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java,ruby,rails,grails

Migrating a Rails app to Grails

There's an interesting trend I've seen happening at companies over the last year. More and more, they're experimenting with Rails and/or Grails for both prototyping and real applications. I think this is an excellent use for these frameworks as they both are very productive. The reasons for their productivity is simple: zero turnaround and less code.

For a Java-based company that's built their bread and butter applications on Java and been successful with it, both frameworks can be disruptive. Bread and butter applications tend to be large and somewhat difficult to maintain. In my experience, the biggest maintenance headache is not writing code or fixing bugs, it's the turnaround time required to make changes, run tests and build the application to test in your browser. Since Rails and Grails eliminate the turnaround, it's only natural for developers at companies with a lengthy build process to love their increased productivity.

Over the next couple weeks, I'm going to do some experimenting with porting a Rails application to Grails. Why? Because I think companies are going to have a difficult time choosing between these two frameworks for rapid prototyping and (possible) production deployments. While both frameworks are great for prototyping, the last thing most developers want to do is throw away the prototype and develop it with something else. They want to continue to enhance the prototype and eventually put it into production. With Rails and Grails (and many others), it's possible to build the real application in a matter of weeks, so why shouldn't it be put into production?

For most Java-based companies, putting a Rails application into production is unfamiliar territory. However, a Grails application is just a WAR, so they can continue to use all the Java infrastructure they know and love. So for companies with an established, tuned and successful JVM infrastructure, does it really make sense to use Rails over Grails? The only thing I can think of is language reasons - there's a lot of Ruby fanatics out there.

So again, the purpose of my experiment is simple: to see if a Grails app can do everything a Rails app can. As for language features and scalability, I'm not really concerned with that right now. I'm not looking to prove that either framework should be used for all web applications - just certain types.

Has anyone out there ported a Rails application to Grails? If so, are there any gotchas I should watch out for?

NOTE: I realize that Rails can be deployed on the JVM with JRuby. However, I think many companies have existing Java-based tools (logging, JMX, Spring backends, etc.) that more easily integrate with Grails than Rails. I could be wrong.

 

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