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    Go vs Java: Which of Them to Choose for Your Project

    Go and Java are popular all over the world, and both are often used for web app development. While the first one appeared in 2009 and quickly became a favorite in large companies and prospective startups, the second has existed since 1995, and has become  a programming language with a community of thousands of programmers. Is Go or Java best for your project? Let’s find out in the article.

    At Surf we have been developing back-end and industry-specific solutions for 12 years, so we know what to look at while choosing programming languages. Our team unites talented engineers, and together we have designed apps for projects you’ve surely heard of: SAP, Société Générale, KFC are among them. The article was written with the help of our most experienced Go and Java developers.   

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    What is Java and when is it used?

    To compare Go and Java, we should know what they are and when they are useful. Let’s begin with Java as with an older one. 

    Java is an object-oriented programming language developed by James Gosling in 1995. It’s a cross-platform language: code written in Java and compiled once can be run on any platform supporting the language without the necessity of recompilation. It is possible due to a virtual machine which Java uses to run programs and which is considered an advantage of Java.

    Java is popular because a lot of code is written in it, and it’s necessary to be supported.

    Besides, Java is perfect for back-end development: the programming language has a huge number of tools, such as spring which allows you to speed up the development. It also lowers the barrier to entry threshold. So, thousands of specialists choose the language for their tasks, forming one of the largest communities in the world. 

    Java can be used for various purposes; you can write everything you want in this language. It is often used for: 

    • mobile apps (Android),
    • simulation modeling,
    • services for financial companies,
    • trading platforms,
    • big data,
    • web servers,
    • application servers,
    • embedded systems,
    • games. 

    Java benefits are used by both prospective startups and large enterprises. Among them:  Netflix, PayPal, Microsoft, and Uber. Many websites, apps, software platforms, and high load services we use in our everyday life are written in Java.

    What is Go and when is it used? 

    Go is a procedural, concurrent, statically-typed, compiled programming language developed by Ken Thompson, Rob Pike, and Robert Griesemer in 2007 and launched in 2009. The language was designed to become a more easy alternative to C language. 

    There were several reasons to create Go: C is so complicated that not many developers tend to use it. What does it mean for business? When a company uses C, and one day the company faces any problems, they cannot be solved quickly, just because C developers are difficult to find. Of course, it doesn’t mean that the language died for business after Go appeared—C is still very useful in embedded and resource-critical systems. But other programming tasks are often easier to solve with Go. 

    Go can be used in:

    • back-end development,
    • cloud-based services,
    • highload services,
    • real time communications,
    • bot programming,
    • container orchestration tooling,
    • network utilities.

    Go has many benefits; it is very popular among many companies, including startups and big corporations. For example, American Express, PayPal, Bitly, Google, and Microsoft have chosen it for their business. Compared to other programming languages, Go offers an easier running code writing process, less resource and memory consumption, fast tools, rich libraries list, and a high level of security. 

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    Go or Java: 7 criteria which matter for your business

    Here is a Go vs Java comparison according to 7 important criteria: performance, resource and memory consumption, code simplicity, security, features, community, and developer cost. 

    Performance

    Go shows better performance, and it’s easy to explain why. Java uses its virtual machine, while Go compiles code into a binary file directly, like C language does. And it is a great advantage of Golang. There are no extra steps and extra tools (like pre-installed VM) needed as in Java. 

    In practice, the form of distribution and the artifact obtained after compilation can affect the performance. For example, if we run a binary, it works conditionally directly with system resources, using OS. At the same time, if we have an application that is loaded into a virtual machine, it works with our system, too, but with an extra layer—a virtual machine. It means that:

    • we need to install this virtual machine,
    • we need more space to launch, 
    • the launch itself will take longer,
    • scaling and latency costs increase.

    Actually, it’s not the best idea to compare Go and Java performance: they are created for different tasks. For example, a large branched project is easier and cheaper to build in Java. For loaded systems split  into microservices or individual parts of the system that are critical in speed, Go is better. Java is a universal tool, while Go—a tool for specific tasks. 

    If you still have doubts while choosing a programming language for a specific task, and are curious to know more about their performance, it’s a good idea to find out factors affecting it in Go and Java. Let’s do it.

    Out of the box Go offers many things that Java hasn’t:

    • low RAM consumption,
    • very good CPU utilization (no downtime leads to high performance),
    • a simple mechanism and an extremely efficient mechanism of asynchrony/multithreading,
    • statically linked, compiled application (the start time is only limited by how fast the CPU reads bytes from disk to memory, and it is really very fast).

    Summing it up, goroutines allow developers to do parallel and asynchronous work, loading all the CPU cores (if necessary) and preventing these cores from downtime. As a result, our efficiency approaches  ~100%. What does it mean? 

    With an increase in load, performance degradation will occur only when we completely run out of CPU resources. At the same time, if we use goroutines, each of them takes up very little memory. An empty goroutine only takes up 2 KB of memory. It means that with  64 GB, without additional memory load, you can process up to 30 thousand requests per unit of time. 

    Java uses system threads, which weigh several megabytes each and their number is limited by system resources. So, the same number of requests for Java turns from 30 000 to 3 000. In addition, there is no full asynchrony due to the waste of resources for switching system threads—and CPU efficiency is much lower than with Go.

    Verdict: Go wins, but you should note that performance isn’t the most important thing in comparison Go vs Java. There are certain types of tasks that are better to solve with only one of these languages.  

    Resource consumption and memory management

    Memory management is an advantage of Golang. Both languages ​​use garbage collectors, however, due to Go’s simplicity, its garbage collectors can be more efficient than Java’s.  To show more differences between Java and Golang, the second one doesn’t need a virtual machine for this task, and it has a good impact on the speed. Besides, there is a special multithreading system and goroutines in Go: it’s an alternative to standard ‘green threads’, which takes less machine resources, costs cheaper, and works faster. Wrapping it up, with Go’s memory management tools it’s easy to develop a smooth running app. 

    To say some words about Java, as we’ve already noted, it works with a Virtual Machine, that’s why there is always one more step before code execution. Another thing that makes Java memory management much weaker is dense and bulky concurrency. Java eats up much memory when creating and destroying threads, while Go doesn’t, that’s why with Java code execution is slower.

    Verdict: Go wins in resource utilization, and it leads to a better performance.

    Code simplicity and entry threshold 

    Google developed Go as a simplified analogue of C language. Easy code, high performance, low entry threshold, and impressive possibilities of coding became strong Go advantages over C and other older languages used for backend including Java. Having appeared 20 years ago, it remains quite complicated to learn. 

    Code simplicity and entry threshold are important when you have a project, expand it, and time by time hire developers. If your developer team writes in Go, a new teammate onboarding takes about 2 weeks, while with Java the time is twice as large.

    However, it doesn’t mean that writing code in Go is faster in all possible tasks. For example, developing monoliths with Go is a very bad idea—just because this language isn’t meant for the purpose, and in a year it will become too difficult to maintain  the project. As monoliths regularly expand, developers need special tools for them: Go hasn’t the tools, while Java has. At the same time, code written in Go is very easy to change (not to expand), so the language is irreplaceable for microservices.  

    Verdict: there is no winner or loser, everything depends on your project specific and requirements. Though, Go is easier to master. 

    Security 

    A language itself is not a tool which protects services from vulnerabilities, there are only some features that help do it. In Java the feature is a Security manager—thanks to it, address rules for every app can be specified, so that developers can run apps built in Java with low risks. However, Java still causes headaches for security engineers. There are too many complicated libraries and frameworks— and because of their complexity and Java runtime, risks to suffer from vulnerabilities, which have not been discovered  yet, become higher. For example, JLog Remote Code Execution Vulnerability caused by a flaw in the Java logging library allows hackers to run arbitrary code on the system.

    In Go there is a powerful feature to boost security; it’s the checksum database, which stores checksums. With this tool, a developer can ensure that a collection of modules committed earlier hasn’t changed. It’s easy, convenient, and reliable. 

    Verdict: comparing Go vs Java, both languages are secure, but with the second one vulnerability risks are higher. 

    Features

    Being developed earlier than Go, Java has numerous features added during the period of its existence by Java programmers. Of course, Go has not so many features, but a welcoming Go community is working on it, making the language usage more and more convenient. 

    To say some words about Java features, it supports classes with constructors, function overloading, and has many garbage collectors for different situations. 

    Go, in its turn, supports goroutines, channels, has better dependency management, and provides high productivity of code writing.

    Verdict: there is no winner or loser.

    Community 

    To compare Java vs Go, the first one appeared much earlier than Go, and all the 27 years it has existed, the community has been developing. Thousands of developers writing in Java appreciate it and share ideas of how to use it in the most efficient way. Also, there are many veterans who have used Java from the very beginning, and it’s difficult to surprise them with any challenging task—the people know everything about the language and its opportunities. 

    On the other hand, Go appeared only 13 years ago; it’s twice as young compared to Java. So it’s not a surprise that the Go community is smaller. Though, it’s welcoming and grows quickly. For example, annual Gophercon conferences are organized specially for Go developers and those who are interested in this young programming language. 

    Verdict: Java wins, but Go is not far behind.

    Development cost 

    The programming language’s popularity and difficulty impact on salaries developers get. Today, prospective startups and large companies are more likely to choose Go: it’s up-to-date, convenient, and appropriate for back-end development, and ensures fast project launching—everything a business needs for growth. 

    Nowadays there’s a lack of experienced Golang developers. But it should be noted that for the back-end development the programming language is not of a primary importance because it is a tool only while really difficult stuff refers to other technologies. An experienced  back-end programmer can write a good back end in another language as well. The skilled back-end programmer can carry over the experience and easily  master Golang. In Go vs Java comparison, the second one is older, so there are enough specialists who know the language both inside out and upside down and have much experience in Java-development. 

    According to Stack Overflow Survey, Go developers salaries are higher than Java-developers have: $140,000 against $120,000 a year. It’s not a big difference, but if you hire developers, note that Go development takes far less time than Java development. So, to compare results for the same sum of money, Go programmers can give you more just because they work faster, and deliver more releases than the other programmers do.    

    Verdict: Go developers are more expensive than Java developers, but thanks to easy code written in Go, they launch projects faster than programmers who work with Java. As Go popularity is extremely growing day by day, the developers’ salaries are higher than Java-developers have. 

    If you are going to hire a Go developer, check a list of interview questions to ask in our article

    To sum up

    1. Comparing Go vs Java, a programming language you’ll choose for your project depends on tasks your business meets: both Java and Go are good for their specific purposes.
    2. Programmers use Go for web apps, highload services, cloud-based services development, real time communications, charts and bots programming, microservices, network utilities, container orchestration tooling.
    3. Java is used for web apps, mobile apps development (Android), simulation modeling, services for financial companies, trading platforms, big data, web and application services, embedded systems, games. At the same time, it doesn’t mean Java is the best choice for these tasks: the language is old and universal, so developers often choose it. But there are more up-to-date and powerful solutions to try. 
    4. Performance, strong memory management and code simplicity are better in Go.
    5. Numerous features, community, and lower developers salaries are strengths of Java. 

    At Surf we have been developing back end, mobile apps and industry-specific solutions for 12 years. We have much experience both in Java and Go development, and in our portfolio there are many projects to be proud of. Banks, retailers, restaurants, pharmacies are among them.