When did Gradle get so hot? A look at what is trending on the Java tools landscape

Who knew that so many Java developers were looking at adopting Gradle as their build tool. Goodbye Maven. Goodbye ANT. It looks like Gradle is the Groovy new Java tool, or at least, that's what the latest trends survey would suggest.

When did Gradle become the build tool of choice for Java developers? Not that I have anything against Gradle, but Java developers tend to like their Apache projects, and more to the point, they like tools that are actually written in Java. Gradle is a little different. Sure, it’s open source and licensed under the ASL, but it’s managed by Gradleware. Furthermore, it’s developed using Groovy, one of those peripheral JVM languages, and we all know that those operations people don’t like having to learn anything new. Yet despite these obvious objections, an overwhelming 58% of respondents said Gradle was the built tool about which they wanted to learn more.

Revolutionary and new

This newfound revelation that everyone in the Java community is smitten with Gradle came from a brief perusal of ZeroTurnaround’s Java Tools and Technologies survey. ZeroTurnaround has a peculiar love affair with Java surveys. I have a feeling that a little ringtone goes off on every ZeroTurnaround employee’s phone each time a survey is submitted, producing a euphoric serotonin rush akin to what a teenage girl experiences every time her iPhone vibrates.  But regardless of their motivation for polling the community, their survey results are pretty interesting, so I called up Oliver White (@TheOTown), the Head of RebelLabs at ZeroTurnaround,  and asked him about the results of this latest one, specifically about the current interest in this Groovy based Gradle.

Scala. IntelliJ. Gradle. They are all well designed and supported by professional organizations that are highly reactive and community oriented.

Oliver White (@TheOTown), ZeroTurnaround

“It’s true that developers tend to complain about having to learn a new language,” said White. “But they’re willing to overlook that objection when it comes to learning some Groovy and playing with Gradle. Besides, the learning curve is very light.” White also points out the fact that in the world of build tools, there hasn’t really been anything new and exciting to explore lately. ANT is 15 years old, and while Maven really changed the game with its first and second releases, it has become relatively stable as far as its feature set goes. “Gradle seems revolutionary. Groovy is cool,” said White. “There is lots to enjoy here if you’re into software build tools.”

The recipe for success

Some of the other survey observations seemed par for the course. As was expected, members of the Java community, people who typically prefer to use open source software as opposed to paying one red cent to a vendor, paradoxically still prefer to buy their IDEs off a bunch of crazy Russians. As such, IntelliJ remains the most popular IDE, seriously outpacing NetBeans and Eclipse. Hibernate remains the ORM framework of choice. Spring MVC is the most popular framework for servicing the client tier. Jenkins is the continuous integration (CI) tool of choice. On the surface, it would appear that there is really no news here, but @TheOTown disagrees.

“I do think we are seeing a trend here,” said White. “Scala. IntelliJ. Gradle. What is it they have in common? They are all well designed and they are all supported by professional organizations that are highly reactive and community oriented.” So while open source software will always be popular, a product simply being open sourced isn't by itself a recipe for success. The popularity of a product is tied directly to its functionality and usefulness, and if functionality and usefulness are packaged with reliable, professional support, the product will become pervasive.  It’s a common sense conclusion that elutes logically from the results of the ZeroTurnaround survey. It’s also some good advice for any new vendors interested in making a splash in the big ocean of Java tooling.


Are you using Gradle? What has your experience been like? Let us know.

Follow Cameron McKenzie on Twitter, @potemcam. Follow ZeroTurnaround's Oliver White (@TheOTown) as well. 

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