Discussing the nuts and bolts of software development

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Transitioning from ASP.Net to JSP/J2EE

Note: This is my first blog post ever - and I call myself a web developer (I'm ashamed of myself... really I am).

There is a sub title to this post, I like to call it a little tongue in cheekly:
half-whip-soy-mohca-latte dev frameworks vs single dev frameworks

Having a very strong ASP.Net and MS development background as well as a significant amount of PHP and Perl programming under my belt, I thought transitioning to JSP/J2EE would be very simple, or at least not much of a challenge. I mean web development and development in general all subscribe to the same metaphors and design patterns, the only difference is the implementation details of the language and environment.

Well, I couldn’t be more wrong. This transition has been tough. I write this blog as a small warning for people looking to do the transition from .Net to Java (and not necessarily the other way around) and might be a little overzealous or confident in how easy it might be.

I truly believe that JSP + insert web framework here + J2EE is a good platform for web development and if you are looking for an argument in favor of one framework vs. the other, look elsewhere. The major challenge moving from a predominantly single web framework environment (ASP.Net) to a multiple web framework environment (JSP, Struts, JSF etc… see a lengthy list of web frameworks for JSP) is exactly that. There is no one rule book when you move to Java, there are many and one rule book will not necessarily tell you how you are going to choose your ‘flavour of the day’ half-whip-soy-mocha-latte framework. Some people will want JSP/Struts/Spring/Hibernate; some will want JSP/Struts and others JSP/Spring and others JSP/Spring/Struts/JSF trying to lean on the benefits of each framework. The challenge for an ASP.Net developer here is that these frameworks don’t just work together. You need to spend time figuring out how each of them will communicate and cohabitate in a fashion that will work and then you can start developing. This is huge paradigm shift, as suddenly you need to do some significant set up and tweaking to just get a web dev environment working. Furthermore, suddenly you have to start thinking about Application Servers, not just web servers. In the IIS+ASP.Net world, IIS will just about handle everything for you and an application servers were about architecture and scaling up or out using remoting or web services. In the JSP/J2EE world, your application server is NOT your web server, it’s something completely different – it’s a built in load balanced remote application server that can be separated from your web server with moderate ease.

These two major paradigm shifts, once fully integrated into your knowledge help you take the small shifts that will come along, such as eliminating the event driven model of ASP.Net for whatever MVC model you go with for Java (some will be similar), or having to work update a number of xml configuration files to get Struts 2 up and running (And for any addition you make). Whatever your implementation troubles might be, keep in mind, these two software languages/frameworks/philosophies are very similar in concept but worlds apart in implementation.

Hopefully this quick blog will help another ASP.Net developer stuck on a Java project transition just a little bit quicker or an ASP.Net developer looking at JSP and not jump in too quickly and find themselves drowning in the details.

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