Monday, November 22, 2010

Groovy and Grails for prototyping

There is much debate about dynamic typing vs. static typing. There is much debate about new languages (Ruby/Groovy/Erlang/Scala) vs. old and generic languages (Java, C++).
Some people hold very strong opinions on these subjects while others are more open to different approaches.

Surprisingly, I found relatively little disagreement on the usefulness of dynamic languages such as Ruby or Groovy for prototyping. Ease of use and speed of development are the most important benefits of these languages. Their potential weaknesses such as performance and maintainability of the code are not that important in prototypes. (more on these potential weaknesses below).

These rapid development tools are perfect for flashing out the vision and model of the product without spending too much time on the underlying technological “plumbing”. Business people are impressed to see a mocked prototype of the product in few days after the initial discussion. Only by seeing it they can come up with a useful feedback and refine the product in their minds. Implementing these changes is as easy as doing the initial prototyping. This rapid feedback and adjustment loop is not only agile but also very cost-efficient because only minimal amount of effort and time is spent.

Grails really shines in creation of domain models because often a model can be described through a set of CRUD screens and their relationships. This representation is a lot friendlier than dry and “tech-y” entity diagrams. It is much more understandable to business folks.

As for possible problems that arise when developing with Groovy and Grails – I believe they can be solved and the cost of solving them is far outweighed by benefits of speed and agility. But I am not trying to sell or pitch yet another technology. I believe that it is extremely well suited for certain types of applications while it’s probably not the best choice for others. Like anything else – this is just another tool in your professional toolbox.

Of course, it all applies not only to Grails but also to Ruby/Rails, Python/Django and other dynamic languages.

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