Developer's Overview


This document describes some of the design ideas and architecture behind the XORM project. As implied by its name, a primary goal of XORM is to map object data to relational data. Many of the subsystems within the implementation reflect this distinction.

Relational Level

The relational level is represented by the classes in the org.xorm.datastore package. The metadata for this area comes from the database schema XML file. This defines any number of Table and Column instances, and indicates, if applicable, the data types of each column. The types at this level correspond exactly with the data in the datastore.

Furthermore, XORM assumes that relational instances -- Rows -- may have primary keys that are unique for each Table. Currently only single-column primary keys are supported.

The set of tables may include many-to-many mapping tables. These are treated no differently than any other table at this level.

At runtime, data from the relational datastore is directly instantiated, creating Row objects. Each Row instance holds the data from one datastore Row. The only data transformation that occurs is a mapping of datastore-specific data types to Java types, as defined by the "type" (and optionally "format") field in the database schema XML. For instance, the SQL "VARCHAR" type becomes a Java String.

The input and output of datastore Row instances is handled by instances of org.xorm.datastore.DatastoreDriver. Drivers are responsible for reading Row data via the select() method, creating new datastore Rows using the create() method, updating modified Rows using the update() method, and deleting Rows using the delete() method.

To facilitate pooled configuration data and connections, a DatastoreDriver instance must also provide an interrogation method that indicates the type of ConnectionInfo class it requires.

There is one instance of a DatastoreDriver per JDO Transaction instance. During its lifecycle, a single driver may be reused for multiple logical transactions. The sequence of calls made to the driver always starts with begin() and terminates with either commit() or rollback(). Between begin and end, any of the read/write operations may be called. Drivers that utilize connection pooling should acquire a new connection when begin() is called, and release it when commit() or rollback() is called.

Object Level

The object level corresponds to your Java object model. In XORM this is captured by the definition of abstract classes and interfaces. These must then be identified in the JDO metadata file in order to be mapped to relational items.

At runtime, these objects are created by using the CGLIB enhancer. This occurs either via the XORM.newInstance() static method, or internally during a query or lookup execution. The resulting instances, which implement your interfaces or extend your abstract classes, are proxy objects. They delegate their methods' behavior to XORM in the case of interface or abstract methods (we say these methods are "enhanced" by CGLIB).

Mapping Level

Most of the work that XORM does involves translating data back and forth between the relational model and the object model. The mapping information is all present in the JDO XML metadata file or files for the application.

When a new persistence capable class is referenced, XORM attempts to read the *.jdo file for the class or its package, if it has not been read already. The org.xorm.util.jdoxml classes are a straightforward translation of the JDO XML data into Java form; they were written this way to enable reuse in other scenarios where programs (such as configuration tools) need access to raw JDO configuration data.

The jdoxml.* objects are then processed by an instance of org.xorm.ModelMapping. A ModelMapping represents the particular set of mappings in place for a given InterfaceManagerFactory. The ModelMapping reads the information contained in the JDO file and creates a set of objects called ClassMappings, one for each persistence-capable class. A ClassMapping instance holds the information mapping a particular java Class to a particular datastore Table. This includes mapping each property of the class to a datastore Column or a RelationshipMapping. Mappings to a Column are used for properties that contain primitive data like Strings and numbers that correspond exactly to columns in the datastore. They are also used for properties that are object references in the object model and exist in the datastore as foreign key columns.

RelationshipMappings can be one-to-many or many-to-many. These indicate relationships to collections of objects that do not get stored as part of the primary Row for a data object. One-to-many relationships are those where the primary key of the owning object becomes part of the referenced object's row. Many-to-many relationships use a secondary lookup table.

At runtime, instantiated relationships (collection properties of model objects) are represented by instances of org.xorm.RelationshipProxy.

Backing each proxy instance at runtime is an InterfaceInvocationHandler object. A handler is connected to both the object model (proxy) and the relation model (Row). This object is invoked for every enhanced method called on the proxy, with one argument being the java.lang.reflect.Method instance for the method invoked and another being the arguments to that method. In the simplest terms, the handler examines the Method and arguments and determines the bean property being accessed, and whether the access is a read or write method. The handler then reads or writes the Row object or a RelationshipProxy, invoking the InterfaceManager if it needs additional data read from the datastore.

Query Model

Just like the different layers of objects in XORM, the query model has multiple layers. Queries themselves are expressed in terms of the Java object model and properties of Java classes. The internal representation of a query in XORM is managed by QueryExample and QueryCondition classes. It provides, in a sense, a "query by example", where the applicable Class and conditions for meeting the query are defined. A QueryCondition identifies a class property, an operator, and a value; the value itself may be another example object.

To support JDOQL, the JDO Query Language, a JavaCC-generated parser is used. This parser validates and translates the String queries in JDOQL, turning them into QueryExample instances with attached QueryConditions. Other query languages could be supported using a similar approach.

To actually execute the query, it needs to be rephrased in terms of the relational model. A corresponding set of objects exists for this purpose. The Selector object encapsulates a relational query tree; attached to it are any number of Condition objects. Conditions may in turn reference additional Selectors. The BoundQuery class handles conversion of a QueryExample object into a Selector. As part of this process, any many-to-many mapping tables that need to be traversed are included.

The final step of query parsing is handled by the DatastoreDriver. The responsibility of the driver is to translate the Selector passed in as an argument to the select() method into a native query format. In the case of a JDBC database, this native query format is SQL. The org.xorm.datastore.sql.SQLQuery class is tasked with translating a Selector to SQL.

One additional point is that nested Selectors may be marked as outer joins. This indicates that the condition is an optional one that should be traversed if available. Because of this, Selectors may return data from multiple Tables. DatastoreDrivers are encouraged but not required to support this feature, which allows XORM to prefetch data based on user fetch group preferences.

Cache Model

XORM keeps a cache of transactional data associated with each ongoing transaction as specified by the JDO specification. That is, reading a particular object will go to the datastore at most once during a given transaction.

In addition, there is a second-level cache associated with each instance of PersistenceManagerFactory. All PersistenceManagers associated with the factory share access to the same cache. This cache contains Row objects, not Java proxies. XORM queries the cache before going to the datastore when it can (single-object lookups, primarily).

The cache strategy is pluggable but defaults to a SoftReference-based implementation, leaving the JVM responsible for managing memory. Other strategies, such as LRU, are available, and may be more configurable.

When a second-level cache is in use, all datastore select() results go into the cache immediately, and all inserts, updates, and deletes are propagated at transaction commit time. There is a slight risk here of repeatable reads bringing bad data into the cache; this will need to be addressed in the future.

The cache mechanism does not preclude distributed caching, but this is not currently implemented.

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