How to export data from a DB using JPA model

posted on 15 Sep 2010
java rhq

In RHQ, we are currently contemplating implementing a series of automated performance tests. For those tests to make any sense, we have to provide them with some initial data to work with.

So the goal is quite simple. Export some defined dataset from an existing database, store it away and import it back again before a test is run. Easy. When I started researching the export part of the problem, I thought there’s bound to be something out there already in existence that would do the job. And I was right. The dbUnit project is exactly what I was looking for. They support extraction of the data from the database and can even follow the foreign key relationships (in both ways) to export the necessary data to keep referential integrity. Great.

But wait. Our data model isn’t that simple. I certainly want all the data that my core dataset depends on to be included in the export, but I also want some of the data that depends on my dataset.

Ok that didn’t make much sense, so let me introduce a little example to explain the problems on. First, let’s look at the class diagram, that will show the relationships between different entities in the model.

Class diagram

These entities are mapped to these tables:

Entity diagram

Now let’s say I wanted to export all the resources with their configurations but I’m not interested in the alert definitions. Obviously this is going to require some kind of configuration.

I could stay on the database level and for example create a configuration where I would specifically state something like "I want data from this table." or "I’m interested in this table and all its dependencies but this particular foreign key." and implement a dbUnit search based on this configuration but I’m a Java developer and even though I can write my SQL statements and design a (more or less) reasonable database schema, I certainly don’t love that job. To find out the relationships between tables, looking at the JPA annotated Java code is much quicker and more pleasant to me than looking at table and foreign key definitions.

Before I dive into more details let me show you the configuration file that will achieve the above goal:

<graph includeExplicitDependentsImplicitly="true"
    <entity name="Resource" root="true">
        <filter>SELECT ID FROM RESOURCE WHERE NAME='myResource'</filter>
        <rel field="configuration"/>
    <entity name="ResourceType" includeAllFields="true">
        <rel field="resources" exclude="true"/>

This is still a bit of a mouthful but at the same time it’s very powerful. What I’m basically saying there is that I want to export a resource with the name "myResource" and I only want to include its configuration in the export (of course the simple properties of the resource are implicitly exported but configuration is the only relationship that gets exported along with it). Further, I’m telling the exporter that it’s free to export all the data of the ResourceType entities my Resource is dependent upon but I don’t want to include the resources of the ResourceType in the export. This is to prevent the other resources to "leak" to the export due to the explicit relationship of the ResourceType and its "child" Resource entities. The mysterious “includeExplicitDependetsImplicitly” attribute tells the exporter to include all dependents of the entities it encounters unless configured otherwise.

I want the above configuration to cause the exporter to include the following in the export (look at the above class diagram to get a better understanding why I need the below):

  1. "myResource" resource

  2. Its configuration and all its properties

  3. The resource type of the resource

  4. The configuration definition associated with that resource type

  5. All the property definitions of the configuration definition


To achieve the above functionality I needed to create a bridge that would look at the JPA annotations in my domain layer classes and translate the relationships expressed there into SQL terms. Once I have the SQL representation of the domain model relationships I can feed that into dbUnit and use it to export and import the data as well (I also let dbUnit figure out the proper insertion order to keep the referential integrity but more on that later).

The code turned out to be fairly simple and basically consists of creation of an entity dependency graph, where nodes represent the JPA entities and edges represent individual relationships (i.e. a directed, cyclic, multiply connected graph). The JPA annotations contain all the information to translate the entities and their relationships into the terms of SQL tables and columns, the translation is only slightly complicated by the possibility of relation tables (e.g. a relation table to describe a @ManyToMany relationship) (the code is here).

With the SQL mapping at hand I could start linking the code I had with the functionality defined in dbUnit. I chose to implement it as a ITableFilter. By inheriting from DatabaseSequenceFilter I got the correct table order in the export for free and by retaining the insertion order in the sets of the allowed PKs while traversing the entity dependency graph, I was also able to retain the correct insertion order even in cases where a table has a foreign key on itself. My EntityRelationshipFilter can use the above mentioned configuration to restrict the traversal of the entity dependency graph and therefore restrict the resulting export (by relying on an inclusion resolver to tell it what to do). You can take a look at the code here.


Relying on dbUnit to do the "low-level" data export and import for me, I could create a "Java developer friendly" data export tool in just a little bit more than a week’s time. The good thing is that it is completely generic and so it could be easily used with other projects than RHQ (of course, more work would be required on the tool in that case because the translation from JPA to SQL isn’t completely implemented. For example it’s missing handling the implicit values of the JPA annotations (e.g. the table name derived from the class name if the @Table annotation doesn’t explicitly specify a name) and I’m sure I missed some corner cases in handling the relationships as well. But it seems to work for RHQ at the moment which means that it’s already quite capable because our domain model isn’t a trivial one. If there was interest, I’d be more than happy to help create a standalone full-featured tool out of this and take it out of the RHQ source code. You can read even more about the tool on our wiki here.

In the next blog entry, I’ll take a look at the "import and test" part of the solution, namely on the integration of the database setup and data import with TestNG.