Saturday, August 11, 2007

NFJS: The Holy Grail(s)

[More of my first "No Fluff, Just Stuff" experience]

My last session at "No Fluff, Just Stuff" was Advanced Domain Models with Grails with Jason Rudolph. (N.B.: Jason is a friend and former co-worker of mine.) I saw Jason's Getting Started with Grails session at a recent Triangle Java User Group meeting, and was impressed with the simplicity and power of Grails. I was eager to learn more.

Jason started the session by talking about the benefits of GORM (Grails Object Relational Mapping) and how DAOs are evil (maybe those are my words). This is one aspect of Grails that I really like because, as Jason said, no one wants to write another DAO. We should be spending our time as programmers writing business logic, not plumbing.

Here are the key benefits of GORM
  • Zero-configuration persistence management
  • Rich relationship model
  • Declarative validation
  • Powerful query support
  • Easy scaffolding
All this makes for a happy, productive developer.

GORM, by the way, is built on Hibernate which is something that impresses me about Grails. It is built on proven technology with intuitive behavior. Jason did a great job emphasizing this aspect of Grails by building an application from scratch throughout the session.

Jason showed how easy it is in Grails to map relationships between entities. Using Groovy, here’s how you create a 1-to-n relationship

class Knight
static hasMany = [swords : Sword]
class Sword
static belongsTo = Knight
Grails takes care of the rest. It can’t get much easier.

Using EJB3 POJOs was about as easy as updating a Hibernate configuration file with the fully qualified class name. Converting those classes to Groovy was easy and, I believe, the preferable approach. In fact, the power of GORM allows you to swap out domain classes written in different languages with little effort.

What was great about this presentation was that Jason spent more time doing and less time pointing at slides. One thing I found a little disappointing, however, was the domain he was using for his examples. I get the joke about Knights and Swords, but I would have liked to see something more related to a business-oriented domain. (I overheard someone in a different session groan about having to see the bookstore example again.) I know it’s not possible to create a real-life application in ninety minutes, but incorporating some of the challenges found in enterprise applications might be useful. For example, ummm….I’m drawing a blank at the moment. This session did run a little short, so I think there is some room for a more complex example.

A note about the speaker: Jason is a good, knowledgeable speaker who knows his domain. He’s not a natural presenter like some of the others, but after seeing him present a few other times I do notice him improving. His passion for technology shows and that makes for an enjoyable session.


That's it! That was my first NFJS experience. It was a fun and exhausting weekend, and I look forward to next year. I hope these session summaries were somewhat valuable.

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