RIFE Java Web Framework 1.5 Released
- logic-less HTML templates that can be previewed in any browser and edited with standard tools
- integrated native Java web continuations and flow continuations
- metaprogramming, driven by your domain model
- flexible declaration and configuration with support for plain Java as well as XML
- core support for web data flow as well as page logic flow
- multi-dimensional conversational state management with scoping
- language-independent template engine with support for XHTML, HTML, XML, Text, SQL, Java
- persistence layer with content management integration and versioning
- out-of-container testing with full introspection capabilities of the executed flow and components
- designed for developer comfort: minimal application restarts thanks to automatic detection of file modifications
Highlights in version 1.5 include:
- Complete injection and outjection support for all element data (bijection) [ more ]
- Annotations support for element declaration [ more ]
- Support for parallel and simultaneous continuations [ more ]
- Fine-grained control over continuation trees and their invalidation [ more ]
- Step-back continuations [ more ]
- Stateful components [ more ]
- Support for creating RIFE applications without any XML [ more ]
- Performance improvements [ more ]
- Support for reloading manually declared sites by site listeners [ more ]
- Automatic recompilation of non-hotswappable or instrumented classes [ more ]
- Generic Query Manager listeners [ more ]
InfoQ recently caught up with Geert Bevin, RIFE project lead, to ask him about this latest release.
The Java web framework space is very crowded with project such as Struts, Spring MVC, Tapestry, etc. Geert commented on RIFE compared to other frameworks:
RIFE is pretty unique in the Java landscape in that it has a solution for every major layer in the stack without introducing any dependencies. The fact that the layers have been designed with interoperability in mind makes it possible to dramatically reduce boiler-plate code and offer unique meta-programming features. You are however still able to use any other Java library for each layer, it will just be less integrated and the features will differ.
Specifically in regards to SEAM and the Web Beans JSR:
I don't know the details of what their exact advantages are, but it seems to me that they externalize flow handling as a BPM solution with an accent on orchestration and long-lived flows. RIFE takes quite an opposite approach, native Java continuations allow a developer to leverage the power of Java without having to learn anything new. You can look at this as implicit and internalized flow support. We however also support externalized flows through data links and flow links in RIFE's site structure. These are designed to make it as easy as possible to create RESTful applications, while still relying on continuations-like state handling and program execution (similar to Spring Web Flow). Again however, the external flow is driven through Java inside your controllers instead of through an externalized flow scripting language. Also, Seam builds on top of JSF. For any functionalities that are not part of Seam, you need to learn and rely on JSF. The JSF programming model doesn't seem to be suitable for many people since they focus more on toolability than on developer comfort. The latter is one of RIFE's main focusses throughout the entire stack.
One of RIFE's key features it is its support of continuations. Geert explained how this works in respect to RIFE:
Continuations allow you to leverage the Java language to write your web application flow. You can literally write a user-interactive program in a similar fashion as when writing DOS programs years ago. Whenever you need input, you just request it and the execution will pause. When the user submits data, you'll receive it and your program will continue exactly where it left off, having preserved it's local state. All this happens over the HTTP barrier and works seamlessly with the browser back button.
When asked about the usage sweet spot for RIFE, Geert responded that in his opinion the full stack nature of RIFE provides "90% of what all the others deliver with 10% of the effort". RIFE revisits numerous concepts redesigning them with web application development in mind adding features such as "...continuations, run-time POJO-driven CRUD generation, scalable component-oriented architecture, state handling without sessions, etc". Geert sees RIFE as well suited for public web sites that are developed by a team of people who want to deliver quickly.