Picking a Web Microframework

We had a “home grown” framework for a new application we’re working on and the first thing I did was try and rip that out (new project so didn’t have URL and parameter sanitization anyway to do routes, etc).

However, being that the group I was working with has had some bad experiences with “frameworks” I had to settle on something that was lightweight, integrated with Jetty and allowed us to work the way that was comfortable for us as team (also it had to work with Scala).


The team had shown a lot of disdain for Play (which I had actually quite a lot when I last was leading a JVM based tech stack) and Spring Boot as being too heavy weight, so these were definitely out.

Fortunately, in the JVM world there is a big push back now on heavy web frameworks so meant I had lots of choices for “non frameworks” but could still do some basic security, routing, authentication but not hurt the existing team’s productivity.

There are probably 3 dozen microframeworks to choose from with varying degrees of value but the two that seemed to easiest to start with today were:

My Attempt with Quarkus

Quarkus has a really great getting started story but it’s harder to get started on an existing project with it, it was super trivial to add, and after a couple of days of figuring out the magic incantation I just decided to punt on it. I think because of it’s popularity in the Cloud Native space (which we’re trying to target), the backing of Red Hat, and the pluggable nature of the stack there are a lot of reasons to want this to work. In the end because of the timeline it didn’t make the cut. But it may come back.

My Attempt with Javalin

Javalin despite being a less popular project than Quarkus it is getting some buzz. It also looks like it just slides into the team’s existing Servlet code base. I wanted this to work very badly but stopped before I even started because of this issue so this was out despite being on paper a really execellent framework.

My Attempt with Scalatra

Scalatra has been around for a number of years and is inspired by Sinatra which I used quite a bit in my Ruby years. This took a few minutes to get going just following their standalone directions and then some more to successful convert the routes and account for learning curves with routes.

Some notes:

  • The routing API and parameters etc are very nice to work with IMO.
  • It was very easy to get json by default support setup.
  • Metrics were very easy to wire up.
  • Swagger integration was pretty rough, while it looks good on paper I could not get an example to show up, and it is unable to handle case classes or enums which we use.
  • Benchmark performance when I’ve looked around the web was pretty bad, I’ve not done enough to figure out if this is real or not. I’ve seen first hand a lot of benchmarking are just wrong.
  • Integration with JUnit has been rough and I cannot seem to get the correct port to fire, I suspect I have to stop using the @Test annotation is all (which I’m not enjoying).
  • Http/2 support is still lacking despite being available in the version of Jetty they’re on, I’ve read a few places that an issue is keeping web sockets working but either way there is no official support in the project yet.


I think we’re going to stick with Scalatra for the time being as it is a muture framework that works well for our current goals. However, the lack of http/2 support maybe a deal breaker in the medium term.

Getting started with Cassandra: Data modeling in the brief