Monday, June 8, 2015

Brief overview of JPA

JPA(Java Persistance API) came into picture to bring object-orinted and relational model together. It's basically an abstraction on top of JDBC (and is part of EJB 3.0 specification); to let you deal with tables without using SQL. Before this,  persistence model of Java was called as Entity Bean and was part of Enterprise Java Beans specification. Entity Bean wasn't light weight, and hence got replaced by this new (new age) API.

Relational databases store data in tables in form of rows and columns. So dealing with tables directly was not very convenient in Java where objects rule. JDBC bridged the gap a bit, but wasn't able to remove SQL altogether. JPA consists of two broad components to solve the full problem - first is mapping of objects to tables and second is providing ability to query. Let's cover them briefly:

Mapping (ORM): JPA maps Java objects to relational database tables. Mapping is achieved through ORM metadata. The metadata describes the mapping between table and objects (and attributes and columns). It was initially achieved by a descriptor XML file, but it got further simplified and now annotations are preferred approach (Use of annotations brought convention over configuration technique). So, just put annotations at Class, field/method level and boy you are done with mapping.

A common confusion is that, hand-coded SQL queries is going to be as fast as one automated by ORM tool or may be even better. So is it recommended to use ORM tools ?
Yeah, it's safe to assume that hand coded SQL/JDBC can be easily analyzed and optimized. But, ORM tools like Hibernate gives much more optimizations like automated queries and caching out of the box. It hides lot many details and allows the programmers to focus on core business problems. Also, these tools abstracts your underlying database as well. 

Querying: Mapping will not make much sense if we still have to write SQL queries so JPA tweaked SQL to come up with its own query language, JPQL(Java Persistence Query Language). JPQL queries entity objects.  JPQL doesn't understand underlying row/columns and tables, it queries objects so uses familiar notation i.e. dot (.) . 

Evolution of JPA

JPA 1.0 (May 2006, EJB 3.0) brought the object-oriented and relational model together. It was bundled as part of J2EE 1.3 and then later J2EE 1.4 as well.

JPA 2.0 (Dec 2009, Java EE 6) It extended JPQL, added second-level cache, pessimistic locking (criterial API)

JPA 2.1(Apr 2013, Java EE 7) supports schema generation (persistance.xml), converters, CDI, stored procedures, bulk update and delete queries, enhanced criteria API (update and delete)
more here -

* From version 5, J2EE is known as Java EE, and similarly J2SE is know as Java SE.


Objects which get persisted through JPA provider(like hibernate) is referred to as Entity. Entities live shortly in memory and persistently in a database. So you basically perform all operations on Entity which are POJO and it typically represents a row of a table. Entity class should satisfy below conditions:
  • Entity class must be annotated with @javax.persistance.Entity
  • Class must have public or protected no arg constructor (it can have other constructors as well)
  • Class must not be declared as final. No method or persistent instance variable must be declared as final
  • Class must not be enum or interface 
  • If instance has to be passed by value as detached object, the entity class must implement Serializable interface
public class Employee{..}

@Entity annotation converts the Employee class into an entity (in above snippet).  Also going by convention over configuration rule, the table name is same as class name (i.e. Employee).

JPA Frameworks/Implementation

  • Hibernate open source implementation, supports JPA from version 3.2, influenced JPA specification
  • TopLink commercial implementation
  • Java Data Objects (JDO)
  • EclipseLink also supports object XML mapping. Reference implementation of JPA. 

Note: Persistence provider or provider refers to JPA implementation. 

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