Mmh, I don’t know how to say this. Some people might bash me over this.
Language (Groovy and Ruby)
As a language I reckon Ruby is more funky compared to Groovy. Groovy only exists to ease Java programmer as you don’t need to learn too much new syntax. But overall I reckon is not as funky as Ruby. Groovy wouldn’t be the JVM language that is worth to learn based on attender’s vote in this year’s JavaOne but instead Scala is the one to go. Besides that, the original creator of Groovy himself does not have faith in the language he created himself in the first place.
Community and Job openings
As for the community, Grails community is not as big as Rails, though since the acquirement by Spring more and more people are using it in serious application. Rails has more job openings in the market compared to Grails (that is if you want to invest in looking a new job).
The framework (Grails and Rails)
But, as a framework, if you really care about maintainability and need access to Java framework and legacy Java system, Grails is the way to go as it provides cleaner access to Java. Grails itself is built upon several popular Java framework (Spring & Hibernate). Rails itself IMHO is funky like Ruby itself, but it’s funkyness costs you maintainability. Matz himself prefers Merb over Rails 2 because Rails create a DSL on top of Ruby which is really against the Ruby philosophy. And I reckon because Rails itself is opiniated, which in turn if you don’t have the same opinion as the creator, it might not fit your needs.
So in your case, learn Grails as that is the company’s consensus (you need to respect the consensus) and if you still want to secure your job. But, invest some time learning Rails and Ruby too if you want to open a chance getting a new job in the future.
Just a bit of a question, is the reason they are choosing Grails because Groovy is closer in syntax to Java than Ruby, or because they want access to Java?
If it is the former, then I would say try to focus on Grails since that is what you will be using. If it is the latter, you might want to see if the development team is open to using JRuby.
I have never used Grails or Rails before, but I have used Groovy and Ruby before, and as a language I think Ruby is much cleaner and more consistent, and the team might enjoy production more. As a platform, Rails has been out longer and has a lot of attention, so I would imagine it is a more stable platform to use with more fleshed out features.
JRuby has full access to classes written in Java, so this is why I would say consider trying Rails. If it is too late in the decision time to consider it then I guess you can just ignore this post.
Basically, if you just want to hook in with Java, then JRuby is an option you should consider, but if the team is afraid of non-Java like syntax, maybe continue as is.
I would learn both. They are both up and coming technologies. Learning RESTful coding is a real benefit in any language.
I use GRAILS at work and RoR for side projects. I can say that the RoR community is much larger (I’m talking about RoR vs Grails not RoR vs Java) and very helpful.
Short Answer: They are similar…. what could it hurt?