Spring Dependency Hell

Understanding the Risks and Best Practices to Avoid Them

Spring Dependency Hell

In my previous Spring Boot project, newer developers often ran into quite a few problems when they were trying to get their workspace set up. These issues were mainly caused by what we call "dependency hell." Now, let me explain what that means.

Dependency hell is a common hiccup that can happen in Spring-based applications when different parts of the software need different versions of the same building blocks. It's like trying to solve a tricky puzzle because it can be really hard to figure out why things aren't working smoothly and how to fix them.

Think of it like this: Dependency Hell is a bit like when you're trying to fix something in your house, and as you dig deeper, you uncover more problems. In our case, these problems show up as conflicts between the different pieces of code we're using, or sometimes they're like loops where one thing depends on another, and it goes in circles. There's even a term called "diamond dependencies," which is a fancy way of saying things are getting really tangled up. It can be a bit frustrating, but with some patience and know-how, we can untangle these issues and make our software work smoothly.

  1. Dependency conflicts arise when two software packages require the same dependency, but each package demands a different version of that dependency.

  2. Circular dependencies occur when package A depends on a specific version of package B, and package B, in turn, depends on a specific version of package A. Upgrading one package can cause the other package to break.

  3. Diamond dependencies arise when a conflict exists deep within the dependency tree, such as when multiple dependencies rely on a sub-dependency, but each one requires a different version of that sub-dependency.

Software development involves dependencies which are typically unavoidable. However, they can lead to the risk of dependency hell. Therefore, it is important to understand why software dependency should be avoided.

Reasons for Dependency Hell

  1. Over time, the library you are using may become obsolete and is no longer actively maintained

  2. The third party library code you are using may be poorly written

  3. Transitive dependency conflicts: When a library depends on another library that has a conflicting version with the one already in use, it can result in a dependency conflict. For example, if Library A depends on Library B (version 1.0) and Library C depends on Library B (version 2.0), then a conflict can arise.

  4. Spring Framework version conflicts: Different modules of the Spring Framework may have dependencies on different versions of the same library. For example, Spring Data JPA may depend on Hibernate 5.4, while Spring Security may depend on Hibernate 5.3. This can lead to a conflict when using both modules in the same application.

  5. Maven/Gradle exclusions: Maven provides the option to exclude specific dependencies when resolving transitive dependencies. However, if an exclusion is used incorrectly, it can lead to a dependency conflict. For example, excluding a dependency that is needed by another library can cause that library to fail to function correctly.

  6. Conflicting third-party libraries: Applications often use third-party libraries, which can sometimes have conflicting dependencies. For example, if an application uses two libraries that depend on different versions of the same logging library, it can result in a dependency conflict.

  7. Classpath ordering issues: When multiple libraries are present in an application, there can be conflicts if the classpath order is incorrect. For example, if a library is loaded before another library that it depends on, it can result in runtime errors.

How to Avoid Dependency Hell

Here are some strategies for avoiding dependency hell in Spring-based applications:

  1. Use a dependency management tool: Tools like Apache Maven or Gradle can help you manage your dependencies and ensure that there are no conflicts between them. These tools can automatically manage transitive dependencies, detect and resolve conflicts, and ensure that all dependencies are compatible with each other.

  2. Use a consistent set of dependencies: It’s important to use a consistent set of dependencies throughout your application. Avoid mixing and matching different versions of the same library and ensure that all libraries are compatible with each other.

  3. Use Spring Boot: Spring Boot provides a curated set of dependencies that have been tested to work together. Using Spring Boot can help you avoid dependency conflicts and ensure that all dependencies are compatible with each other.

  4. Update dependencies regularly: Regularly updating your dependencies to their latest versions can help you avoid compatibility issues and ensure that you are using the latest and most secure versions of your libraries.

  5. Use Maven or Gradle exclusions carefully: If you need to exclude a transitive dependency, be careful to exclude only the specific version that is causing the conflict. Excluding entire libraries can cause other libraries to break.

  6. Be aware of the classpath order: Make sure that your dependencies are loaded in the correct order. If a library depends on another library, make sure that the dependent library is loaded first.

  7. Remove unused dependency from classpath and build artifacts


The article discusses the issue of dependency hell in software development, which occurs when resolving an initial error leads to the discovery of additional errors caused by conflicts in dependencies. The article provides examples of dependency conflicts, circular dependencies, and diamond dependencies, and highlights the negative impact these issues can have on software development projects. It also suggests ways to avoid dependency hell, such as carefully managing dependencies, using version control tools, and regularly updating software packages.

Did you find this article valuable?

Support Amit Himani by becoming a sponsor. Any amount is appreciated!