Spring Framework: Becoming the source of modern Java

by Constantine DranganasMarch 15, 2019

A retrospect with Trifork’s CTO of Enterprise Application Development Joris Kuipers

It may be surprising to realise that it’s been 16 years since the Spring Framework was first released. From its beginnings as an inversion of control container shared with a tight-knit community, Spring has evolved to a fully-fledged ecosystem of its own. No longer just a framework, Spring encompasses projects from configuration to security or web apps to big data.

With the technology landscape constantly changing, software developers and architects keep searching for the best and most effective tools for the job at hand. Spring continues to appeal as it delivers support at every level of the development stack.

I met with Trifork’s CTO of Enterprise Application Development Joris Kuipers, and asked him to share  his experience working with Spring from its early beginnings to this day.

Can you outline the early days of Spring, from your perspective?

It was around 2004 when the initial development of the Spring framework began with a publication from the Australian computer specialist Rod Johnson. He is considered the originator of the framework, and later became the CEO of the SpringSource company.

At the very beginning, Spring was just a collection of code that got published. It was put out there in the open of the tech world. Soon after, the group of its founders realised that they could use this code for something more. That’s when they decided to turn it into a proper open source framework.

For this to happen, they had to start a company – known as Interface21 and later renamed to SpringSource – around the Spring framework. The original group of founders expanded their original vision to include a group of people across the world to support their initiative, starting from the US moving to UK and the Netherlands.

On a personal level, I got involved with Spring because I happened to join the Dutch chapter of Interface21. Before that, I was working for the De Nederlandsche Bank (Dutch Central Bank) where I started to use the Spring framework for an essential part of my work.

During that time, I came into contact with one of the founders of the Dutch Interface21. As it turns out he was one of the founders of JTeam – which would eventually become Trifork Amsterdam. Anyway, it was through him that I got into contact with Interface21 and eventually became a trainer and consultant there.

Not widely known is that, in the Netherlands, the Dutch chapter of Interface21 was actually a spinoff of JTeam. That means that Trifork has been involved with Spring from its very beginning, both as a framework and as a company.

You mentioned being an early adopter of the Spring framework. Can you explain how that happened?

My experience with Spring started when I was still working as an internal consultant for the Dutch Central Bank.

By using the framework there, I found that many of my daily work problems were easily solved by using Spring. Don’t forget that until then we were working with more traditional ways on Java enterprise developments. Therefore, I immediately realised its value and adapted it quite early, actually from the very first version that was released.

Consequently, I introduced it internally to my peers at the Dutch Central Bank, as I was already advocating for it. It was vital to me to get to know everything about it, otherwise people could come back to me with complaints related to misusing it. That’s how I learned how Spring works and the benefits that its use entails.

Based on these experiences, I was able to join SpringSource as a trainer and consultant, because as it turned out I already knew enough to start to deliver knowledge to others.

At some point during this journey, I was asked by Trifork’s former CEO, and one of the founders of Elastic, Steven Schuurman, to join their team, which I happily accepted. From then on through my new role as CTO of Enterprise Application Development at Trifork, I continue to use Spring in almost all the projects that we work on.

So Trifork are really the experts when it comes to Spring?

Apart from being involved with the company behind the Spring framework, Trifork – even before I was there – has always done most of its development using the framework.

That means that the company had, and still has, many Spring experts in its force. Currently, I’m one of the main experts because, as we discussed, I came into the company directly through SpringSource. Nevertheless, everyone working in our team is at the same time a Spring expert.

“At Trifork we are keeping up with all new developments.”

This is crucial to us because we use Spring on a day-to-day basis in the development of applications. Further, we are also involved with Pivotal as partner in delivering Spring training courses. I’m currently doing that along with my colleague Thomas Zeeman and other trainers. My colleagues and I are also speaking at various conferences and events.

‘’We are the only Pivotal partner in the Netherlands delivering official Spring training.”

You can easily understand that Spring is still very much at the core of all the work that we do at Trifork.

Why do you still use Spring today while there are new frameworks that can solve the same issues?

Spring has significantly evolved through time. It went from being just a solution for problems that existed years ago, into its own platform, its own ecosystem. By using Spring you can solve a variety of different issues which are typically related to integrating applications, run-time or other applications.

Trifork chooses Spring because through its use we can benefit from all the new developments. We can build microservices, integrate with cloud-based applications and still get a very consistent programming model.

The applications we build are much more maintainable across the years. Further, it becomes quicker for us to build new applications without the need to figure out the foundations of every new client/project that we work with.

With Spring, we have created a standard way of working that comes with a few important  benefits:

  • High-quality results for our customers as Spring helps us write code that’s easy to test
  • Consistency across projects, allowing easier rotation of people across teams
  • Customers don’t get locked in on proprietary technology as many companies and developers are already familiar with Spring
  • Makes the recruitment of skilled staff easier, as it is a widely-used technology
  • Makes it easier to keep up with new technologies and trends, as the Spring ecosystem is always evolving

I hear you’re involved in the upcoming Pivotal SpringOne Tour in Amsterdam. Can you tell us more about that?

The backstory is that after VMware acquired SpringSource, they decided to start a new company named Pivotal. This is currently the company that is funding most of the developments on the Spring framework.

Their main product is a platform as a service solution called Cloud Foundry. In addition to that, they develop other open source software which includes Spring. As part of that, they are currently on tour across the world where they do two-day events, talking about what they are doing in Spring and open source, as well as with their products such as Cloud Foundry.

For me and my colleagues at Trifork, this is an excellent opportunity to get into contact with some of the core Spring developers who are the speakers at all of these events. We have even decided to sponsor this tour which is a testament to the relationship between Pivotal and Trifork.

“We have been at the forefront of Spring since its inception”

All things considered, it is important to us that our customers and partners in the Netherlands, also globally, know that Trifork isn’t just another company using Spring.

Come and have a chat or discussion with Joris and the Trifork team at SpringOne Tour in Amsterdam on March 21-22, 2019.

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