The Spring Framework addresses important areas that many other popular frameworks don't. It focuses around providing a way to manage your business objects. Also, it has a layered architecture, meaning that you can choose to use just about any part of it in isolation, yet its architecture is internally consistent. So you get maximum value from your learning curve. You might choose to use Spring only to simplify use of JDBC, for example, or you might choose to use Spring to manage all your business objects. And it's easy to introduce Spring incrementally into existing projects.
- The most complete lightweight container, providing centralized, automated configuration and wiring of your application objects. The container is non-invasive, capable of assembling a complex system from a set of loosely-coupled components (POJOs) in a consistent and transparent fashion. The container brings agility and leverage, and improves application testability and scalability by allowing software components to be first developed and tested in isolation, then scaled up for deployment in any environment (J2SE or J2EE).
- A common abstraction layer for transaction management, allowing for pluggable transaction managers, and making it easy to demarcate transactions without dealing with low-level issues. Generic strategies for JTA and a single JDBC DataSource are included. In contrast to plain JTA or EJB CMT, Spring's transaction support is not tied to J2EE environments.
- A JDBC abstraction layer that offers a meaningful exception hierarchy (no more pulling vendor codes out of SQLException), simplifies error handling, and greatly reduces the amount of code you'll need to write. You'll never need to write another finally block to use JDBC again. The JDBC-oriented exceptions comply to Spring's generic DAO exception hierarchy.
- Integration with Toplink, Hibernate, JDO, and iBATIS SQL Maps: in terms of resource holders, DAO implementation support, and transaction strategies. First-class Hibernate support with lots of IoC convenience features, addressing many typical Hibernate integration issues. All of these comply to Spring's generic transaction and DAO exception hierarchies.
- AOP functionality, fully integrated into Spring configuration management. You can AOP-enable any object managed by Spring, adding aspects such as declarative transaction management. With Spring, you can have declarative transaction management without EJB... even without JTA, if you're using a single database in Tomcat or another web container without JTA support.
- A flexible MVC web application framework, built on core Spring functionality. This framework is highly configurable via strategy interfaces, and accommodates multiple view technologies like JSP, Velocity, Tiles, iText, and POI. Note that a Spring middle tier can easily be combined with a web tier based on any other web MVC framework, like Struts, WebWork, or Tapestry.
You can use all of Spring's functionality in any J2EE server, and most of it also in non-managed environments. A central focus of Spring is to allow for reusable business and data access objects that are not tied to specific J2EE services. Such objects can be reused across J2EE environments (web or EJB), standalone applications, test environments, etc without any hassle.
Spring's layered architecture gives you a lot of flexibility. All its functionality builds on lower levels. So you can e.g. use the JavaBeans configuration management without using the MVC framework or AOP support. But if you use the web MVC framework or AOP support, you'll find they build on the configuration framework, so you can apply your knowledge about it immediately.