JPA : Embedded Fields

The JPA persistence strategy typically involves persisting the fields of any class into its own table, and representing any relationships from the fields of that class across to other tables. There are occasions when this is undesirable, maybe due to an existing datastore schema, or because a more convenient datastore model is required. JPA allows the persistence of fields as embedded typically into the same table as the "owning" class.

One important decision when defining objects of a type to be embedded into another type is whether objects of that type will ever be persisted in their own right into their own table, and have an identity. JPA provides a MetaData attribute that you can use to signal this.

<embeddable name="mydomain.MyClass">
    ...
</embeddable>

or using annotations

@Embeddable
public class MyClass
{
    ...
}

With the above MetaData (using the embeddable definition), in our application any objects of the class MyClass can be embedded into other objects.

Embedding entities (1-1)
Applicable to RDBMS, Excel, OOXML, ODF, HBase, MongoDB, Neo4j

In a typical 1-1 relationship between 2 classes, the 2 classes in the relationship are persisted to their own table, and a foreign key is managed between them. With JPA and DataNucleus you can persist the related entity object as embedded into the same table. This results in a single table in the datastore rather than one for each of the 2 classes.

Let's take an example. We are modelling a Computer , and in our simple model our Computer has a graphics card and a sound card. So we model these cards using a ComputerCard class. So our classes become

public class Computer
{
    private String operatingSystem;

    private ComputerCard graphicsCard;

    private ComputerCard soundCard;

    public Computer(String osName,
                    ComputerCard graphics,
                    ComputerCard sound)
    {
        this.operatingSystem = osName;
        this.graphicsCard = graphics;
        this.soundCard = sound;
    }

    ...
}

public class ComputerCard
{
    public static final int ISA_CARD = 0;
    public static final int PCI_CARD = 1;
    public static final int AGP_CARD = 2;

    private String manufacturer;

    private int type;

    public ComputerCard(String manufacturer,
                        int type)
    {
        this.manufacturer = manufacturer;
        this.type = type;
    }

    ...
}

The traditional (default) way of persisting these classes would be to have a table to represent each class. So our datastore will look like this





However we decide that we want to persist Computer objects into a table called COMPUTER and we also want to persist the PC cards into the same table . We define our MetaData like this

<entity name="mydomain.Computer">
    <attributes>
        <basic name="operatingSystem">
            <column="OS_NAME"/>
        </basic>
        <embedded name="graphicsCard">
            <attribute-override name="manufacturer">
                <column="GRAPHICS_MANUFACTURER"/>
            </attribute-override>
            <attribute-override name="type">
                <column="GRAPHICS_TYPE"/>
            </attribute-override>
        </embedded>
        <embedded name="soundCard">
            <attribute-override name="manufacturer">
                <column="SOUND_MANUFACTURER"/>
            </attribute-override>
            <attribute-override name="type">
                <column="SOUND_TYPE"/>
            </attribute-override>
        </embedded>
    </attributes>
</entity>
<embeddable name="mydomain.ComputerCard">
    <attributes>
        <basic name="manufacturer"/>
        <basic name="type"/>
    </attributes>
</embeddable>

So here we will end up with a TABLE called "COMPUTER" with columns "COMPUTER_ID", "OS_NAME", "GRAPHICS_MANUFACTURER", "GRAPHICS_TYPE", "SOUND_MANUFACTURER", "SOUND_TYPE". If we call persist() on any objects of type Computer , they will be persisted into this table.



It should be noted that in this latter (embedded) case we can still persist objects of type ComputerCard into their own table - the MetaData definition for ComputerCard is used for the table definition in this case.

DataNucleus supports embedded persistable objects with the following proviso :-

  • You can represent inheritence of embedded objects using a discriminator (you must define it in the metadata of the embedded type. Note that this is a DataNucleus extension since JPA doesn't define any support for embedded inherited persistable objects

See also :-