Spring vs Spring Boot: Technical Comparison of Both the Frameworks

Quick Summary:

Are you facing the dilemma of spring vs spring boot. Java Spring framework offers customization and modularity for complex projects. Spring Boot simplifies development with conventions, perfect for microservices and faster delivery. Your choice depends on project goals: precision or speed.

In the Java development, Spring has been a prominent framework for over a decade, helping developers build robust, scalable, and maintainable applications. However, in recent years, Spring Boot has emerged as a game-changer, simplifying the development process further. Both Spring and Spring Boot have their positive and negatives, choosing the right one depends on your project’s requirements. In this extensive comparison, we’ll explore the differences between Spring and Spring Boot in various aspects to help you make an informed decision.

Factors Spring Spring Boot
Purpose It is a Java EE framework used to build web apps. It is advanced layer added to Spring framework, used to build REST APIs.
Prime Features Prime Features of Spring is Dependency Injection. Prime Features of Spring Boot is Autoconfiguration.
Developing Applications Spring allows to develop loosely coupled applications. Spring Boot framework helps to develop stand-alone applications.
Boilerplate Code Spring requires more boilerplate code. Spring Boot requires less boilerplate code.
Server No embedded servers are offered by Spring. Embedded servers are offered by Spring Boot.
Database Support Spring doesn’t provide in-memory database support. Offers several plugins to work with the embedded and in-memory database.
Deployment Descriptor Need Spring requires deployment descriptor. Spring Boot doesn’t require deployment descriptor.
Testing Difficult in Testing. Easier in Testing.
XML configuration Spring requires XML configuration. Spring boot doesn’t need XML configuration.
CLI Tools Spring doesn’t provide CLI tools. Spring boot does provide CLI tools.
Provided Plugins No plugins are provided by Spring Framework. Maven & Gradle build tool plugin provided by spring boot.

This table summarizes the technical differences between the two frameworks. We’ll also cover the in-depth comparison of their technical capabilities. But before that let’s take see the overview of each framework.

What is Spring? A lightweight, modular Java Framework

Spring Framework – Gitstar:  53.5K | Fork: 37.1K | Licence: Apache-2.0 license

What is Spring?

The Spring Framework is an open-source Java platform developed by Rod Johnson in 2002, and is currently owned by Pivotal. The key aim is to simplify enterprise Java development through variety of features organized into about 20 modules. These modules are divided into 6 categories: Core Container, Data Access/Integration, Web, AOP (Aspect Oriented Programming), Instrumentation, and Test. Spring provides a lightweight container for managing beans and enforcing inversion of control, allowing for loose coupling between components.

It supports declarative configuration through annotations and XML along with a non-invasive programming model. Spring has a vast ecosystem including Spring Boot for rapid application development, Spring Data for data access, Spring Cloud for microservices, and more. With its emphasis on versatility and ease of use, Spring has become the de facto standard framework for building robust enterprise Java applications.

Features of Java Spring Framework

Spring framework offers a variety of features that facilitates Java application development. Here are some of the key features:

Features of Java Spring Framework

  • Dependency Injection
  • Aspect-Oriented Programming
  • Data Access
  • Batch Processing
  • Web Applications
  • Security
  • Transaction Management

Advantages & Disadvantages of Spring Framework

Let’s explore the key benefits and limitations of Spring framework, providing insights into why this has been a prominent framework, while also acknowledging the challenges & considerations while selecting this framework.

Advantages Disadvantages
Lightweight and modular architecture Complex dependency graph
Powerful dependency injection and IoC Conceptual overhead to understand IoC and AOP
Aspect-oriented programming support Many configuration options can be overwhelming
Consistent abstraction over technologies Dependency injection increases memory usage
Productive development and testing Not optimized for mobile development
Reduced boilerplate code Upgrading can require changes across projects
Declarative configuration through annotations and XML Not beginner friendly, steep learning curve
Non-invasive programming model Limited options for native image generation

What is Spring Boot? Streamlined, opinionated Java framework

Spring Boot – Github star: 69.9K | Fork 39.6K | Licence: Apache-2.0 license

What is Spring Boot?

Spring Boot, an influential and widely adopted extension of the Spring Framework, stands out as a solution specially crafted for the dynamic landscape of internet application development. It excels in simplifying and expediting the creation of production-ready Java applications tailored for the web. Spring Boot’s uniqueness lies in its ability to navigate the intricate demands of internet-based projects.

Embracing the “convention over configuration” philosophy, it empowers developers to construct self-contained, internet-facing applications with minimal setup and a more compact footprint. Its array of features and seamless integration with Spring Boot microservices enables the rapid development of modern, internet-centric applications, including microservices-based systems, while adhering to industry best practices and reducing development time.

Key Features of Spring Boot Framework

Following are some of the key features of Spring boot that stands out the spring boot from other frameworks. They are as follows:

Key Features of Spring Boot Framework

  • Opinionated defaults
  • Auto-configuration
  • Embedded web servers
  • Spring Boot starters
  • Microservices development
  • Production-ready metrics
  • Externalized configuration
  • Embedded database support
  • Spring Initializer for project setup

Benefits & Limitations of Spring Boot

The advantage and disadvantage of Spring boot plays a vital role in shaping the development landscape of modern Java applications. They are as follows:

Advantages Disadvantages
 Rapid development with opinionated defaults.  Learning curve for beginners.
 Simplified configuration with auto-configuration.  Potential for excessive auto-configuration.
 Seamless integration with embedded web servers.  Limited flexibility in some cases.
 Spring Boot starters for efficient project setup.  Large memory footprint for microservices.
 Ideal for microservices and cloud-native development.  Some customization may require overriding defaults.
 Built-in monitoring and metrics for production readiness.  Dependency conflicts with auto-configuration.
 Externalized configuration for easy environment-specific settings.  Limited support for complex legacy systems.
 Simplified unit and integration testing.  Complex use cases may require manual configuration.

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Head -to- Head Comparison of Spring vs Spring boot

Spring & Spring Boot are two powerful top Java frameworks used for building enterprise-level applications. In this head-to-head comparison we will explore some of the key aspects of both frameworks. The key aim is to give you insight with the help of this comparison so you can make an informed decision while selecting between two frameworks.

Architecture & Complexity

Spring: Spring follows a traditional modular architecture with various modules such as Core, AOP, ORM, and more. This modularity allows developers to have fine-grained control over components making it suitable for complex and enterprise-level applications. However, this fine-grained control can be overwhelming for the beginner.

Spring boot: In contrast, Spring boot is designed by keeping simplicity in mind. It uses an opinionated approach, reducing the complexity associated with the setting up a spring boot, you can quickly get started without delving into extensive configurations. This makes it a more accessible choice for projects where streamlined development is a priority.

Configuration

Let’s explore the configuration required for developing JSP web application with Spring Boot and Spring. Determining mappings, other supporting configurations, and the dispatcher servlet are necessary for Spring. You can use an initializer class or web.xml for this.

MVC Configuration

Spring

public class MyWebAppInitializer implements WebApplicationInitializer {
    @Override
    public void onStartup(ServletContext container) {
        AnnotationConfigWebApplicationContext context
          = new AnnotationConfigWebApplicationContext();
        context.setConfigLocation("com.aglowid");
        container.addListener(new ContextLoaderListener(context));
        ServletRegistration.Dynamic dispatcher = container
          .addServlet("dispatcher", new DispatcherServlet(context))
        dispatcher.setLoadOnStartup(1);
        dispatcher.addMapping("/");
    }
}

We also need to add the @EnableWebMVC annotation to a @Configuration class, and define a view-resolver to resolve the views returned from the controllers:

@EnableWebMvc
@Configuration
public class ClientWebConfig implements WebMvcConfigurer { 
   @Bean
   public ViewResolver viewResolver() {
      InternalResourceViewResolver bean
        = new InternalResourceViewResolver();
      bean.setViewClass(JstlView.class);
      bean.setPrefix("/WEB-INF/view/");
      bean.setSuffix(".jsp");
      return bean;
   }
}

Spring boot:

Comparatively, after the web starter is added, Spring Boot just requires a few properties to function:

spring.mvc.view.prefix=/WEB-INF/jsp/

spring.mvc.view.suffix=.jsp

Dependency Management

Look at the minimal dependencies needed to use Spring to construct a web application.

<dependency>
    <groupId>org.springframework</groupId>
    <artifactId>spring-web</artifactId>
    <version>5.3.5</version>
</dependency>
<dependency>
    <groupId>org.springframework</groupId>
    <artifactId>spring-webmvc</artifactId>
    <version>6.0.13</version>
</dependency>

­ Every additional dependency is automatically included at build time to the finished archive

Library testing is another excellent example. The libraries JUnit, Mockito, and Spring Test are typically used. We need to add each of these libraries as a dependency in a Spring project.

Alternatively, we may have testing automatically include these libraries with Spring Boot by simply needing the startup dependency. Different Spring modules have many beginning requirements provided by Spring Boot. Here are a few of the most widely utilized ones:

  • spring-boot-starter-data-jpa
  • spring-boot-starter-security
  • spring-boot-starter-test
  • spring-boot-starter-web
  • spring-boot-starter-thymeleaf

To know more about the starters, you can check out the Spring Documentation.

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Security Configuration

­Keeping the user understanding in mind we will only discuss how HTTP Basic authentication is used in these two prominent frameworks.

Spring

Let’s begin with the dependencies required to be configured for security in spring. Java Spring framework requires both the standard spring-security-web and spring-security-config dependencies to set up Security in your application.

Next, we must include a class that uses the @EnableWebSecurity annotation to generate a SecurityFilterChain bean:

@Configuration
@EnableWebSecurity
public class CustomWebSecurityConfigurerAdapter {
    @Autowired
    public void configureGlobal(AuthenticationManagerBuilder auth) throws Exception {
        auth.inMemoryAuthentication()
          .withUser("FirstUser")
            .password(passwordEncoder()
            .encode("FirstUserPass"))
          .authorities("ROLE_USER");
    }
    @Bean
     public SecurityFilterChain filterChain(HttpSecurity http) throws Exception {
        http.authorizeRequests()
          .anyRequest().authenticated()
          .and()
          .httpBasic();
        return http.build();
    }
    @Bean
    public PasswordEncoder passwordEncoder() {
        return new BCryptPasswordEncoder();
    }
}

Here InMemeoryAuthentication is used for configuration.

For Spring Boot also, it requires dependencies for security, however, we just need to add spring-boot-starter-security, which will add all necessary dependencies.  Also the security configuration for spring boot is same as given above.

When to use Spring?

Spring framework has proven to be the versatile solution for modern software development. Let’s delve into the scenarios where spring can be an asset to developers.

When to use Spring?

  • Large-Scale Enterprise Applications
  • Flexibility
  • Dependency Injection
  • Aspect-Oriented Programming (AOP)
  • Integrating with Existing Technologies
  • Robust Security
  • High Customization
  • Extensive Community Support
  • Long-Term Maintenance
  • Microservices Architecture

When to use Spring boot?

The advent of Spring Boot has brought a paradigm shift to software development. This introduction unravels the use cases and advantages of Spring Boot, guiding developers in harnessing its power effectively.

When to use Spring boot?

  • Rapid Development
  • Cloud-Native Applications
  • Simplified Configuration
  • Opinionated Defaults
  • Embedded Servers
  • Auto-Configuration
  • Streamlined Dependency Management
  • Building Standalone Applications
  • Prototyping and Proof of Concepts
  • Reducing Boilerplate Code

Wrapping up!

To sum up, Spring and Spring Boot serve as essential resources for Java developers. While Spring offers substantial adaptability in constructing enterprise applications, Spring Boot eases application development by simplifying setup and configuration. The decision between the two hinges on project intricacy and the proficiency of the development team. Consider factors like your project’s complexity, team expertise, and the scope of work when making the final choice, and don’t forget that you can always an option to Hire Web Developers & enhance your development team with the right skills to meet your specific project requirements.

FAQs

Spring boot is easier to learn, and use considering all spring boot attributes are auto-configured.

Spring boot may not be the best choice when you need fine-grained control or for very large-scale applications.

Microservices benefit greatly from Spring Boot's quick configuration, lightweight footprint, and automatic REST API generation.

Yes Absolutely! For Learning it is recommended to start with spring boot and then gradually learn about spring fundamentals.
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    Saurabh Barot

    Saurabh Barot, the CTO of Aglowid IT Solutions, leads a team of 50+ IT experts across various domains. He excels in web, mobile, IoT, AI/ML, and emerging tech. Saurabh's technical prowess is underscored by his contributions to Agile, Scrum, and Sprint-based milestones. His guidance as a CTO ensures remote teams achieve project success with precision and technical excellence.

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