Tuesday, December 7, 2010

JPA - insert instead of update

Few days ago I was digging through the code in some project to find the reason why EclipseLink (2.1.1) is performing database insert instead of update. Let me say, that it was the hardest thing to find in my whole JPA-using developer career - so for the records, and to let you find it faster than me ;)

There was an association between entities Alpha and Beta, made in following manner:
public class Alpha ... {
    private Beta beta;

    @ManyToOne(..., optional = false)
    @JoinColumn(name = "beta_id")
    public Beta getBeta() { 
        return beta;
I wrote about the @JoinFetch annotation in one of my previous posts already (see: JPA Demystified (episode 1) - @OneToMany and @ManyToOne mappings) - it is used here, to fetch the associated Beta along with the Alpha, in one query.

In the project analyzed by me, instance of Alpha was created at one point, edited in few steps, with persisting into database between the steps. Everything was fine after the first step. Alpha was written into database (first insert), but after the second step, primary key violation occurred each time I tested it (same entity was again inserted into DB, while it should be updated at this point).

My first hint was missing equals and hashcode methods on Alpha and Beta. I've added it, but it doesn't helped at all. So I meet with the best friend of all Developers - Debugger :) - and started to dig into the project and EclipseLink source code. At this point let me give you first suggestion - when you trace the JPA problems use the Debugger and verify performed database operations in parallel, because only both those things can give you full view of the problem lurking beneath the Application's surface ;)

Watching the SQL queries, I've found that EclipseLink is performing query fetching the Alpha along with the Beta (as directed by @JoinFetch annotation), right before the invalid insert. Matching this operation to the Java code, I've found that EclipseLink is trying to check what has changed in the Alpha entity, to perform only the required updates to the database. The SQL query was using inner join ...

Do you suppose what was wrong? :) - There was no Beta entity associated to the Alpha, and therefore this query - "select ... from Alpha inner join Beta ..." was returning no records at all. At this point EclipseLink was assuming that Alpha entity was not written into database yet, and tried to do it again - Alpha has already generated identifier (while first insert into database), and ... beautiful exception :)

What you should learn from the above situation is that optional attribute of association definition is informational only! - It's provider choice to throw an exception if the associated value will be null, or do something completely else, as you see EclipseLink developers are ignoring it silently :(

Last but not least - use @JoinFetch(JoinFetchType.INNER) if and only if you are absolutely sure, that associated entity will always exist - ex. when the database scheme doesn't allow other possibility. Don't trust JPA provider completely ;)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

JPA - Lazy Loading and View rendering

JPA would be unusable without Lazy Loading, which is a feature allowing fetching of correlated entities from the database when they are referenced for the first time, rather than immediately when you perform the database query. Imagine that you cannot use Lazy Loading ... One query for the single result can return the whole database in this case, if you are lucky enough ;)

Each time when you use @OneToMany or @ManyToMany annotations, Lazy Loading is active by default, without any effort. For all other types of associations you may control it, using fetch attribute of annotation defining the association.

Sounds wonderful, isn't it? Everything is done automagically without my intervention, required entities are fetched from the database when they are needed, the world is beautiful and free of violence ... Well, not quite, my dear Watson ...

You have to be aware, that some entities may be referenced for the first time at the View rendering level. For Spring Framework based application with JSP used for View layer (but not only in this setup) this can lead to miscellaneous problems, which depends on used JPA provider.

Let's take a deeper look at the potential problems, using usual Employer - Employee - Benefit example from my previous JPA related posts. Suppose that we want to fetch the Employer information from the database, but the Employees and Benefits only when they are referenced. Associations between Employer, Employees and Benefits look like this:
@Table(name = "EMPLOYERS")
public class Employer implements Serializable {
    private List<Employee> employees;
    @OneToMany(mappedBy = "employer")
    public List<Employee> getEmployees() {
        return employees;

@Table(name = "EMPLOYEES")
public class Employee implements Serializable {
    private List<Benefit> benefits;
    private Employer employer;
    @OneToMany(mappedBy = "employee")
    public List<Benefit> getBenefits() {
        return benefits;

    @JoinColumn(name = "EMPLOYER_ID")
    public Employer getEmployer() {
        return employer;

@Table(name = "BENEFITS")
public class Benefit implements Serializable {
    private Employee employee;

    @JoinColumn(name = "EMPLOYEE_ID")
    public Employee getEmployee() {
        return employee;
DAO fetching the Employer data for Model:
public class DefaultEmployerDAO implements EmployerDAO {

    private EntityManager entityManager;

    public Employer get(Long identifier) {
        return entityManager.find(Employer.class, identifier);
And the JSP view displaying the Employer information, along with the Employees, and their Benefits:
<h1><c:out value="${employer.businessName}" /></h1>
<c:forEach items="${employer.employees}" var="e">
        <td><c:out value="${e.firstName}" /></td>
               <c:forEach items="${e.benefits}" var="b">
                   <li><c:out value="${b.name}" /></li>
Let's examine how it will behave for different JPA providers, starting from EclipseLink 2.1.1. When we try to open desired view in browser, we will see something like this:

Application activity while preparing the Model (seen from the Spring Insight):

and while rendering the view itself:

All the SQL queries visible at the view rendering level are caused by Lazy Loading.
As you see the EclipseLink and Lazy Loading works without any special effort :)

Now it's time to check Hibernate 3.4.0.GA. For this provider, when we try to open the desired view in browser, we will see beautiful
LazyInitializationException: failed to lazily initialize a collection of role: [...].entities.domain.Employer.employees, no session or session was closed
Sweet, isn't it? :) - old hibernate session closed problem strikes again, this time in JPA ;) - but believe me, this is not the worst problem you may encounter using JPA ;), because with a little help from OpenEntityManagerInViewFilter it can be quickly corrected (if you are using hibernate for a little longer, you are probably well aware of very useful OpenSessionInViewFilter used in similar situations with "pure" hibernate). Let's add this filter to the web.xml:
The entityManagerFactoryBeanName parameter should match the name of your Entity Manager factory bean in Spring Framework configuration.

With this filter we can get finally the desired results. This time Application activity while preparing the Model looks like this:

and while the view rendering:

Finally OpenJPA 2.0.1 - first try without the OpenEntityManagerInViewFilter, and we will see in browser:

Good Lord! No data loaded at all ... no exceptions reported ... the worst situation, because you don't know if there are no data to view in the database, or there is something wrong with the application! :(

Let's add the OpenEntityManagerInViewFilter, and try again:

Now it looks as expected!
Application activity while preparing the Model:

and the view rendering:

As you see above, Lazy Loading requires for both Hibernate and OpenJPA OpenEntityManagerInViewFilter to be used, while EclipseLink work without any special effort.