A day of fishing with Jakarta EE and MicroProfile

Over the years, several implementations of the Jakarta EE and MicroProfile platforms have been developed by vendors. Some implementations are fully compatible with these platforms, others support a subset of specifications from the platforms, or are building on top of these. Implementations are often built as an open-source project and shipped by a vendor as a product for their customers. One of the things I noticed over the years, is that these projects are often named after animals. More particularly, there are currently three Jakarta EE / MicroProfile supporting runtimes available that refer to… fish. The members of this trio in question are:

Product Name Link
Eclipse GlassFish https://glassfish.org
Payara https://www.payara.fish
Piranha https://piranha.cloud

Since they share a common aspect in their product name, does that mean that they have something other in common, or is this just a coincidence? Let’s go over the high-level purpose and product definitions to find that out.

Eclipse GlassFish

If we look at the Jakarta EE compatible products page, Eclipse GlassFish shows up as both a Jakarta EE 8 and Jakarta EE 9 compatible application server. Looking at the history of Eclipse GlassFish, this is not a surprise. Until this project was moved from Oracle to the Eclipse Foundation in 2017, it was the reference implementation application server for Java EE. After moving Java EE to the Eclipse Foundation and rebranding the platform as Jakarta EE, the official concept of a reference implementation has been dropped. Although, technically speaking, Eclipse GlassFish remains the “unofficial” reference implementation of new versions of Jakarta EE. This means that for future versions of Jakarta EE, Eclipse GlassFish can be used to test-drive updates to, or implementation of, new specifications that are going to be supported by Jakarta EE. In addition, speaking hypothetically, if no other vendors would be around to implement Jakarta EE, the Eclipse Foundation would still have its own implementation of Jakarta EE under their own roof. This is important because, without any implementations, the Jakarta EE platform is just a set of specifications that be used to build enterprise applications, but not run them.

As a developer, you can easily download Eclipse GlassFish and use this application server to start a project in order to build enterprise applications. However, there are two things noteworthy that you should know:

  • This application server only implements the Jakarta EE platform. It lacks the cloud-native capabilities that the MicroProfile specifications add when compared to other application servers that implement both Jakarta EE and MicroProfile;
  • There is currently no commercial support available for Eclipse GlassFish. If you want to use this application server for your projects in production, that is perfectly fine. However, without such a support contract, in case you run into problems and are in need of a patch or fix, you are at the mercy of the community. You can file an issue in the open-source project or provide a patch there yourself in order to eventually release a new version of Eclipse GlassFish containing the fix.

Payara

Simply put, Payara is a commercially supported project that builds on Eclipse GlassFish while building their own commercial features on top of it. When we look at the Jakarta EE compatible products page, Payara shows up as a Jakarta EE 8 compatible application server. However, since Jakarta EE 9 has been released this month, and having a compatible Eclipse GlassFish application server around the corner, we can expect a Jakarta EE 9 compatible version of Payara shortly.

Over the years, Payara has built an ever-growing set of commercial features in their product. These features often aim at cloud-native development. This makes Payara a good fit for running instances in microservices architectures deployed on cloud environments. In addition, the company aims to support the latest LTS releases of Java, even providing support for various JVMs that you can use to run Payara. Speaking of running Payara, you also have the option of using the full-blown application server, or a slimmed down runtime in the form of Payara Micro. In case you are a fan of Uber/Fat JAR’s, you even have the option of generating such artifacts with Payara Micro.

In short, as a developer, you can use Payara for building and deploying enterprise applications in modern, cloud-native environments using some of your favorite flavors for packaging and running your applications. A few things noteworthy to mention for Payara are:

  • Payara provides support for migration from another application server to Payara in case you are interested in such a migration;
  • Payara supports both Jakarta EE and MicroProfile in order to make it a fit for running in cloud-native environments;
  • Payara provides several features for optimizing resource consumption of running Payara instances.

Piranha

Although this product references a fish, it is a new kid on the block and doesn’t share any particular existing base for Jakarta EE or MicroProfile. Piranha is not compatible with Jakarta EE or MicroProfile (yet) but supports a large part of the specifications in enterprise applications that you can build and run on Piranha. Like some other newer runtimes on the market that support Jakarta EE and/or MicroProfile specifications, it uses the best breeds of implementations or provides its own. Having that said, what are Piranha’s goals?

The product definition states that you can use Piranha to build Jakarta EE and MicroProfile based applications (among other frameworks or libraries), aiming for the smallest runtime possible in order to run them. Ship less, consume less, spend less seems to be the goal, which makes sense in cloud-native environments where spending resources cost money and spending less can be beneficial.

When you are interested in using Piranha as a developer, you should know these things:

  • Piranha is brand new and, as far as I know, doesn’t provide commercial support yet. However, if you are in the situation of building a non-mission-critical application from the ground up with cost efficiency in mind, starting off with Piranha should not hurt. With your feedback, you can help shape and mature the product, which can benefit you in the long run;
  • Piranha supports or integrates with other frameworks and libraries that might be a good fit for your project. This even includes GUI’s and testing, so be sure to check these out!

Conclusion

Next to these “fishy” runtimes from the Jakarta EE and MicroProfile ecosystems, there are of course several other runtimes available that you can check and try out in order to see if these are a fit for your project.

I’m curious if there will be any future implementations referring to a fish, and what the idea or vision behind the name would be. How would you name your “fishy” runtime? Please reach out to me on my Twitter when you have an idea, and who knows we can start a trend or project that makes it happen.