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Spring 3.0 and beyond

Posted on 09/09/08.

I know that I promised some more reports about SpringOne, but as so often, plans haven't survived confrontation with reality. As compensation, I offer you the latest news about the upcoming Spring 3.0 release, fresh from the SpringSource Seminar Day in Linz (which I had the opportunity to attend to, as my employer, OPITZ CONSULTING, now SpringSource Premier Systems Integrator Partner, was one of the event's sponsors). Please bear in mind that many of the new features still only exist as prototypes, so things can and probably will change before the final release. But now without further ado...

Spring 3.0...

Apart from the switch to Java 5 that I mentioned earlier, the main new features of Spring 3.0 will revolve around the two areas of Spring EL (dubbed Unified EL++) and the Spring web modules. While I have already written a rather detailed roundup of the former, I had a chance to get a glimpse at the upcoming usage of expression language within Spring bean definitions.

Spring EL

Having made a first appearance in Spring Web MVC, Spring EL is not entirely new. Nevertheless, the promotion of this feature to the Spring core will enable all modules to incorporate it into their functionality. Before I give you some examples regarding Spring XML configuration, let me explain what Spring EL will actually do.

Expressions will be evaluated relative to the context they appear in and can be used to address what Jürgen called implicit attributes of the respective contexts. Inside the definition of a session scoped bean, you will, for example, be able to reference session and request attributes. You will also be able to use system properties and fields of Spring-managed beans. The really interesting thing is, that, instead of binding early as BeanPostProcessors do, EL expressions will return the value available at bean instantiation time.

Now for the example:

<bean id="someBean" class="com.springify.example.SomeClass"
  <property name="someProperty" value="#{anotherBean.anotherProperty}"/>
<bean id="anotherBean" class="com.springify.example.AnotherClass"/>

The current value of anotherBean's anotherProperty will be injected at someBean's creation time, i.e. every time someBean is accessed, as its scope is set to prototype.

Similar functionality will also be provided by means of annotation configuration. The examples from the presentation sported the syntax...

public class SomeBean {
    private String someProperty;
    public void setSomeProperty(String someProperty) { 
        this.someProperty = someProperty; 

..., in this case providing a dynamically bound default value for someProperty.

REST support for Spring Web MVC

I've already blogged about the upcoming REST support, so I will only give you a quick overview of what's new. Apparently, there's now a consensus about how requests for different representations will be handled. As mentioned before, both accept headers and file name extensions will be evaluated. The actual functionality will be implemented on top of Spring Web MVC well know view resolution mechanism, complete with new View types for the most commonly used representations (JSON, XML, Atom).

Portlet 2.0 support

By now there's more to the web than servlets, and the Spring support for JSR 168 has always worked like a bliss. With the recently finalized Portlet 2.0 specification, some long awaited features will soon make their way into the popular portlet containers. Spring Portlet MVC will address the most important of those in the 3.0 release, namely named actions, resource request and event-based inter-portlet communications, by means of additional annotations for @Controller annotated portlet controllers. @ActionMapping and @RenderMapping will be able to bind to named actions. @ResourceMapping will allow serving server-side resources while @EventMapping will allow you to implement handling of inter-portlet events.

Model Validation

With the advent of annotation based configuration, the old Validator mechanism feeled a little old-fashioned every now and then. For those of you who wished for something more Java 5 like, there's hope on the horizon. Annotation-based model validation will be part of the final Spring 3.0 release. While the exact syntax is not yet finalized, the examplex given showed @NotNull and @ShortDate as field level annotations. Probably one of the more interesting facts about the new model validation mechanisms is the deep integration with Spring Web MVC and Spring JS to provide gracefully degrading client side validation when using the form namespace to bind to an annotated model class. Also, the Spring team seems to be evaluating JSR 303 and the Hibernate Validator project, so we can probably hope for support for standard validation annotations.

Conversational scope and stateful controller objects

While not as detailed as the features above, Jürgen also said that the team was evaluation possibilities for providing something along the lines of the Spring SWF conversation scope inside the Spring core. It would most likely be implemented as combination of a new bean scope and an API to programatically start and end conversations. While Spring SWF provides a very high level, declarative way of dealing with conversation semantics, this would enable all Spring modules and Spring based applications to utilize similar functionality.

Factory annotations

Spring 3.0 will contain a new stereotype annotation @Factory, that, combined with a method level @FactoryMethod annotation will allow implementing functionality similar to the current BeanFactory but with multiple bean creation methods.

Pruning and deprecating

It has now be confirmed that all currently deprecated artifacts will be removed with the final release of Spring 3.0 as long as there is no really compelling reason to leave them in the codebase. Most likely, the traditional MVC controller class hierarchy will be deprecated in favour of the new @Controller style. The same fate awaits the JUnit 3.8 based integration test class hierarchy and probably the HibernateTemplate and JPATemplated based classes. Additionally, support for Commons Attributes and the traditional Toplink API will be removed from the Spring core and probably factored out into separate legacy modules.


While Jürgen was very careful not to actually promise any release dates, the team is pressing hard to release a first milestone this month, containing a good share of the REST support as well as some of new the Spring EL functionality. RC1 is planned for December, probably just before christmas. Depending on community feedback on this and subsequently published release candidates, the release of a GA version should occur around February 2009.

... and beyond.

Jürgen made clear that plans don't end with 3.0. There's already some vision of the upcoming functionality in Spring 3.1 and 3.2, although, given the timeframe, this should apparently be handled with care. Spring 3.1, which is scheduled for July 2009 might contain support for JAX-RS's endpoint model as alternative to Spring Web MVC based RESTful applications as well as support for the upcoming Servlet 3.0 specification. There's also a discussion about supporting Web Beans annotations while that specification is awaiting it's finalization.

About Spring 3.2, due in late 2009, only wild guesses can be made, but there will likely be some support for Java 7 features (like binding support for the new DateTime API). Java 5 support will, however, be guaranteed throughout the lifetime of Spring 3.x.

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