As organizations increase their cloud-native application deployment and microservices development efforts, programmers require fast executions, external APIs and efficient error handling. This includes an array of capabilities such as static type systems, clean syntax, native builds and application process concurrency. Designed to capitalize on claims that established languages like C, C++ and Java fail to deliver these capabilities, both Ballerina and Golang (also referred to as Go) offer innovative, language-specific capabilities that hold a lot of appeal.
This article examines the notable differences and similarities between Ballerina vs. Golang. Specifically, we'll focus on seven specific areas:
- concurrency and parallel processing;
- container and API support;
- network abstractions and data structure support;
- observability and reliability;
- testing and error handling;
- integrations and configurations; and
- libraries and communities.
Concurrency and parallel processing
Concurrency and optimization are essential as distributed services increasingly gain dominance in development shops. Concurrency employs the manager/worker model of parallel programming to boost the number of transactions per second and to improve performance.
This is a common feature in both languages. Golang introduces concurrency in the form of goroutines to execute functions asynchronously and communicate values. Meanwhile, Ballerina uses lightweight communication mechanisms for both inbound and outbound interactions, as well as for the fork/join constructs that support multiple parallel executions and data processing tasks.
Container and API support
Ballerina features built-in container support to ease microservices development and cloud-native application builds. Programmers can use Ballerina to annotate code and automatically create Dockerfiles. These Dockerfiles can run as containers and help quickly generate new iterations.
Ballerina also includes library extensions for Kubernetes orchestrations. When programmers want to take advantage of parallel processes and simultaneously execute multiple actions in Ballerina, they can use fork/join constructs to define workers, process results differently, then execute them asynchronously.
Both Ballerina and Golang try to simplify the process of working with APIs. Golang offers a wide array of API development frameworks, and Ballerina treats APIs as first-class entities.
Network abstractions and data structure support
Both languages treat network abstractions (i.e., endpoints, services and methods) as first-class language constructs. For example, developers using Golang can establish dedicated interfaces for specific application behaviors, resulting in a cleaner syntax. Ballerina provides a similar benefit through native constructs.
In Ballerina, developers can use the afore-mentioned constructs to manipulate data structures without the need to call external libraries, because the language's value type system natively supports JSON and XML (along with each one's associated tables, records, maps and primitives). Ballerina also offers built-in sequence diagrams that graphically represent language semantics.
Meanwhile, data structures in Golang are made possible with a collection of unordered pairs of key-values called Golang Maps. This is a versatile data structure that provides fast lookups and values for retrievals, updates or delete with the help of keys, as well as create an index into an array using a hash table implementation.
Observability and reliability
Ballerina incorporates automatic observability features for anomaly detection and internal system-state measurements using response-time statistics, logs, tracings and metrics, and eliminates the need for external library extensions. Programmers can also use the Ballerina Composer tool to create services based on sequence diagrams that illustrate workflows between endpoints, including synchronous and asynchronous calls.
In Ballerina, network-bound payloads require consistent integrity checks at compilation. By incorporating type inference at assignment, Ballerina employs its structural type system to return messages with different payload types and errors. Golang uses a static type system that empowers the compiler to catch erroneous code, while Ballerina offers a flexible type system focused on balancing code clarity with fast development and execution times.
Golang also provides garbage collection capabilities that optimize memory management by ensuring that all dynamically allocated objects are garbage collected. For example, once types are assigned, they're discarded along with instances, which keeps the memory available for future allocations.
Testing and error handling
Both of these languages provide their own dedicated resources for application testing and addressing errors.
Ballerina provides its own built-in test framework, Testerina, which focuses on creating mocks that teams can test in self-contained environments. This supports testing for integrations, functions, services and other components of the application, and provides summary information of the results upon completion.
Similarly, Golang tests offer a configurable way to evaluate individual features or a feature set. Programmers can run these unit tests on code bases using Golang's test module and test command features. They can also run unit tests in various combinations and in different ways to gain greater test coverage.
Finally, Golang allows programmers to decouple code-based dependencies for reuse and testing by employing custom interface types. It allows them to write more modular code, as well as mock any dependencies in tests which limit those tests to a very small scope.
Integrations and configurations
Developers can use Ballerina code to integrate items instead of employing complex configuration-based integration schemes. For example, transformer syntax in Ballerina enables developers to be confident of type safety for customized transformations between different types such as structs and JSON.
Ballerina also allows programmers to add extensions and new functionality to an existing class, structure, enumeration or protocol type. Programmers employ Ballerina's extension points to write their own connectors and then use them within any other Ballerina programs.
Ballerina and Golang both aim to ease the burden of writing app-specific drivers and plugins, with the goal of allowing developers to devote more time to application logic and troubleshooting. Development teams not only gain the advantages of working in parallel, they also benefit from reduced risks of failure and faster time to market.
Libraries and communities
The relative maturity of Ballerina vs. Golang has a measurable effect on the sizes of their respective communities and library availability.
Golang, introduced in 2009, offers a comprehensive standard library that includes core packages to extend the language. That said, it's been criticized for having libraries that lack effective support options and a problematic community that is slow to respond to suggested changes and revisions.
Originating in 2019, the relatively nascent Ballerina community will require more time to mature. Though it is not as comprehensive as Golang's, its standard library offers a range of interesting features, plus support for various network protocols and data formats. In addition, its globally hosted package management system, Ballerina Central, functions as a public web service that allows developers to share and find unique modules.