A look at some of the best database and RDBMS tools for Java software developers. Learn more about Java and database programming.
Java developers often rely on specific database tools to efficiently manage data storage, retrieval and manipulation. In this tutorial, we explore some of the top database tools for Java developers, specifically Grails, Struts, Java DB and MongoDB.
Grails: Best web application framework for integrations
Grails, a web application framework built on the Groovy programming language, offers significant assistance with database development in Java through its integrated features and tools. It simplifies database interactions, making it easier for developers to work with databases in their applications.
Grails is an open-source web application framework and is free to use. That being said, Grails, maintained by the Grails Foundation, does offer commercial support, with varying degrees of support available depending on the version you are using:
- Version 6: Standard support available until June 2025.
- Version 5: Standard support available until June 2024.
- Versions 1-4: Premium support.
It should be noted that Standard Support pricing begins at $150 per hour. Premium Support, meanwhile, requires a custom quote and can be obtained via the Grails Support page.
Grails has quite a few pros worth discussing. They include:
- Grails Object-Relational Mapping: GORM is a powerful Object-Relational Mapping framework that comes integrated with Grails. It provides a high-level, developer-friendly API for interacting with databases. GORM abstracts away the complexities of SQL queries and database operations, allowing developers to work with domain objects instead of raw database tables. This makes code more intuitive, maintainable and less error-prone.
- Domain classes: In Grails, domain classes are the central component for defining data models. These classes represent database tables and provide an easy way to define relationships, constraints and validations. With GORM, developers can create, read, update and delete records in the database using simple methods on domain objects, making database operations more straightforward.
- Automatic schema generation: Grails can automatically generate database schemas based on the defined domain classes. This means developers don’t need to write SQL scripts for creating tables, columns and relationships. Grails and GORM take care of synchronizing the schema with the domain classes, saving developers time and effort.
- Dynamic finders and querying: GORM supports dynamic finders, which allow developers to query the database using concise and readable syntax. For example, you can find a user by their username using a method like User.findByUsername(‘john’). Additionally, GORM supports a powerful query language, Criteria API, and named queries, giving developers various options for constructing complex queries.
- Data source configuration: Grails provides configuration options to define data sources for different environments (development, testing and production). This enables developers to switch between databases easily based on the environment. The configuration is typically done in the application.yml or application.groovy file.
Some of Grails pros include:
- Multi-database support: Grails supports multiple databases out of the box. Developers can configure different data sources for different parts of the application, such as using a relational database for one module and a NoSQL database for another. This flexibility is useful when dealing with microservices architectures or hybrid data storage needs.
- Validation and constraints: Grails offers built-in support for defining constraints and validations on domain classes. These constraints help ensure data integrity and consistency. GORM validates data before saving it to the database, preventing invalid or inconsistent data from being persisted.
- Database migration: Grails provides tools for managing database schema changes over time. The database-migration plugin allows developers to version-control their database schema changes and apply them to different environments easily.
- Integration with Spring ecosystem: Grails is built on top of the Spring Framework, which means it can seamlessly integrate with various Spring components and libraries, including Spring Data and Spring Security. This integration enhances the capabilities of Grails in terms of database access and other functionalities.
Grails notable cons are:
- Smaller community: This results in fewer learning resources and less documentation.
- Fewer plugins, add-ons and modules than other frameworks in its class: This leads to potential for less functionality.
- Works with runtime languages: This makes the tool more error-prone.
Struts: Best Model-View-Controller framework
Struts is a widely used web application framework based on the MVC architecture. While Struts itself doesn’t have built-in database-specific features like Grails’ GORM, it does provide a framework that allows developers to integrate various database tools and libraries effectively.
Like other Java database tools on our list, Struts is open-source and free to use. Commercial support is available, and developers can find a list of commercial support providers on the Struts Support page.
Struts is known for its rich set of features, which include:
- MVC architecture: Struts follows the MVC design pattern, which encourages the separation of concerns in an application. This separation makes it easier to manage database-related code independently of other components. The Model component in MVC represents the data and its interactions with the database.
- Action classes: In Struts, action classes handle user requests and serve as an intermediary between the user interface (View) and the data model (Model). Developers can integrate database-related code within action classes to perform Create, Read, Update, Delete operations and other database interactions.
- Data access objects: Struts applications can incorporate DAO design patterns to encapsulate database interactions in separate classes. These DAOs act as a bridge between the application and the database. By using DAOs, developers can centralize database-related code, enhancing modularity and code reusability.
- Data source configuration: Similar to other Java applications, Struts applications can configure data sources for different environments (e.g., development, testing and production). This configuration allows developers to manage database connections effectively and switch between databases as needed.
Some of Struts main pros for Java developers include:
- Integration with Java Database Tools:
- Java Database Connectivity: Struts applications can make use of the core JDBC API to interact with relational databases. JDBC provides a low-level interface for executing SQL queries, managing connections and handling transactions. Developers can integrate JDBC code within action classes to perform database operations.
- Spring JDBC: Struts developers often leverage Spring JDBC, an extension of the core JDBC API. Spring JDBC simplifies database interactions by offering features like exception handling, connection pooling and simplified error management. It provides higher-level abstractions over raw JDBC, making database code more readable and maintainable.
- Validation and data integrity: Struts offers validation mechanisms that help ensure the integrity of data before it’s persisted in the database. By validating user input and data consistency, Struts helps prevent invalid or erroneous data from being stored.
- Use of ORM tools: Although Struts lacks an integrated ORM tool like GORM in Grails, developers can choose to integrate third-party ORM tools like Hibernate or Java Persistence API with their Struts applications. These ORM tools offer higher-level abstractions for database interactions, simplifying the process of mapping Java objects to database tables.
- Integration with Spring ecosystem: Struts applications can also benefit from integrating with the Spring ecosystem, which offers a wide range of tools and modules for various aspects of Java development, including database interactions. Spring components like Spring Data and Spring JDBC can enhance the capabilities of Struts applications in terms of database access.
Despite its benefits, Struts does have some cons:
- Scalability: Struts is known for lacking in the scalability department, partially due to its use of a single action servlet. Consider this if you are working on projects that will need to scale up.
- The Struts framework lacks a backward flow.
- Challenging for beginners: It is considered difficult for newer programmers and developers with little experience using frameworks.
- Lack of transparency: Understanding the inner workings of the framework can be a challenge as many of its processes run in the background and may take some digging to uncover.
Java DB (Apache Derby): Best for relational database systems
Java DB, also known as Apache Derby, is a relational database management system that offers support for Java applications. It provides a lightweight and embedded database solution that can be easily integrated into Java applications.
Java DB is an open-source tool and is free to use under the Apache License.
Java DB assists with database development in Java by offering the following features and benefits:
- Embeddable nature: Java DB is designed to be embedded within Java applications. This means that the database runs within the same Java Virtual Machine as the application itself, eliminating the need for separate database server processes. This embedded approach simplifies deployment and eliminates the complexities associated with managing external database servers.
- Small footprint: Java DB is compact in terms of memory usage and storage footprint. This makes it suitable for resource-constrained environments, such as embedded systems, desktop applications and mobile applications.
- Java API integration: Java DB provides a Java API that allows developers to manage the database programmatically. This API allows for tasks such as connecting to the database, executing SQL queries, managing transactions and handling errors.
- ACID compliance: Java DB ensures the ACID properties (Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, Durability) of transactions. This guarantees that database operations are reliable and maintain data integrity even in the face of failures.
- Network server mode: While the embedded mode is suitable for many scenarios, Java DB also supports a network server mode. In this mode, Java DB operates as a separate database server that multiple applications can connect to simultaneously. This mode is useful when applications need to access the database from different JVMs or over a network.
- Cross-platform compatibility: Java DB is designed to be platform-independent, meaning that applications developed on one platform can easily be transferred to another platform without major modifications. This portability can be a huge time saver in cross-platform development.
- Database management tools: Java DB provides tools for managing databases, including command-line utilities and graphical user interfaces. These tools allow developers to perform tasks such as querying the database, managing data and monitoring performance.
Java DB is known for the following pros:
- Ease of integration: Java DB seamlessly integrates with Java applications through standard JDBC APIs. Developers can use familiar Java classes and interfaces to interact with the database, making it straightforward to perform database operations such as creating tables, inserting data, querying and updating records.
- Zero configuration: Java DB often requires minimal configuration. It supports automatic schema generation, which means that developers don’t need to write SQL scripts to create tables and relationships. Java DB can automatically generate the necessary schema based on defined domain classes or entities.
- Scalability and performance: While Java DB is often used for small to medium-sized applications, it can handle larger datasets and workloads when configured appropriately. However, for extremely large-scale applications, other enterprise-grade databases might be more suitable.
Java DB is not without its cons, which include:
- Lack of index support: Columns defined as CLOB, BLOB or LONG VARCHAR data types do not support indexes.
- Disk space: Database developers will encounter a “LogFull” error if the database log is unable to allocate adequate disk space, causing the system to crash or shut down. This error is not always visible, so always be aware of system resource limitations.
- Not well-suited for larger projects: Due to its lightweight nature, it is not always an ideal choice for larger projects but works fine for small to medium ones.
MongoDB: Best for NoSQL-backed applications
MongoDB, a popular NoSQL database, offers significant advantages for database development in Java applications. It diverges from traditional relational databases by using a document-oriented data model and JSON-like documents for data storage. MongoDB’s flexibility and scalability make it a powerful choice for Java developers.
MongoDB has two pricing options, with multiple tiers under each option. While we highlight the basics below, we recommend visiting the MongoDB Pricing page for a full list of pricing options.
- Serverless: $0.10/million reads.
- Dedicated: $57/month.
- Shared: Starts at $0/month.
MongoDB Enterprise is also available. Developers can contact sales for more information.
Here are just a few of the ways that MongoDB helps with database development in Java:
- Schema flexibility: MongoDB’s document-oriented model allows Java developers to work with dynamic schemas. This means that documents within a collection can have varying structures, making it easier to accommodate changes in data requirements without altering the database schema.
- JSON-like documents: MongoDB’s use of JSON-like documents aligns well with Java’s data structures. Developers can often directly map Java objects to MongoDB documents, simplifying the process of storing and retrieving data.
- Official Java driver: MongoDB provides an official Java driver that offers a comprehensive set of APIs for interacting with the database. Java developers can use this driver to perform CRUD operations, aggregations, indexing and more.
- Embedded documents and arrays: MongoDB supports embedded documents and arrays within documents. This is useful for modeling complex data structures, such as storing arrays of objects directly within a document. Java developers can work with these structures using the driver’s APIs.
- Spring Data MongoDB: Java developers using MongoDB can benefit from Spring Data MongoDB, an extension of the Spring Framework. It provides higher-level abstractions for working with MongoDB, reducing boilerplate code and offering features like querying, indexing and repository support.
Pros of MongoDB include:
- Auto-sharding and scalability: MongoDB offers built-in support for horizontal scaling through auto-sharding. This means that as data grows, MongoDB can distribute it across multiple nodes or servers, providing high availability and improved performance.
- Replication and high availability: MongoDB supports data replication to ensure data durability and high availability. Java developers can configure replica sets to automatically maintain copies of data across different nodes. If one node fails, the replica set can promote a secondary node to become the primary, ensuring continuity.
- Geospatial data: MongoDB supports geospatial data and queries, making it suitable for applications that require location-based features. Java developers can use the Java driver to perform geospatial queries and store location data effectively.
MongoDB has several cons that should be considered:
- Limited data size: Documents are limited to 16MB in MongoDB, so keep this in mind if you are working with larger documents.
- Duplication and relational issues: MongoDB is known to have issues with duplicate data and relations that are not well-defined. This can lead to data corruption if not properly mitigated.
- Need substantial data storage space: MongoDB tends to require a large amount of data storage because of the above-mentioned duplication problem.
Final thoughts on top database tools for Java developers
Tools like Grails, Struts, Java DB and MongoDB provide essential abstractions, interfaces and functionalities that abstract the complexities of database management. From GORM and Hibernate in the Grails ecosystem to JDBC and Spring JDBC in Struts applications, these tools empower developers to interact with databases effectively. As the software landscape evolves, staying up-to-date with the latest tools and best practices is essential for successful Java development.