Thoughts on Spring Development: An Interview with Josh Long

Foreword: In this article, we have a candid interview with Josh Long of VMware, outspoken front-man and Spring Developer Advocate, about his beginnings in the industry, his role in the open source community and his thoughts on the development of Spring and Spring Boot. Learn more about the history of the Spring Framework in our recent blog post.

From the early days of Spring as an app development framework to the amazing success of Spring Boot, Josh Long has been a key player-turned-leader in these open source communities. He now works for VMware having come over from Pivotal. His community story is a reminder that in the software industry, what comes around, goes around, and you never know where you might end up.

We hope you enjoy our interview with Spring Developer Advocate, Josh Long!

Q1. So, Josh, tell us a little about your background and how you ended up where you are?

Actually… it was pure dumb luck. Around 2003, I was working with a number of different startups doing enterprise application integration (EAI). As an engineer, I wore many hats, but the goal was always to get software into production by any means. Back then, the industry upheld this mindset that you needed a big development team to produce anything, and that it necessarily takes 2 years and millions of dollars to get anything into production. It was such a dispiriting approach to software.

When the Spring Framework came along, it was like, “This is open source. It works. It’s easy. And it’s lightweight. I can write code and get something up and running very quickly.” At that time, developers like me were getting into the Java community. I was looking at Spring like, “Wow! This is so much more productive compared to these other approaches!” I was definitely becoming a big fan.

Around 2007 came the introduction of Spring Integration by SpringSource, which promised to do for EAI what Spring had already done for web application development in the Java community. I was super excited about it and started using it because I had an EAI background. I saw some gaps, so I sent a whole bunch of code and bug fixes to the SpringSource team. Eventually Mark Fischer, who was in charge of the project at the time, got in touch with me and told me about a “Developer Advocate” position they were opening up and he wanted me to apply. This was right after VMware bought SpringSource and as fate would have it, they couldn’t hire me right away because of a hiring freeze. But, a year later, in the summer of 2010, my employment started. Two years later, Pivotal Software sprung out of EMC Corporation and VMware, and the rest is history.  Now, of course, I’m back at VMware and still doing the same job, so you might say I’ve come full circle.

Q2: There is a lot of discussion in the open source community about the growing influence of for-profit companies in these communities. What are your thoughts on that?

Among the open source community, I don’t think this is controversial. It’s no longer weird to suggest that you can have a major company shepherding open source projects. We have Google and Microsoft showing the world that, “Hey, you can be in the open source community and making open source projects while still making a lot of money.” I don’t think the community is worried about that. If anything, I think that private backing only lends more support that a project is going to be around for a while, which results in more people investing in it and using it. I think VMware is an organization that really understands that.

Q3: Since you’re always on the road, how do you stay current on all the latest topics and where the needle is moving in the open source industry?

The Spring team­ has a strong culture of being online, so we’re always engaged in Slack and Skype. It’s the only way I can keep up with these people!

Note: In the coming months, Josh will be doing a podcast with the engineers from OSPO (Open Source Program Office), so be sure to look for that.

Every Tuesday, I write This Week in Spring. It’s a blog that rounds up all the things happening in the ecosystem, as well as stuff the community has done that serves the Spring community. Along with that, I do a screencast for YouTube called “Spring Tips,” which is insanely popular. It’s basically me at a keyboard introducing some deep feature of the ecosystem. I am also active on Twitter where I share a lot of different and timely things. And, I have a podcast where I ask engineers a bunch of annoying questions. I have a lot of great conversations, and I get a lot of chasers from people who want to show me stuff. They know I’m a very simple person so if they can show me something that makes me say, “Oh that’s so cool!” then they know I’ll put it on stage.

Spring Development

Q4: With regards to VMware, what are your hopes for the future? What’s the next step regarding Spring Development?

VMware is a well-established cloud leader. I’d like to see Spring Boot be able to leverage that relationship in terms of credibility. For instance, when we say, “Hey, Spring Boot can help you get into production faster”, I’d like people to feel like that doesn’t require a leap of faith. I want them to feel that it’s coming from a company they already know and trust. I think there is a lot of potential for overlap between what the Spring team develops and what VMware is already good at, so I’d like to see that become a reality.

Q5: What would you say to those who are suspicious of VMware’s relationship with open source?

First off, I can’t believe this is a thing that has to be said. VMware acquired SpringSource back in 2009. This is a super open source community project. There’s RabbitMQApache Tomcat and GeodeRedisand others that were under the VMware fold and got spun out as Pivotal. And while Pivotal was deeply vested in open source, it’s only because it was built on open source that was at VMware. A lot of that wasn’t developed at VMware, but they brought it under their fold and sponsored it. They gave the people who worked on it jobs and salaries and latitude to do what they wanted to do to chase the dream. And that was ten years ago!  Now it’s even more impressive. Now we’ve seen huge for-profit organizations that make money but are also successfully participating in open source. If it’s not controversial for others, I don’t see why it’d be controversial for us. You have to make money somewhere, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do a good job in open source.

Q6: Anything else you want people to know about your job?

It’s a great job. I love Spring. I love the community. I love the people that work on it. I know that if my job is to go in front of people and represent the Spring code base and the people that work on Spring, that’s the easiest job in the world! When I go on stage, there’s no script and no slides. I go to start.spring.io, I generate new projects, I write the code, I connect them and get them talking to databases or whatever, all within an hour. And, I tell a lot of jokes because I want people to know that if a clown like me can do it, you can definitely do this!

To learn more about Spring development and discover how Spring can help you with everything from configuration and security to web application and big data, visit our intro blog here. And be sure to check out his SpringOne session here.


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