JPA Entity Graph

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Introduction

In this article, I’m going to explain how you can fetch an entity association using a JPA Entity Graph and how you can build it either declaratively or programmatically.

JPA FetchType

A JPA association can be fetched lazily or eagerly. The fetching strategy is controlled via the fetch attribute of the @OneToMany, @OneToOne, @ManyToOne, or @ManyToMany.

The fetch attribute can be either FetchType.LAZY or FetchType.EAGER. By default, @OneToMany and @ManyToMany associations use the FetchType.LAZY strategy while the @OneToOne and @ManyToOne use the FetchType.EAGER strategy instead.

As I explained in this article, the FetchType.EAGER strategy is terrible default. Never in my life, I’ve seen a good use case that required an association to use the FetchType.EAGER strategy. That’s because it’s unlikely that every possible business use case will require fetching a given association and the fact that Hibernate cannot override the FetchType.EAGER strategy with FetchType.LAZY at query execution time.

Default Fetch Plan

As I explained in this article, every entity has a default fetch plan that’s defined during entity mapping and instructs Hibernate how to fetch entity associations.

By default, @ManyToOne and @OneToOne associations use the FetchTyp.EAGER strategy, which is a terrible choice from a performance perspective. So, for this reason, it’s good practice to set all @ManyToOne and @OneToOne associations to sue the FetchType.LAZY strategy, like in the following example:

@Entity(name = "PostComment")
@Table(name = "post_comment")
public class PostComment {

    @Id
    private Long id;

    @ManyToOne(fetch = FetchType.LAZY)
    private Post post;

    private String review;
    
    //Getters and setters omitted for brevity
}

When fetching the PostComment entity using the find method:

PostComment comment = entityManager.find(PostComment.class, 1L);

Hibernate executes the following SQL query:

SELECT pc.id AS id1_1_0_,
       pc.post_id AS post_id3_1_0_,
       pc.review AS review2_1_0_
FROM post_comment pc
WHERE pc.id = 1

The post association is fetched as a Proxy that has only the id set by the post_id Foreign Key column that was loaded by the aforementioned SQL query.

When accessing any non-id property of the post Proxy:

LOGGER.info("The comment post title is '{}'", comment.getPost().getTitle());

A secondary SQL query is executed that fetched the Post entity on-demand:

SELECT p.id AS id1_0_0_,
       p.title AS title2_0_0_
FROM post p
WHERE p.id = 1

-- The comment post title is 'High-Performance Java Persistence, part 1'

Overriding the default Fetch Plan

If we want to override the default fetch plan and fetch the post association eagerly at query execution time, we can use a JPQL query that instructs Hibernate to fetch the lazy association using the FETCH JOIN clause:

PostComment comment = entityManager.createQuery("""
    select pc
    from PostComment pc
    left join fetch pc.post
    where pc.id = :id
    """, PostComment.class)
.setParameter("id", 1L)
.getSingleResult();

LOGGER.info("The comment post title is '{}'", comment.getPost().getTitle());

Then, the default fetch plan is going to be overridden, and the post association will be fetched eagerly:

SELECT pc.id AS id1_1_0_,
       p.id AS id1_0_1_,
       pc.post_id AS post_id3_1_0_,
       pc.review AS review2_1_0_,
       p.title AS title2_0_1_
FROM post_comment pc
LEFT JOIN post p ON pc.post_id = p.id
WHERE pc.id = 1

Declarative JPA Entity Graph

The default fetch plan can also be overridden using a JPA Entity Graph. For instance, we could define a specific fetch plan using the following JPA @EntityGraph annotation:

@Entity(name = "PostComment")
@Table(name = "post_comment")
@NamedEntityGraph(
    name = "PostComment.post",
    attributeNodes = @NamedAttributeNode("post")
)
public class PostComment {
    //Code omitted for brevity
}

With the PostComment.post Entity Graph in place, we can now load the PostComment entity along with its associated post entity, like this:

PostComment comment = entityManager.find(
    PostComment.class, 
    1L,
    Collections.singletonMap(
        "javax.persistence.loadgraph",
        entityManager.getEntityGraph("PostComment.post")
    )
);

And, when executing the above find method, Hibernate generates the following SQL SELECT query:

SELECT pc.id AS id1_1_0_,
       pc.post_id AS post_id3_1_0_,
       pc.review AS review2_1_0_,
       p.id AS id1_0_1_,
       p.title AS title2_0_1_
FROM post_comment pc
LEFT OUTER JOIN post p ON pc.post_id = p.id
WHERE pc.id = 1

If you’re using Spring, then you can reference the JPA Entity Graph in a Repository method using the @EntityGraph annotation:

@Repository
public interface PostCommentRepository 
        extends CrudRepository<PostComment, Long> {

    @EntityGraph(
        value = "PostComment.post", 
        type = EntityGraphType.LOAD
    )
    PostComment findById(Long id);
}

Programmatic JPA Entity Graph

If you don’t like annotations, then you can also build the JPA Entity Graph programmatically, using the createEntityGraph method of the JPA EntityManager, as illustrated by the following example:

EntityGraph<PostComment> postCommentGraph = entityManager
    .createEntityGraph(PostComment.class);
    
postCommentGraph.addAttributeNodes("post");

PostComment comment = entityManager.find(
    PostComment.class, 
    1L,
    Collections.singletonMap(
        "javax.persistence.loadgraph",
        postCommentGraph
    )
);

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Conclusion

In this article, you learned how the default fetch plan works and how you can override it using either a JPQL query or a JPA Entity Graph.

The JPA Entity Graph can be built declaratively using the JPA @NamedEntityGraph annotation or programmatically via the createEntityGraph method.

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2 Comments on “JPA Entity Graph

  1. How does this nest? Assuming entities A, B, C, where A lazy loads B and B lazy loads C. How can I say load eagerly B and also load eagerly C? Can I do this declaratively and not write the HQL using fetch?

    • That’s a very good question. I’ll write an article on that topic in the future to answer your question.

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