Java Persistence/Embeddables

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Embeddables[edit]

Embeddable.PNG

In an application object model some objects are considered independent, and others are considered dependent parts of other objects. In UML a relationship to a dependent object is consider an aggregate or composite association. In a relational database this kind of relationship could be modeled in two ways, the dependent object could have its own table, or its data could be embedded in the independent objects table.

In JPA a relationship where the target object's data is embedded in the source object's table is considered an embedded relationship, and the target object is considered an Embeddable object. Embeddable objects have different requirements and restrictions than Entity objects and are defined by the @Embeddable annotation or <embeddable> element.

An embeddable object cannot be directly persisted, or queried, it can only be persisted or queried in the context of its parent. An embeddable object does not have an id or table. The JPA spec does not support embeddable objects having inheritance, although some JPA providers may allow this. Relationships from embeddable objects are supported in JPA 2.0.

Relationships to embeddable objects are defined through the @Embedded annotation or <embedded> element. The JPA 2.0 spec also supports collection relationships to embeddable objects.

Example of an Embeddable object annotations[edit]

@Embeddable 
public class EmploymentPeriod {
  @Column(name="START_DATE")
  private java.sql.Date startDate;
 
  @Column(name="END_DATE")
  private java.sql.Date endDate;
  ....
}

Example of an Embeddable object XML[edit]

<embeddable class="org.acme.EmploymentPeriod" access="FIELD">
    <attributes>
        <basic name="startDate">
            <column name="START_DATE"/>
        </basic>
        <basic name="endDate">
            <column name="END_DATE"/>
        </basic>
    </attributes>
</embeddable>

Example of an embedded relationship annotations[edit]

@Entity
public class Employee {
  @Id
  private long id;
  ...
  @Embedded
  private EmploymentPeriod period;
  ...
}

Example of an embedded relationship XML[edit]

<entity name="Employee" class="org.acme.Employee" access="FIELD">
    <attributes>
        <id name="id"/>
        <embedded name="period"/>
    </attributes>
</entity>

Advanced[edit]

Sharing[edit]

An embeddable object can be shared between multiple classes. Consider a Name object, that both an Employee and a User contain. Both Employee and a User have their own tables, with different column names that they desire to store their name in. Embeddables support this through allowing each embedded mapping to override the columns used in the embeddable. This is done through the @AttributeOverride annotation or <attribute-override> element.

Note that an embeddable cannot be shared between multiple instances. If you desire to share an embeddable object instance, then you must make it an independent object with its own table.

Example shared embeddable annotations[edit]

@Entity
public class Employee {
  @Id
  private long id;
  ...
  @Embedded
  @AttributeOverrides({
    @AttributeOverride(name="startDate", column=@Column(name="START_DATE")),
    @AttributeOverride(name="endDate", column=@Column(name="END_DATE"))
  })
  private Period employmentPeriod;
  ...
}
@Entity
public class User {
  @Id
  private long id;
  ...
  @Embedded
  @AttributeOverrides({
    @AttributeOverride(name="startDate", column=@Column(name="SDATE")),
    @AttributeOverride(name="endDate", column=@Column(name="EDATE"))
  })
  private Period period;
  ...
}

Example shared embeddable XML[edit]

<entity name="Employee" class="org.acme.Employee" access="FIELD">
    <attributes>
        <id name="id"/>
        <embedded name="employmentPeriod">
            <attribute-override name="startDate">
                <column name="START_DATE"/>
            </attribute-override>
            <attribute-override name="endDate">
                <column name="END_DATE"/>
            </attribute-override>
        </embedded>
    </attributes>
</entity>
<entity name="User" class="org.acme.User" access="FIELD">
    <attributes>
        <id name="id"/>
        <embedded name="period">
            <attribute-override name="startDate">
                <column name="SDATE"/>
            </attribute-override>
            <attribute-override name="endDate">
                <column name="EDATE"/>
            </attribute-override>
        </embedded>
    </attributes>
</entity>

Embedded Ids[edit]

An EmbeddedId is an embeddable object that contains the Id for an entity.

See: Embedded Id

Nulls[edit]

An embeddable object's data is contained in several columns in its parent's table. Since there is no single field value, there is no way to know if a parent's reference to the embeddable is null. One could assume that if every field value of the embeddable is null, then the reference should be null, but then there is no way to represent an embeddable with all null values. JPA does not allow embeddables to be null, but some JPA providers may support this.

TopLink / EclipseLink : Support an embedded reference being null. This is set through using a DescriptorCustomizer and the AggregateObjectMapping setIsNullAllowed API.

Nesting[edit]

A nested embeddable is a relationship to an embeddable object from another embeddable. The JPA 1.0 spec only allows Basic relationships in an embeddable object, so nested embeddables are not supported, however some JPA products may support them. Technically there is nothing preventing the @Emdedded annotation being used in an embeddable object, so this may just work depending on your JPA provider (cross your fingers).

JPA 2.0 supports nested embeddable objects.

TopLink / EclipseLink : Support embedded mappings from embeddables. The existing @Embedded annotation or <embedded> element can be used.

A workaround to having a nested embeddable, and for embeddables in general is to use property access, and add get/set methods for all of the attributes of the nested embeddable object.

Example of using properties to define a nested embeddable[edit]

@Embeddable
public class EmploymentDetails {
  private EmploymentPeriod period;
  private int yearsOfService;
  private boolean fullTime;
  ....
  public EmploymentDetails() {
    this.period = new EmploymentPeriod();
  }
  @Transient
  public EmploymentPeriod getEmploymentPeriod() {
    return period;
  }
  @Basic
  public Date getStartDate() {
    return getEmploymentPeriod().getStartDate();
  }
  public void setStartDate(Date startDate) {
    getEmploymentPeriod().setStartDate(startDate);
  }
  @Basic
  public Date getEndDate() {
    return getEmploymentPeriod().getEndDate();
  }
  public void setEndDate(Date endDate) {
    getEmploymentPeriod().setEndDate(endDate);
  }
  ....
}

Inheritance[edit]

Embeddable inheritance is when one embeddable class subclasses another embeddable class. The JPA spec does not allow inheritance in embeddable objects, however some JPA products may support this. Technically there is nothing preventing the @DiscriminatorColumn annotation being used in an embeddable object, so this may just work depending on your JPA provider (cross your fingers). Inheritance in embeddables is always single table as an embeddable must live within its' parent's table. Generally attempting to mix inheritance between embeddables and entities is not a good idea, but may work in some cases.

TopLink / EclipseLink : Support inheritance with embeddables. This is set through using a DescriptorCustomizer and the InheritancePolicy.

Relationships[edit]

A relationship is when an embeddable has a OneToOne or other such mapping to an entity. The JPA 1.0 spec only allows Basic mappings in an embeddable object, so relationships from embeddables are not supported, however some JPA products may support them. Technically there is nothing preventing the @OneToOne annotation or other relationships from being used in an embeddable object, so this may just work depending on your JPA provider (cross your fingers).

JPA 2.0 supports all relationship types from an embeddable object.

TopLink / EclipseLink : Support relationship mappings from embeddables. The existing relationship annotations or XML elements can be used.

Relationships to embeddable objects from entities other than the embeddable's parent are typically not a good idea, as an embeddable is a private dependent part of its parent. Generally relationships should be to the embeddable's parent, not the embeddable. Otherwise, it would normally be a good idea to make the embeddable an independent entity with its own table. If an embeddable has a bi-directional relationship, such as a OneToMany that requires an inverse ManyToOne the inverse relationship should be to the embeddable's parent.

A workaround to having a relationship from an embeddable is to define the relationship in the embeddable's parent, and define property get/set methods for the relationship that set the relationship into the embeddable.

Example of setting a relationship in an embeddable from its parent[edit]

@Entity
public class Employee {
  ....
  private EmploymentDetails details;
  ....
  @Embedded
  public EmploymentDetails getEmploymentDetails() {
    return details;
  }
  @OneToOne
  public Address getEmploymentAddress() {
    return getEmploymentDetails().getAddress();
  }
  public void setEmploymentAddress(Address address) {
    getEmploymentDetails().setAddress(address);
  }
}

One special relationship that is sometimes desired in an embeddable is a relationship to its parent. JPA does not support this, but some JPA providers may.

Hibernate : Supports a @Parent annotation in embeddables to define a relationship to its parent.

A workaround to having a parent relationship from an embeddable is to set the parent in the property set method.

Example of setting a relationship in an embeddable to its parent[edit]

@Entity
public class Employee {
  ....
  private EmploymentDetails details;
  ....
  @Embedded
  public EmploymentDetails getEmploymentDetails() {
    return details;
  }
  public void setEmploymentDetails(EmploymentDetails details) {
    this.details = details;
    details.setParent(this);
  }
}

Collections[edit]

A collection of embeddable objects is similar to a OneToMany except the target objects are embeddables and have no Id. This allows for a OneToMany to be defined without a inverse ManyToOne, as the parent is responsible for storing the foreign key in the target object's table. JPA 1.0 did not support collections of embeddable objects, but some JPA providers support this.

JPA 2.0 does support collections of embeddable objects through the ElementCollection mapping. See, ElementCollection.

EclipseLink (as of 1.2) : Supports the JPA 2.0 ElementCollection mapping.
TopLink / EclipseLink : Support collections of embeddables. This is set through using a DescriptorCustomizer and the AggregateCollectionMapping.
Hibernate : Supports collections of embeddables through the @CollectionOfElements annotation.
DataNucleus : Supports the JPA 2.0 ElementCollection mapping.

Typically the primary key of the target table will be composed of the parent's primary key, and some unique field in the embeddable object. The embeddable should have a unique field within its parent's collection, but does not need to be unique for the entire class. It could still have a unique id and still use sequencing, or if it has no unique fields, its id could be composed of all of its fields. The embeddable collection object will be different than a typical embeddable object as it will not be stored in the parent's table, but in its own table. Embeddables are strictly privately owned objects, deletion of the parent will cause deletion of the embeddables, and removal from the embeddable collection should cause the embeddable to be deleted. Embeddables cannot be queried directly, and are not independent objects as they have no Id.

Querying[edit]

Embeddable objects cannot be queried directly, but they can be queried in the context of their parent. Typically it is best to select the parent, and access the embeddable from the parent. This will ensure the embeddable is registered with the persistence context. If the embeddable is selected in a query, the resulting objects will be detached, and changes will not be tracked.

Example of querying an embeddable[edit]

SELECT employee.period FROM Employee employee WHERE employee.period.endDate = :param