Java EE vs. Spring Boot: Comparing Two Java Framework Giants

Java EE vs. Spring Boot: Comparing Two Java Framework Giants

30 Jan 2024

In enterprise Java, two major frameworks often come into comparison: Java EE (Enterprise Edition) and Spring Boot. The choice between these two technologies can have significant implications for an application’s architecture and long-term maintainability.

Understanding the differences between Java EE and Spring Boot is crucial for developers, architects, and decision-makers to align the technology stack with the goals and requirements of their projects.

Understanding Java EE 

Java EE, or Java Platform, Enterprise Edition, is a set of specifications tailored for enterprise-level development extending the capabilities of the Java SE (Standard Edition). Java EE provides a robust platform for building large-scale, multi-tiered, scalable, and secure network applications.

Components of Java EE:

  • Application Programming Interfaces (APIs): Java EE encompasses a wide range of APIs suitable for various enterprise services, including web services, messaging, and database access.
  • Component-Based Architecture: It supports components like Servlets, JavaServer Pages (JSPs), and Enterprise JavaBeans (EJBs).
  • Container Services: Containers manage the execution of application components, handling aspects such as security and transaction management.

Java EE Servers:

  • It requires a Java EE server, such as GlassFish or WildFly, for deploying and running applications.
  • These servers implement the Java EE specifications and offer the necessary runtime environment.

Through Java EE, developers obtain a comprehensive framework that streamlines the development of server-side applications, emphasizing on standardization and interoperability.

Java EE is evolving and includes new approaches to programming models like Contexts and Dependency Injection (CDI), which aim to simplify development by unifying the Java EE platform with modern programming practices.

Exploring Spring Boot

Spring Boot is an extension of the Spring framework that simplifies the initial setup and development of new Spring applications. It is designed to streamline the configuration process, enabling developers to rapidly launch projects without the cumbersome boilerplate coding typically associated with setup.

Spring Boot achieves this by offering:

  • Auto-configuration: It automatically configures your application based on the dependencies you have added to the project, thanks to a set of opinionated defaults.
  • Standalone Applications: Spring Boot applications are self-contained and can be run independently without requiring an external servlet container.
  • Production-ready features: It includes a range of built-in features such as health checks, metrics, and externalized configuration, essential for microservices and cloud-based applications.

One of the main benefits of using Spring Boot is its “convention over configuration” paradigm. Developers are not burdened with defining the configuration specifics that are commonly needed for an enterprise application. Instead, Spring Boot provides a set of sensible defaults which can be overridden if necessary.

Spring Boot relies on:

  • Starters: They are a set of convenient dependency descriptors that you can include in your application.
  • CLI (Command Line Interface): It provides Spring Boot CLI to run and test Spring Boot applications from the command prompt.
  • Actuator: It provides runtime insights into the application and its behavior through various endpoints.

Developers opt for Spring Boot due to its ease of use, the speed at which they can create production-ready applications, and the considerable reduction in code and configuration complexity. It has become a popular choice in the Java community, especially for microservices architecture.

Java EE vs. Spring Boot: Key Differences 

Java EE vs. Spring Boot: Key Differences

Java EE, or Java Platform, Enterprise Edition, is a standard for developing enterprise-level applications. On the other hand, Spring Boot is a project within the broader Spring Framework that aims to simplify the bootstrapping and development of new Spring applications.

  • Foundation and Philosophy
    • Java EE is a specification that various vendors can implement. It aims for portability and standardization across different implementations.
    • Spring Boot offers a convention-over-configuration approach and aims to simplify Spring application startup by removing boilerplate code.
  • Components and Customization
    • In Java EE, applications are typically built by choosing from a range of Java EE APIs and standard components.
    • Spring Boot applications leverage Spring’s starters to quickly bring in pre-configured components, focusing on rapid development and ease of use.
  • Configuration
    • Java EE relies on a deployment descriptor or annotations for configuration.
    • Spring Boot makes extensive use of auto-configuration based on the classpath, with properties for fine-tuning.
  • Dependency Injection
    • While both support dependency injection, Java EE uses the @Inject standard, whereas Spring Boot has its own @Autowired annotation in the Spring ecosystem.
  • Project Setup
    • Java EE can have a more complex setup and requires a compliant application server for deployment.
    • Spring Boot simplifies project setup with an embedded server, reducing the need for external configuration.
  • Microservices
    • Spring Boot is often chosen for microservices architectures due to its embedded server model and configurable nature, helping with independence and agility.
    • Java EE offers support for microservices but might require additional setup and configurations compared to Spring Boot.

The choice between Java EE and Spring Boot ultimately depends on the specific needs and context of the project, with each offering distinct features and benefits.

Development and Deployment

When comparing Java EE and Spring Boot in terms of development and deployment, developers find some distinctions that impact the development workflow, deployment strategy, and ease of use.

Java EE is a robust framework offering many tools and extensions for building enterprise-level applications. Development involves a heavier boilerplate code and a steeper learning curve. Deployment typically requires a Java EE application server such as GlassFish or WildFly, adding levels of complexity:

  • Boilerplate Code: More extensive in Java EE, potentially slowing down development.
  • Application Server: Dependency on full-scale application servers for deployment.

Spring Boot, on the other hand, simplifies the process by providing a range of starter kits, which help in setting up a new project quickly with minimal configuration. It also embeds Tomcat, Jetty, or Undertow directly, removing the need for an external application server:

  • Starter Kits: Simplified project setup with pre-configurations.
  • Embedded Servers: No need for separate application servers, enabling easier and faster deployments.

Both frameworks support Java, which means that underlying tools like Maven or Gradle can be used for building and managing dependencies. However, Spring Boot’s focus on convention over configuration and Java EE’s preference for flexibility can be seen in their respective development and deployment approaches:

  • Maven/Gradle: Utilized for dependency management in both frameworks.
  • Convention vs. Flexibility: Spring Boot favors conventions; Java EE offers flexibility.

These differences should be weighed by organizations when choosing between Java EE and Spring Boot, considering their specific needs for development velocity, ease of deployment, and infrastructure preferences.

Community and Support

Java EE, now known as Jakarta EE under the Eclipse Foundation, boasts a long history and a sizeable community of enterprise-level companies and seasoned developers. Its backing by major industry players ensures a vast amount of resources, forums, and professional support.

Spring Boot, on the other hand, is developed and maintained by Pivotal Software with the active support of the Spring community. Its user-friendly nature has cultivated a large following. They provide comprehensive documentation, tutorials, and vibrant community support through platforms like Stack Overflow and Gitter.

While Jakarta EE has a formal and well-established presence in large corporate environments, Spring Boot’s approachable model has given rise to an enthusiastic and rapidly growing developer base. Both communities are active and contribute significantly to the Java ecosystem.

Performance and Scalability

When contrasting Java EE and Spring Boot, one must consider their relative performance and scalability attributes. 

Java EE tends to provide a robust baseline for scalability, mainly because it operates on established application servers like WildFly, GlassFish, or WebLogic. These servers offer baked-in features for clustering, fail-over, and distributed caching. Consequently, Java EE applications can leverage these built-in features to scale across multiple servers effectively.

Spring Boot thrives with its ‘opinionated defaults’ approach, simplifying the deployment of stand-alone and production-grade Spring applications. Its embedded server model eases both development and deployment, and the Spring ecosystem offers multiple ways to increase performance, such as:

Regarding individual request handling and startup times, Spring Boot might demonstrate superior performance due to its lightweight nature, especially within microservices frameworks that favor quick, autonomous deployment.

For scalability, both can be proficiently scaled horizontally; however, Spring Boot applications are often considered easier to scale because of their microservices compatibility. The simplicity of creating loosely coupled services with Spring Boot makes it a go-to for systems that need to scale dynamically based on demand.

The two frameworks support different approaches to performance and scalability:

  • Java EE is highly scalable by utilizing powerful application servers.
  • Spring Boot offers performance optimization through the Spring ecosystem and ease of scaling with its microservices-friendly architecture.

Selecting between Java EE and Spring Boot will depend on the application’s specific needs, and whether the preference lies towards extensive built-in application server features or the flexibility and lightweight nature of Spring Boot.

Java EE vs. Spring Boot: Pros 

Java EE Pros:

  • Standardized & Portable: Java EE provides a standardized platform that makes it portable across many different servers and environments.
  • Integrated Technologies: It integrates various technologies like JMS, EJB, and JPA, which helps build large-scale, distributed systems.
  • Community Support: A vast community of professionals contribute to and support Java EE, providing a wealth of knowledge and resources.


  • Ease of Use: Spring Boot simplifies the process of creating stand-alone, production-grade Spring-based applications. It favors convention over configuration, which reduces the need for extensive XML configuration.
  • Rapid Development: With its embedded servlet container, Spring Boot provides out-of-the-box support for packaging applications into executable JARs or WARs, which speeds up development cycles.
  • Microservices Ready: Spring Boot is designed to accommodate microservices architecture easily, making it ideal for building scalable systems.

Java EE vs. Spring Boot: Cons

Java EE Cons:

  • Complexity: Java EE can be seen as overly complex due to its older and more extensive APIs, which might be intimidating for new developers.
  • Heavyweight: Its enterprise solutions are often criticized for being heavyweight, leading to slower deployment times and more resource consumption.
  • Slower Innovation: Compared to lightweight frameworks, Java EE is often slower to adopt new trends and features in the fast-paced tech world.

Spring Cons:

  • Memory Consumption: Applications may consume more memory and processing power compared to lightweight frameworks due to the inclusion of numerous auto-configuration and starter dependencies.
  • Learning Curve: For beginners, there can be an initial learning curve to understand how auto-configuration and dependency management work.
  • Opinionated Framework: Spring Boot’s opinionated approach to configuration can be restrictive if the developers need full control over their application setup.

Java EE vs. Spring Boot Tips to Choose the Right Framework for Your Project

When deciding between Java EE and Spring Boot for a project, developers must weigh several factors to determine the best fit. The choice hinges on the specific needs and constraints of the project at hand.

Java EE vs. Spring Boot - Which is THe Right Framework for Your Enterprise?

Project Size and Complexity:

  • Java EE: Suitable for large-scale, enterprise-level applications. Offers a robust and standardized set of features.
  • Spring Boot: Favored for smaller to medium-sized applications. Simplifies configuration and deployment.

Development Speed & Efficiency:

  • Spring Boot: Provides rapid development features with its opinionated ‘convention over configuration’ approach.
  • Java EE: Can be more time-consuming due to its less opinionated nature, requiring more boilerplate code.

Learning Curve:

  • Java EE: Demands a thorough understanding of Java enterprise concepts, which may have a steeper learning curve.
  • Spring Boot: Easier to start with due to comprehensive documentation and a large community.

Community Support and Ecosystem:

  • Java EE: Backed by a strong community and long-standing history in the industry.
  • Spring Boot: Boasts a vibrant community with many tutorials and third-party tools.

Integration and Flexibility:

  • Java EE: Provides a high degree of integration with systems following Java standards.
  • Spring Boot: Offers more flexibility with a wide range of starter kits and auto-configuration options.


Java EE and Spring Boot are stalwarts in the enterprise Java landscape, each bringing their strengths and philosophies to application development.

  • Java EE is an established standard with broad vendor and community support, offering a stable platform for enterprise-level applications. Its compliance with well-defined specifications ensures portability across compliant servers.
  • Spring Boot is renowned for its ease of use, flexibility, and ability to create stand-alone, production-grade applications quickly. It offers a vast assortment of modules that facilitate the development of a wide range of applications.
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