Comparison of Who is the Best? MVC Implementation Between J2EE Struts 2 & ASP.NET MVC 2 - Part 2

So, what's the agenda?

In our previous article we compared the MVC implementation for J2EE and ASP.NET without using frameworks; to view that comparison click ASP.NET MVC and J2ee MVC.

In today's world no one implements MVC without the help of frameworks. So whether it's ASP.NET or J2EE, a framework support is a must. Struts 2 has been the most accepted framework in J2EE while in ASP.NET the ASP.NET MVC template is the king. In this article we will compare these frameworks in terms of how they differ in implementation and their positive and negative points.


In this article we will compare both frameworks using 8 agenda points:

  • Automation
  • Passing data between controller to views
  • URL customization
  • Security
  • Folder structure management
  • Intellisense support
  • HTML automation (helper classes).
Do watch our .Net interview questions and answers video from this link .NET interview questions and answers; you can also catch our J2ee Design pattern videos from this link Java J2EE Design pattern.

In case you are new to ASP.NET MVC and J2EE Struts framework

In case you are not aware of the frameworks you can see the videos below to just get a quick start in both the frameworks.

Click here to view simple ASP.NET MVC video which displays a hello world.

Click here to view simple J2EE struts video to teach struts 2 with the help of an example.

Overall Comparison with framework

Before I even start, the following is a full comparison sheet which gives an overall view of the comparison. We will be discussing this in more detail as we proceed in the article.

Comparison pointsMicrosoft MVC 2 templateMVC using J2ee framework (Struts 2)
Template AutomationIn built with Visual studioNeed to use open source plug in likehttp://mvcwebproject.sourceforge.net/
Passing data from controller to view.New session management techniques like "viewdata" and "tempdata" are introduced.Uses the same request object inherently using same request interceptor.
Readymade folder structureThe MVC template creates a readymade logical folder structure for view, controllers and model.Does not have a logical folder structure like ASP.NET MVC, but can be created manually.
Strong typed views for intellisenseHas string typed view support for better intellisense.Achieved by using type casting.
Helper classesHelper classesTag libraries
URL customization and action mappingUses behind code.Uses the Struts 2 XML file.
URL validationURL validation can be done easily using regex.Currently no inbuilt mechanism but can be achieved by customized coding.
SecurityHas readymade security attributes by which we can avoid cross site, SQL injection.Currently no inherent feature but can be achieved by customized codin

Automation using template

The first thing that caught our eyes is the Microsoft VS IDE which has a nice readymade template from where developers can start. In the MVC J2EE framework the core struts framework does not have something inherent as Microsoft MVC does.

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After everything is said and done, it does not mean J2EE community is lagging; you can still use an open source plug-in; get the template from http://mvcwebproject.sourceforge.net/. The following is a simple snapshot of MVC web project template.

The only difference it's not inherent like Microsoft MVC.

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Conclusion: - Definitely Microsoft wins here in terms of more user friendly interfaces and automation due to the MVC template. In the J2EE struts framework we need to hunt for a third party plugin which will help us to achieve the same kind of automation.

Passing data from controller to view

In MVC one of the most crucial features is transferring data from controller to view. Microsoft MVC introduces a new variable called 'ViewData' which will help us to transport data between controller and view as shown in the following code snippet.

The following code snippet sets data in the controller.

ViewData["CurrentTime"] = DateTime.Now.ToString();

The following code snippet displays data on the view.

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The J2EE Struts framework uses the HTTP request object to pass data from controller to the view. The following
code snippet sets a simple date value to the request object using the "setAttribute" function. In ASP.NET MVC we
cannot change the request object.
request.setAttribute("CurrentTime",new Date());

Later we can display the data using "getAttribute".

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Conclusion: - The first thing is that both technologies have the ability to pass data, but somehow the J2EE Struts
framework thought process is more convincing. At the end of the day the view gets a HTTP request, so it's more
logical to pass data using the request objects rather than creating a new variable like view data for it.

Many ASP.NET MVC fans (which includes me) can also argue logically that the request object is created using the
data sent by the end user i.e. from the browser. This data should not be allowed to be changed in between by the
web application code. The request object should only be allowed to be modified by the end user using POST and GET.
For this I will give an equal point to both of them for now.

Readymade folder structure

In ASP.NET MVC the template creates a readymade folder structure (they are termed as areas) which gives a developer a clear picture of where to store the model, views and controllers as shown in the following figure.

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In J2EE struts framework we do not have the clear cut vocabulary for folders as we have in ASP.NET MVC. In J2EE framework the controller and model lies in the Java resources folder, while the views are saved in a web content folder as show in the diagram below.

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After everything is said and done you can always manually rename and create a different folder structure to have the same logical representation as we have in ASP.NET MVC , only that it's not automated.
As per our knowledge the above logical structure is not possible currently by using any J2EE struts plug-in either.

Conclusion: - ASP.NET MVC has a slight advantage in terms of better project management due to readymade logical folder structure, while in J2EE framework we need to create them manually.

Strong type views for intellisense

In ASP.NET MVC you have a nice option where you can create a strongly typed view. In other words when you add a view you can select the model with which this view will connect.
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Later when you go in the view and type model keyword you can get the strongly-typed properties of the object.
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In Java we do not have the concept of a strongly typed view. If you want you can set the object in request.getAttribute and then do a type cast to get the object intellisense.

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Conclusion: - This feature can look very exciting for the ASP.NET community but it was bit amusing for my J2EE friends (I think they are right in a lot of ways also). The whole purpose of strong typed views in ASP.NET MVC is for better intellisense which we can achieve by type casting data from view data object as shown in the following figure.

The biggest problem here is that developers can start thinking that the model has tied up the view. We understand the intention is not that, but the dialog box just makes a visual intention of doing it. The end goal of MVC is to separate the model from the view.

So concluding it's a good feature to get mofre from less code but it can be confusing for junior developers who are working on MVC. For a small automation I hope we do not end with a logical confusion about MVC fundamentals.

Equal points again to both. I am not giving an extra point to ASP.NET MVC since the view thing is more confusing and can be achieved by typecasting.
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Helper classes

A good MVC framework will always provide helper classes to create HTML code for views.
In ASP.NET MVC we have the helper classes. For instance to create a simple HTML form in ASP.NET MVC you can use the HTML helper class as shown in the following code.

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In the J2EE struts framework we have tag libraries which help us to generate the HTML code as it is done by using the ASP.NET MVC HTML helper classes.

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Conclusion: - Both the frameworks have HTML helper classes. Let's not get into which library is better or else we will lose focus of our main comparison. So even points to both the framework on this discussion.

URL customization and action mapping

MVC is all about actions and these actions are mapped to an URL. As a developer you would love to see your MVC framework have the capability of customizing and configuring the MVC URL with action mapping. The following is a simple table which explains why developers would expect customization and configuration for MVC URL's.

Incoming URLControllerActionDescription
http://www.questpond.com/LocateProductSearchProductControllerSearchThis action will help us to get all products.
http://www.questpond.com/LocateProduct/100SearchProductControllerSearch(1001)This action will help us to get all products with code 1001.
http://www.questpond.com/CreateMaintainProductControllerCreateThis action will help us to create a new product.
http://www.questpond.com/Modify/1001MaintainProductControllerModify(1001This action will help us to modify product with product code 1001.

In ASP.NET MVC this is achieved by using the inbuilt routing mechanism. In order to configure routes you can go to the global.asx.cs code and use the routes collection to map the URL structure with the controllers and actions.
routes.MapRoute(
"HelloWorld", // Route name
"Pages/RegisterAction/{1}", // URL with parameters
new { controller = "Register", action = "RegisterAction", id = UrlParameter.Optional }); // Parameter
defaults

In order to configure MVC URL in J2EE struts framework we can use the Struts XML file to do that. The following
mapping is cleaner than the routing collection of ASP.NET MVC. In J2EE framework we can see the mappings better
as they are mapped directly to page names.

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Conclusion: - J2EE Struts framework definitely wins in terms of MVC URL configuration and mapping to the
controller as its defined using XML file. This could be a real improvement for the ASP.NET MVC framework. To
change the mapping, compiling code is more of a burden.

URL validation

In ASP.NET MVC we have the advantageous ability to use URL validation using a regex (regular expression) before the action hits the controller. For instance the following is a simple validation where, before the view of the customer action is called, we can check that the input to the action is only a numeric value with 2 digits.

routes.MapRoute(
"View", // Route name
"View/ViewCustomer/{id}", // URL with parameters
new { controller = "Customer", action = "DisplayCustomer", id = 0 }, new { id = @"\d{1,2}" }
);

Currently J2EE struts framework does not support that; after everything is said and done you can always still do
validation after hitting the controller using some custom logic.

Conclusion: - This is definitely a plus point for ASP.NET MVC because MVC URL's can be invoked from any medium,
via browser, via URLs etc. So we would like to ensure that appropriate validation is adequately checked before it hits
the controller.

Security

MVC URLs are mapped to an action and they can be invoked directly which also means that they are subjected to cross-site attacks such as SQL injection etc. The ASP.NET MVC framework has provided security attributes by which we can protect our URL from such attacks.
 
For instance to prevent forgery attacks and cross-site scripting attacks we can use the 'HtmLAntiForgeryToken()' as shown in the following code snippet.

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In the actions later you can then check if there was any violation.

[HttpPost] [ValidateAntiForgeryToken]
public ActionResult Delete(int customerid)
{

}

You can also mark the controller by use of a validate input attribute to avoid CSS.
[ValidateInput(true)]
public class OurController : Controller

The critical functions on which you do not want actions to be invoked you can mark the methods as "nonaction" as
shown in the following code snippet.
[NonAction]
public void DoPasswordChange(string username, string newpassword)
{
/* Rest of code unchanged */
}

In the J2EE Struts framework currently we do not have any inherent security function to achieve the same. Some
customized code.

Conclusion: - This is the biggest win for ASP.NET MVC framework security. Hope that J2EE struts framework in the
future has such a kind of inherent security feature which will be a great extra benefit for the framework.

Final conclusion

The following is the final conclusion. ASP.NET MVC framework out performs J2EE in 4 things while J2EE has the flexible XML URL customization which is currently not available in ASP.NET MVC. For all the other points both of them remain on the same page.

I have tried my level best to be fair and balanced and while doing so I never had in my mind that I am an ASP.NET Microsoft MVP and that I should hard sell ASP.NET MVC framework. I have made by best effort to make a true comparison and see which one of them is the best. I do understand how every developer loves his technology, by any chance I have hurt anyone ... BIG SORRY.

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Thanks Vishwa

Special thanks to Mr. Vishwanathan Narayanan who helped me to give inputs on the J2EE side without which I would not have achieved this. You can see his Java and J2EE design patterns videos by clicking on Java J2ee Design pattern videos.