Saturday, January 10, 2009

ORM and searching / filtering

OK, so you have decided to use an ORM. And there is a need to get all users or a user from database.

This is not a discussion about how to implement the DAO method. Is it by a query, calling a stored procedure or using the ORM's object based querying.

Having said that, to get users from database, you go ahead and write your DAO class with methods: getAll() and get(id)

How about, get all users who belong to a specific company. Easy. You go and write :getUsersByCompany(Company company).

So far so good. There is a new use case that requires all users who belong to a specific company and are employed full time and were hired in last 4 months and speak English.

Is the method: getUsersByComapnyAndByHireTypeAndByDateOfHireAndBy.... in works for your DAO class?

Or you just use the DAO method : getUsersByCompany(..)and then further filter in a service method by parsing and inspecting user attributes and excluding the ones that do not match the criteria?

This makes me think, what is a criteria for a method to qualify for a home in a DAO class? get(), getAll(), delete(id), update(object), getByThis(..), getByThisAndThat(..)These methods seem logical and most of them are necessary. But why would the above mentioned method not qualify? (or should it?)

There exists a solution in a more dynamic language based framework, like Grails based on Groovy, which kind of does away with the DAO objects and the domain class itself is responsible for its data access and storage. An example is : customer = Customer.findByName("... This is achieved by dynamic methods. But we're talking about java, which is not dynamic.

Having raised the question,I have couple of methods that I follow, but I'm not sure if they are most optimal.

I use a mix of DAO methods and additional service methods to apply further filtering. Lets take the example above: find users "who belong to a specific company and are employed full time and were hired in last 4 months and speak English".

Based on the overall scope of the project, I would decide to what detail I should create a DAO method. Accordingly I'll create: 
getUsersByCompanyAndEmploymentType(company, employmentType) Among the criteria to create this method, is, Is the resultant list of users manageable for any further processing without putting undue stress on the server? Is this method useful to fulfill some other use cases?

This gets the users for the specific company and who work full time, then I pass this to a service method that parses the users and filters users who were hired within last 4 months and who speak English.

Another alternative for such cases could be a single catch-all method called: searchUsers(criteria)where criteria could be sent either as a Hashmap, or a class with specific fields that the users can be search by. The service method fills in the criteria based on a use case and pass it on to DAO.

These may not be the most optimal solutions, but I would like to hear of alternatives.

On a side note, there exists a mini-framework that helps with Hibernate and this 'search' issue, which formalizes the Search method. Its called 'hibernate-generic-dao'. I have not used it, but concept looks nice, but again, its tied to Hibernate only.

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