Introduction

Java continues to be an extremely popular language among the programming community. What has made Java even more popular among developers is the range of platforms and frameworks that provide APIs and run time environments to build large-scale, multi-featured and secure Java applications – most of which we use in our daily routines.

Two of these platforms are Java Enterprise Edition, Java EE, and Spring that are commonly used by Java developers for building big, complex business applications.

Java EE vs. Spring

The discussion around Java EE vs. Spring has gained a lot of traction in recent times from the Java community. Both platforms have certain unique features and give each other a strong competition.  

We will be discussing Java EE vs. Spring and covering different areas, including user reviews, surveys, and features. that will offer you great insights into which platform is currently winning the race.

Java EE

JEE or Jakarta Enterprise Edition, previously known as Java Platform, Enterprise Edition (Java EE) is a Java platform by Oracle. It offers a set of specifications, extending the features offered within Java Standard edition, SE, by including enterprise features for application development such as distributed computing, web services and Java microservices.

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The core component of Java EE includes Enterprise Java Beans, EJBs, Java Server Pages, JSP,  and Java Database Connectivity, JDBC. Java EE applications run on microservices or application servers that handle all the fundamental things such as transactions, security, scalability, concurrency and component management.  These are the most essential things an application must handle properly and smoothly.

Advantages of JEE

Here are some unique advantages offered by Java EE:

  • Based on past experiences of developers, the applications made on Java EE are considered more reliable, secure, and scalable.
  • If you have been using J2EE, then it will be easier for you to learn JEE.
  • It can be operated on multiple platforms.
  • It supports cross-platform portability.
  • Complex and high-transaction applications are very well handled by JEE.
  • Java EE has a proven track record with thousands of successful projects built by Java developers around the globe.

Limitations of JEE

  • It has a bit complex application development environment, which is difficult to understand for beginners.
  • The final cost of a project including development, deployment, and application development may end up being expensive.

Spring Framework

Spring is the application development framework for Java EE. It is an open-source Java platform that provides supports for developing robust and large-scale Java applications. It also offers tons of extensions that are used for building all sorts of large-scale applications on top of the Java EE platform.

It is a lightweight framework that enables developers to develop enterprise-class applications using Plain Old Java Object, POJO. Although the Spring framework does not have any specific programming model, it has become popular among Java developers as an addition to the Java platform. It has a huge community of Java developers who are working and contributing to introducing more extensions and improving existing features offered by the Spring framework.

Benefits of using Spring framework:

Some major benefits you can expect while using Spring framework include:

  • It allows the use of plain old Java objects; developers do not need an enterprise container like an application server.
  • It provides a great level of modularity to Java developers.
  • It offers a well-developed web framework.
  • It can be used to efficiently organize middle-tier objects.
  • Spring application code tends to be very easy to make test cases for various testings.

Disadvantages of Spring:

  • It is relatively complex to build on Spring as it lacks a clear focus.
  • For a beginner Java developer, learning Spring framework might be challenging.
  • You must have some knowledge of XML as a lot of XML is used in Spring.
  • Clear guidelines on several topics are not present in Spring documentation.
  • It takes a lot of time and effort in initial configurations.

Let’s take a look at both Java EE and Spring in detail:

Targeting the enterprises, Java EE offers a detailed reference execution and a set of different testing suites. Its interface offers a series of APIs for various functionalities to be provided for development, which include:

  • Java Database Connectivity (JDBC) for using databases
  • The Java Naming and Directory Interface (JNDI) for registries
  • The Java Transaction API (JTA) for exchanges
  • Java Message Service (JMS) for informing
  • JavaMail for email frameworks
  • JavaIDL (Java Deep learning) for CORBA (Common Object Request Broker Architecture) network

Java Connector is the tool used to connect all of them with an assortment of inheritance applications. Java EE can be visualized as a stage that characterizes ‘standard determinations/APIs’, which are then executed and utilized by Java developers for improvements in big enterprise applications. These applications are made up of modules that utilize Java EE compartments as their run-time framework.

On the contrary, the Spring framework is an open-source framework without a particular programming model. It is primarily used in the Java community as an expansion to Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB) and in some cases, even as an alternative to it.

The Spring framework also includes a variety of modules that provide a range of services for building applications like:

  • The base module of Spring provides spring core containers like BeanFactory and ApplicationContext for containerization. 
  • It offers aspect-oriented programming, allowing developers to implement cross-cutting concerns.
  • Configurable security processes are offered that support a range of standards, protocols, tools and practices via the Spring Security sub-projects.
  • A rapid application development solution for Spring-based enterprise applications is offered via the Spring Roo module.
  • Developers can work with relational database management systems on Java platforms using Java Database Connectivity (JDBC) and object-relational mapping tools. NoSQL databases are also fully supported by Spring.
  • It offers the configurative registration of message listener objects for transparent consumption of messages from message queues via Java Message Service (JMS); it’s a great improvement of message sending over standard JMS APIs.
  • Model view controller (MVC) model provides extensions and customization options for web applications and RESTful (representational state transfer) Web services.
  • Transaction management is also possible thanks to several transaction management APIs that can coordinate transactions for Java objects.
  • Remote management allows configuration and management of Java objects for local or remote configuration using Java Management Extensions (JMX).
  • It offers testing via various support classes for writing test cases for unit tests and integration tests.

Key differences between Java EE vs Spring

Java EE vs Spring discussion is usually based on the comparison of some very specific features. Both are quite popular choices among Java developers but they both have some prominent differences in their offerings in terms of features, services and cost.

Following are some of the major differences that spark the Java EE vs Spring debate:

Different architectures:

Java EE is based on a three-tier architecture. The first is the presentation tier that contains the user interface and focuses on delivering a fluid and stable experience. The second is the application tier that contains the main business logic of the application and the third is the data-tier, which comprises of the database and other data needs. 

Spring, on the other hand, is based on a layered architecture that includes different modules. Each module delivers different features for the applications and all these modules are built on top of their core containers.

Languages supported:

Java EE uses a high-level object-oriented programming language. Java is used in Java EE that checks each described feature of a programming language.

Spring does not have any specific programming model. Developers have the option to use Java as well as Kotlin in Spring.

Structures:

Java EE can be used to develop either web-based or non-web-based structures, whereas Spring offers a variety of structures for your application ranging from Microservices, cloud, serverless event driver, web applications, etc.

Performance and speed:

Speed is something that is always brought up in Java EE vs Spring. In terms of speed, Java EE is the clear winner as Spring is a bit slower than Java EE in terms of performance and usability.

Cost of projects:

Cost is one of the primary differences between Java EE vs Spring. Java EE or Jakarta EE comes with an Oracle-based license, whereas Spring has an open-source license. It is completely free to use.

Standardization:

Java EE is a Sun/Oracle standard/specification. Java EE incorporates things like Object-Relational Mapping, Security, Web Applications, database availability, and exchanges.

Spring, then again, is not a standard. It is just a framework for Java EE itself. It is a structure offering lots of functions on the Java EE details, but in its frame. 

Which is more popular?

There is a stark difference between the functionalities and features offered by both. However, the question remains: which is more popular and preferred among developers?

Below are some answers to a survey conducted recently on the Java ecosystem.

JVM ecosystem report 2020

The Annual JVM ecosystem report presents the results of one of the largest annual surveys done on the JVM ecosystem. The surveys were done by gathering over 2000 responses in the second half of 2019.

Question 1: Do you use the Spring Framework?

Exactly 60 percent of developers said that they depend on the Spring framework to produce their application. Undoubtedly, this is a significantly high market share for a third-party open-source framework for Java development.

Question 2: Which server-side web frameworks do you use?

Again, the server-side development is also a Spring-dominated world, although Java EE is not used in server-side development so there is no competition. Just to emphasize on the popularity of Spring, half of the market uses Spring Boot and almost 25 percent uses Spring MVC.

Question 3: Do you use Enterprise Java, J2EE or Java EE?

The question of whether Java developers use the Enterprise Edition (Java EE) is something that is asked every year. Surprisingly, this question had a new option added that was “Yes, but via Spring or another framework like JPA or Servlets” just to know if people are using Java EE indirectly.

35% of Java developers straightaway denied using Java EE, and it is not surprising as, from the survey of last year, this number was 38 percent. It is important to point out that almost 40 percent of Java developers are using Enterprise Java indirectly via Spring or any other framework. 

This is indeed concerning for the popularity of Java EE. Spring seems the clear winner in Java EE vs Spring.

Question 4: What Java EE version do you use for your main application?

This was the last question that brought about some more interesting information regarding the usage of Java EE vs Spring. Upon asking about the Java EE version, almost 40% of developers use the latest version of Java EE, although Java EE 7 still has a considerable user base and 2% of Java developers still use J2EE.

The important thing to mention is that 21% of the respondents were not aware of the exact version of Java EE they are using. By further asking them, it was found out that almost 95% of them were users of Spring framework and were using Java EE indirectly. 

Conclusion

Java EE vs. Spring discussion cannot be easily concluded as both Java EE and Spring are best known for their unique offerings. Java EE is primarily intended for organizations and companies that require an expansive, adaptable and disseminated framework for building large-scale applications.

Despite these prominent offerings, the Spring framework has risen as a major competitor to Java EE. It is easier to use and provides a decent system for web advancement whereas JEE does not.

See Also: When to Use Microservices in Java?

Though Java EE still has a large user base in the form of organizations and enterprises, but Spring ranks on top among developers.

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Author

Shaharyar Lalani is a developer with a strong interest in business analysis, project management, and UX design. He writes and teaches extensively on themes current in the world of web and app development, especially in Java technology.

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