Evaluating Vaadin: A Java Web Application Framework

Posted by Tejus Parikh on August 5, 2010

Vaadin is an interesting RIA platform built by Vaadin, LTD. Vaadin differs from your standard RIA by existing almost exclusively on the server. All application state remains on the server and all events are handled through communication with the server. The display layer is written as a layer above GWT and the whole project is open source and free. This evaluation post is the first in a series of my lessons learned while evaluating this framework. Vaadin is a good fit for all the web-applications that fit in the general bucket of “enterprise support tools.” The reasons why are covered after the jump.

What’s special about it?

I think the biggest departure from the frameworks that I’ve been using for web programming is that Vaadin is stateful. The client state is tied in the session with a state on the server. This has some major implications for deployment, such as requiring sticky-sessions in load-balancing and shared caches for failover. The developers of Vaadin made the framework stateful to facilitate building all the interaction code on server. The browser is only used for display. This means that you can use your ordinary Java toolset to walk through your event handling. You don’t need firebug or any javascript knowledge, unless you are creating a custom widget. The Book of Vaadin provides lots of detail on this model in their chapter on Architecture. I have no desire to repeat the documentation here, but just provide enough of a glimpse in case you are more interested.

Would I use it?

I think Vaadin fits in nicely within a specific niche. I would not use it for a normal website (nor do they recommend it), nor would I use it for a consumer-facing or heavily trafficked web application. The stateful model just doesn’t scale like that. However, there’s a whole other class of applications, management consoles, intranet web-apps and other systems that could just live on one server that are a perfect fit for Vaadin. Even more so if you can control which browsers the users run (IE javascript is really slow). These are the things that I really liked about the product:

Were there problems?

While Vaadin is pretty easy and built on a language I’m familiar with, there was still a learning curve. Most of my issues came from doing things outside of the Vaadin way.

Conclusion

If had to build a web app and didn’t have a web team, Vaadin is good way to go. You can build apps that have more than the basic “developer” look and feel without a whole lot of effort. The documentation lapses will surely disappear as the framework gains steam. The next post I’m going to write is about how to use your existing DAO structure with Vaadin.

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Tejus Parikh

Tejus is an software developer, now working at large companies. Find out when I write new posts on twitter, via RSS or subscribe to the newsletter: