Spring Framework

The Spring Framework (Spring) is an open-source application framework that provides infrastructure support for developing Java applications. One of the most popular Java Enterprise Edition (Java EE) frameworks, Spring helps developers create high performing applications using plain old Java objects (POJOs).  

A framework is a large body of predefined code to which developers can add code to solve a problem in a specific domain. There are many popular Java frameworks including Java Server Faces (JSF), Maven, Hibernate, Struts, and Spring.

Released in June 2003 by Rod Johnson under the Apache 2.0 license, the Spring Framework is hosted by SourceForge.     

Why Spring?

Java programs are complex and feature many heavyweight components. Heavyweight means the components are dependent on the underlying operating system (OS) for their appearance and properties.

Spring is considered to be a secure, low-cost and flexible framework. Spring improves coding efficiency and reduces overall application development time because it is lightweight -- efficient at utilizing system resources -- and has a lot of support.

Spring removes tedious configuration work so that developers can focus on writing business logic. Spring handles the infrastructure so developers can focus on the application.  

How Spring works

A web application (layered architecture) commonly includes three layers:

  1. Presentation/view layer (UI) - This is the outermost layer which handles the presentation of content and interaction with the user.
  2. Business logic layer - The central layer that deals with the logic of a program.
  3. Data access layer - The deep layer that deals with data retrieval from sources.

Each layer is dependent on the other for an application to work. In other words, the presentation layer talks to the business logic layer, which talks to the data access layer. Dependency is what each layer needs to perform its function. A typical application has thousands of classes and many dependencies.

Without a Spring Framework, application code tends to be tightly coupled (interdependent), which is not considered good coding practice. Loose coupling is ideal because loosely coupled components are independent, meaning changes in one will not affect the operation of others.

Spring’s core logic is dependency injection. Dependency injection is a programming pattern that allows developers to build more decoupled architectures. Dependency injection means that Spring understands the different Java annotations that a developer puts on top of classes. Spring knows that the developer wants to create an instance of a class and that Spring should manage it. Spring also understands the dependency and makes sure that all instances created have properly populated dependencies.

For the Spring Framework to instantiate objects and populate the dependencies, a programmer simply tells Spring which objects to manage and what the dependencies are for each class. A developer does so by using annotations like:

@component - Lets Spring know which classes to manage (create). Marks the beans (objects) as managed components, which means that Spring will autodetect these classes for dependency injection.

@autowired - Tells Spring how to handle the instantiation of the class (so it starts looking for that dependency among components/classes to find a match). This spares developers from wiring with code and allows Spring to find what needs to be injected where.

Important terms

Autowiring - The process by which Spring identifies dependencies and matches and populates them.

Bean - A Spring bean is an object that is instantiated, created, and managed by the IoC container. Beans are the backbone of an application.

Dependency injection - A programming design pattern that makes code loosely coupled, meaning that any change in the application of one, will not affect the other.

Inversion of control (IoC) - Taking control away from the class and giving it to the Spring Framework.

Inversion of control container - This is the core of the Spring Framework where objects are created, wired together, configured, and managed throughout their life cycle.

This was last updated in August 2019

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