that uses RESTful APIs."

Spring 3.0 also provides early support for JSR 330, the Java Specification Request with the Java Community Process (JCP) for a standardized, extensible dependency injection API for Java. The JSR is sponsored by SpringSource and Google, and Rod Johnson is one of the spec leads.

SpringSource has established a solid presence among developers, said Forrester Research analyst John Rymer, and the company has been expanding its offerings for a while to provide management, runtimes, and development tools. Today’s two product releases offer evidence that the company’s acquisition by VMware may well provide the additional resources it needs to pursue that evolving product strategy. It’s also evidence that, so far at least, VMware is letting SpringSource go its own way.

SpringOne Conference organizers are emphasizing that its list of key sponsors this year includes Adobe and Microsoft. “I like to see that,” said Connolly, “because there’s a fair number of people doing rich-clients using Adobe, as well as Microsoft technologies to leverage a Spring middle tier.”

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].

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