The Best Grails Hosting: Who's The Best For Your Site? [Updated: 2018]

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What is the Grails Framework?

Grails is a web application framework written in a programming language called Groovy — which is based on Java.

The Grails platform has an "ecosystem" of powerful development and authoring tools, most of which are open source and well-supported.

Features Image Grails

Background on Grails

Grails was founded in 2005, originally calling itself "Groovy on Rails" because of the remarkably similar architecture to the "Ruby on Rails" framework.

Groovy comes from the Groovy Programming Language — which first appeared in 2003 as a novel scripting language on the Java Platform, with the code itself being dynamically compiled down to Java Virtual Machine bytecode.

How is Grails Similar to Ruby on Rails?

Groovy follows some similarities with Ruby in terms of influence from Perl and Smalltalk.

Like many emerging technology trends from the early 2000's, the Model View Controller (MVC) pattern heavily influenced the overall structure of Grails.

The platform was created as a way to allow "coding by convention" — a design paradigm which tries to focus on easy reusable code behaviors and configuration control.

Why did Groovy on Rails Change its Name?

In 2006, the name was changed to Grails, after David Heinemeir Hansson (founder of Ruby on Rails) asked for the name to be changed.

Grails initially was maintained by a group called G2One — which was acquired by SpringSource and then VMware.

However, in April 2015, Object Computing, Inc. announced that they would become the official sponsor of the Grails project, and they will committed to increasing the exposure of the platform.

As an open source project, anyone may contribute, but platforms generally succeed when they also have strong financial backing.

What are the Core Features and Functionality of Grails?

Taking full advantage of the Java platform, Grails accesses the functionality of Hibernate and Spring, in a single interface under a consistent framework.

This allows Grails to be persistent, use dynamic tag libraries for components, and have fully extensible support for Ajax — allowing for live applications.

Features of Grails

How Does Grails Differ from Other Java Frameworks?

Beyond that, Grails is built in a way that distinguishes it from other Java frameworks — it does not require XML configuration and is ready for use without deeper setup.

Cutting this reliance on XML for setting up page Controllers means that Grails is a "High Productivity" environment.

This means that less time is spent on setting up the development units, which in turn means that more time can be spent on site production.

Grails thereby allows developers to setup quickly and get started right away.

Main Grails Features

Environment configuration can be extended though, by adding dynamic methods called "mixins" — which add additional class features in a way that works as though it was compiled, but does not require a recompile.

This allows for dynamic methods to flourish and are often used throughout a project.

At a high level, the features of Grails can be summarized in a concise but powerful list:

  • Flat Learning Curve — taking less time to setup and emphasizing "coding by convention" — the API for Groovy is an easy jump for Java developers
  • Java Integration - deeply rooted support from the parent technology Java, Grails integrates with Jave Virtual Machines and Containers
  • Powerful Tools — with strong application support for Object-Relational Mapping and NoSQL, structuring powerfully user-driven Views is easy
  • Domain-Specific Languages — Grails is a language built for the web, and supports common web conventions like markup languages and modeling languages
  • Plugin Extensibility — through the Grails Ecosystem and through custom means, additional framework layers can be added for rapid deployments

This combination of features means that persistence is an emphasized aspect of the platform.

The Domain Model which controls the data layer uses something called Grails Object Relational Mapping (GORM) — allowing for "domain classes" which are saved and automatically made persistent across the project.

Setting something as Domain Class will automatically add "Dynamic Instance Methods " which make it really simple to setup relational data.

For example, by declaring a "Book" Domain Class with encapsulated Title and Author data — it becomes very easy to Save new books, or to Delete, Count, or Find existing books. No data layer setup needed, everything is handled by Grails.

alternatives to

Why Should I Use Grails and What are The Alternatives?

Grails is a long established platform with strong developer support and a trajectory for growth.

It takes the best feature of Java and makes it simpler to create web applications.

Similar tools do exist, the most notable being JRuby, "Play" Framework, and the more recent Juzu framework.

Choosing the right platform entails comparing the user stories for the intended project against the capabilities of each framework, and figuring out where the most overlap exists.

What are the Pros and Cons of Using Grails?

Grails is a very attractive option for those looking for a Java alternative. It's a widely used language and has been used by a lot of large-scale businesses like Walmart and LinkedIn.

Its main features, including XML processing and the ability to utilize the same codes to perform different actions, make it quite popular.

It can help to create a very rapid development cycle.

Some Pros of Using Grails

Below you'll learn a few more reasons that Grails might be a solid choice for your next project:

  • The documentation and library (highlighted above) are very extensive and in-depth
  • The development cycle with Grails can be very rapid
  • There is a wide range of plugins available to extend functionality and make your job easier
  • CSS can be very easy to manage since the framework is so simple.
  • Dynamic conjuration is supported, so you don't have to restart your server
  • The code validation can be much simpler and faster
  • Seamless integration with the GORM data access toolkit that's equipped with an extensive set of APIs
  • Can easily integrate with any existing Java code
  • Code is easy to maintain as it's very concise and clean
  • GSP or Groovy Servers Pages can be installed and used via a plugin

Cons to Using Grails

However, like any other language, it's not perfect. Drawbacks include being more error-prone, since it is a runtime language. Plus, you'll have to purchase IntelliJ Idea since most integrated development environments don't have it.

Finally, it does integrate with GORM, but not any other Object-relational mapping.

Find The Best Grails Hosting For You

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How to Set Up Grails

Setting up Grails is fairly straightforward but depends on the operating system you are using. Grails.org maintains a stable binaries on their Download page.

grails screenshot

The easiest way to handle Grails and keep it up to date is to use the Groovy enVironment Manager (GVM) — Windows users will need to use a parallel application called Posh-GVM — which uses PowerShell. With GVM installed, installing Grails can be done simply on the Bash terminal line.

support for grails

Grails Support

Grails is supported by many common Interactive Development Editors (IDEs) and text editors, have syntax highlighting and auto-complete for Grails — including IntelliJ IDEA, Eclipse, Sublime Text, Textmate, and Notepad++.

For everything beyond this point, the development of the website, the database configuration, and any further work is entirely up to the developer.

Grails.org has a good Learning Center — and beyond that, many different starter templates exist officially or in open source projects around the web.

support for grails

Grails has a strong community, is well supported on StackOverflow, and hosts many different events around the year.

How to Host Your Groovy and Grails Application

When the time comes to host your Grails app, you'll need to find a suitable hosting environment that supports Java applications.

Typically this means you'll want to go with a cloud or VPS host. The benefit of this is that it will also allow your app to scale and you won't be limited by server resources.

Here are step-by-step instructions for getting started:

  1. Choose a host and obtain the necessary FTP information.
  2. Download your Grails app, which will end up being a .war file.
  3. Connect to your host via Terminal or your software of choice.
  4. Upload your war file to your server.
  5. You might have to restart your server after upload to see the changes made.

grails host

What to Look for in Grails Hosting

When you're looking for the right Grails host to host your new application you're going to have to lot of different options.

Your only base requirements will be a Linux host that allows root level server access. Your choice will depend upon your overall budget and the size of your app, along with how much bandwidth you require.

Regardless of your situation, you'll want to look for the following features:

  1. Either a cloud or VPS host. This will allow you to scale your server resources as needed and give you flexibility as your application grows.
  2. An ample amount of bandwidth and storage. You can set your storage prerequisites when you're uploading your application, but you'll want to have room to work with.
  3. Solid security features and regular backups. Although not completely necessary, these features are always nice to have in a host and make it so you don't have to do everything yourself.

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