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Chapter 19. Improving performance

19.1. Fetching strategies

Hibernate uses a fetching strategy to retrieve associated objects if the application needs to navigate the association. Fetch strategies can be declared in the O/R mapping metadata, or over-ridden by a particular HQL or Criteria query.
Hibernate3 defines the following fetching strategies:
  • Join fetching: Hibernate retrieves the associated instance or collection in the same SELECT, using an OUTER JOIN.
  • Select fetching: a second SELECT is used to retrieve the associated entity or collection. Unless you explicitly disable lazy fetching by specifying lazy="false", this second select will only be executed when you access the association.
  • Subselect fetching: a second SELECT is used to retrieve the associated collections for all entities retrieved in a previous query or fetch. Unless you explicitly disable lazy fetching by specifying lazy="false", this second select will only be executed when you access the association.
  • Batch fetching: an optimization strategy for select fetching. Hibernate retrieves a batch of entity instances or collections in a single SELECT by specifying a list of primary or foreign keys.
Hibernate also distinguishes between:
  • Immediate fetching: an association, collection or attribute is fetched immediately when the owner is loaded.
  • Lazy collection fetching: a collection is fetched when the application invokes an operation upon that collection. This is the default for collections.
  • "Extra-lazy" collection fetching: individual elements of the collection are accessed from the database as needed. Hibernate tries not to fetch the whole collection into memory unless absolutely needed. It is suitable for large collections.
  • Proxy fetching: a single-valued association is fetched when a method other than the identifier getter is invoked upon the associated object.
  • "No-proxy" fetching: a single-valued association is fetched when the instance variable is accessed. Compared to proxy fetching, this approach is less lazy; the association is fetched even when only the identifier is accessed. It is also more transparent, since no proxy is visible to the application. This approach requires buildtime bytecode instrumentation and is rarely necessary.
  • Lazy attribute fetching: an attribute or single valued association is fetched when the instance variable is accessed. This approach requires buildtime bytecode instrumentation and is rarely necessary.
We have two orthogonal notions here: when is the association fetched and how is it fetched. It is important that you do not confuse them. We use fetch to tune performance. We can use lazy to define a contract for what data is always available in any detached instance of a particular class.

19.1.1. Working with lazy associations

By default, Hibernate3 uses lazy select fetching for collections and lazy proxy fetching for single-valued associations. These defaults make sense for most associations in the majority of applications.
If you set hibernate.default_batch_fetch_size, Hibernate will use the batch fetch optimization for lazy fetching. This optimization can also be enabled at a more granular level.
Please be aware that access to a lazy association outside of the context of an open Hibernate session will result in an exception. For example:
s = sessions.openSession();
Transaction tx = s.beginTransaction();
User u = (User) s.createQuery("from User u where")
    .setString("userName", userName).uniqueResult();
Map permissions = u.getPermissions();


Integer accessLevel = (Integer) permissions.get("accounts");  // Error!
Since the permissions collection was not initialized when the Session was closed, the collection will not be able to load its state. Hibernate does not support lazy initialization for detached objects. This can be fixed by moving the code that reads from the collection to just before the transaction is committed.
Alternatively, you can use a non-lazy collection or association, by specifying lazy="false" for the association mapping. However, it is intended that lazy initialization be used for almost all collections and associations. If you define too many non-lazy associations in your object model, Hibernate will fetch the entire database into memory in every transaction.
On the other hand, you can use join fetching, which is non-lazy by nature, instead of select fetching in a particular transaction. We will now explain how to customize the fetching strategy. In Hibernate3, the mechanisms for choosing a fetch strategy are identical for single-valued associations and collections.

19.1.2. Tuning fetch strategies

Select fetching (the default) is extremely vulnerable to N+1 selects problems, so we might want to enable join fetching in the mapping document:
<set name="permissions" 
    <key column="userId"/>
    <one-to-many class="Permission"/>
<many-to-one name="mother" class="Cat" fetch="join"/>
The fetch strategy defined in the mapping document affects:
  • retrieval via get() or load()
  • retrieval that happens implicitly when an association is navigated
  • Criteria queries
  • HQL queries if subselect fetching is used
Irrespective of the fetching strategy you use, the defined non-lazy graph is guaranteed to be loaded into memory. This might, however, result in several immediate selects being used to execute a particular HQL query.
Usually, the mapping document is not used to customize fetching. Instead, we keep the default behavior, and override it for a particular transaction, using left join fetch in HQL. This tells Hibernate to fetch the association eagerly in the first select, using an outer join. In the Criteria query API, you would use setFetchMode(FetchMode.JOIN).
If you want to change the fetching strategy used by get() or load(), you can use a Criteria query. For example:
User user = (User) session.createCriteria(User.class)
                .setFetchMode("permissions", FetchMode.JOIN)
                .add( Restrictions.idEq(userId) )
This is Hibernate's equivalent of what some ORM solutions call a "fetch plan".
A completely different approach to problems with N+1 selects is to use the second-level cache.

19.1.3. Single-ended association proxies

Lazy fetching for collections is implemented using Hibernate's own implementation of persistent collections. However, a different mechanism is needed for lazy behavior in single-ended associations. The target entity of the association must be proxied. Hibernate implements lazy initializing proxies for persistent objects using runtime bytecode enhancement which is accessed via the CGLIB library.
At startup, Hibernate3 generates proxies by default for all persistent classes and uses them to enable lazy fetching of many-to-one and one-to-one associations.
The mapping file may declare an interface to use as the proxy interface for that class, with the proxy attribute. By default, Hibernate uses a subclass of the class. The proxied class must implement a default constructor with at least package visibility. This constructor is recommended for all persistent classes.
There are potential problems to note when extending this approach to polymorphic classes.For example:
<class name="Cat" proxy="Cat">
    <subclass name="DomesticCat">
Firstly, instances of Cat will never be castable to DomesticCat, even if the underlying instance is an instance of DomesticCat:
Cat cat = (Cat) session.load(Cat.class, id);  // instantiate a proxy (does not hit the db)
if ( cat.isDomesticCat() ) {                  // hit the db to initialize the proxy
    DomesticCat dc = (DomesticCat) cat;       // Error!
Secondly, it is possible to break proxy ==:
Cat cat = (Cat) session.load(Cat.class, id);            // instantiate a Cat proxy
DomesticCat dc = 
        (DomesticCat) session.load(DomesticCat.class, id);  // acquire new DomesticCat proxy!
System.out.println(cat==dc);                            // false
However, the situation is not quite as bad as it looks. Even though we now have two references to different proxy objects, the underlying instance will still be the same object:
cat.setWeight(11.0);  // hit the db to initialize the proxy
System.out.println( dc.getWeight() );  // 11.0
Third, you cannot use a CGLIB proxy for a final class or a class with any final methods.
Finally, if your persistent object acquires any resources upon instantiation (e.g. in initializers or default constructor), then those resources will also be acquired by the proxy. The proxy class is an actual subclass of the persistent class.
These problems are all due to fundamental limitations in Java's single inheritance model. To avoid these problems your persistent classes must each implement an interface that declares its business methods. You should specify these interfaces in the mapping file where CatImpl implements the interface Cat and DomesticCatImpl implements the interface DomesticCat. For example:
<class name="CatImpl" proxy="Cat">
    <subclass name="DomesticCatImpl" proxy="DomesticCat">
Then proxies for instances of Cat and DomesticCat can be returned by load() or iterate().
Cat cat = (Cat) session.load(CatImpl.class, catid);
Iterator iter = session.createQuery("from CatImpl as cat where'fritz'").iterate();
Cat fritz = (Cat);


list() does not usually return proxies.
Relationships are also lazily initialized. This means you must declare any properties to be of type Cat, not CatImpl.
Certain operations do not require proxy initialization:
  • equals(): if the persistent class does not override equals()
  • hashCode(): if the persistent class does not override hashCode()
  • The identifier getter method
Hibernate will detect persistent classes that override equals() or hashCode().
By choosing lazy="no-proxy" instead of the default lazy="proxy", you can avoid problems associated with typecasting. However, buildtime bytecode instrumentation is required, and all operations will result in immediate proxy initialization.

19.1.4. Initializing collections and proxies

A LazyInitializationException will be thrown by Hibernate if an uninitialized collection or proxy is accessed outside of the scope of the Session, i.e., when the entity owning the collection or having the reference to the proxy is in the detached state.
Sometimes a proxy or collection needs to be initialized before closing the Session. You can force initialization by calling cat.getSex() or cat.getKittens().size(), for example. However, this can be confusing to readers of the code and it is not convenient for generic code.
The static methods Hibernate.initialize() and Hibernate.isInitialized(), provide the application with a convenient way of working with lazily initialized collections or proxies. Hibernate.initialize(cat) will force the initialization of a proxy, cat, as long as its Session is still open. Hibernate.initialize( cat.getKittens() ) has a similar effect for the collection of kittens.
Another option is to keep the Session open until all required collections and proxies have been loaded. In some application architectures, particularly where the code that accesses data using Hibernate, and the code that uses it are in different application layers or different physical processes, it can be a problem to ensure that the Session is open when a collection is initialized. There are two basic ways to deal with this issue:
  • In a web-based application, a servlet filter can be used to close the Session only at the end of a user request, once the rendering of the view is complete (the Open Session in View pattern). Of course, this places heavy demands on the correctness of the exception handling of your application infrastructure. It is vitally important that the Session is closed and the transaction ended before returning to the user, even when an exception occurs during rendering of the view. See the Hibernate Wiki for examples of this "Open Session in View" pattern.
  • In an application with a separate business tier, the business logic must "prepare" all collections that the web tier needs before returning. This means that the business tier should load all the data and return all the data already initialized to the presentation/web tier that is required for a particular use case. Usually, the application calls Hibernate.initialize() for each collection that will be needed in the web tier (this call must occur before the session is closed) or retrieves the collection eagerly using a Hibernate query with a FETCH clause or a FetchMode.JOIN in Criteria. This is usually easier if you adopt the Command pattern instead of a Session Facade.
  • You can also attach a previously loaded object to a new Session with merge() or lock() before accessing uninitialized collections or other proxies. Hibernate does not, and certainly should not, do this automatically since it would introduce impromptu transaction semantics.
Sometimes you do not want to initialize a large collection, but still need some information about it, like its size, for example, or a subset of the data.
You can use a collection filter to get the size of a collection without initializing it:
( (Integer) s.createFilter( collection, "select count(*)" ).list().get(0) ).intValue()
The createFilter() method is also used to efficiently retrieve subsets of a collection without needing to initialize the whole collection:
s.createFilter( lazyCollection, "").setFirstResult(0).setMaxResults(10).list();

19.1.5. Using batch fetching

Using batch fetching, Hibernate can load several uninitialized proxies if one proxy is accessed. Batch fetching is an optimization of the lazy select fetching strategy. There are two ways you can configure batch fetching: on the class level and the collection level.
Batch fetching for classes/entities is easier to understand. Consider the following example: at runtime you have 25 Cat instances loaded in a Session, and each Cat has a reference to its owner, a Person. The Person class is mapped with a proxy, lazy="true". If you now iterate through all cats and call getOwner() on each, Hibernate will, by default, execute 25 SELECT statements to retrieve the proxied owners. You can tune this behavior by specifying a batch-size in the mapping of Person:
<class name="Person" batch-size="10">...</class>
Hibernate will now execute only three queries: the pattern is 10, 10, 5.
You can also enable batch fetching of collections. For example, if each Person has a lazy collection of Cats, and 10 persons are currently loaded in the Session, iterating through all persons will generate 10 SELECTs, one for every call to getCats(). If you enable batch fetching for the cats collection in the mapping of Person, Hibernate can pre-fetch collections:
<class name="Person">
    <set name="cats" batch-size="3">
With a batch-size of 3, Hibernate will load 3, 3, 3, 1 collections in four SELECTs. Again, the value of the attribute depends on the expected number of uninitialized collections in a particular Session.
Batch fetching of collections is particularly useful if you have a nested tree of items, i.e. the typical bill-of-materials pattern. However, a nested set or a materialized path might be a better option for read-mostly trees.

19.1.6. Using subselect fetching

If one lazy collection or single-valued proxy has to be fetched, Hibernate will load all of them, re-running the original query in a subselect. This works in the same way as batch-fetching but without the piecemeal loading.

19.1.7. Using lazy property fetching

Hibernate3 supports the lazy fetching of individual properties. This optimization technique is also known as fetch groups. Please note that this is mostly a marketing feature; optimizing row reads is much more important than optimization of column reads. However, only loading some properties of a class could be useful in extreme cases. For example, when legacy tables have hundreds of columns and the data model cannot be improved.
To enable lazy property loading, set the lazy attribute on your particular property mappings:
<class name="Document">
       <id name="id">
        <generator class="native"/>
    <property name="name" not-null="true" length="50"/>
    <property name="summary" not-null="true" length="200" lazy="true"/>
    <property name="text" not-null="true" length="2000" lazy="true"/>
Lazy property loading requires buildtime bytecode instrumentation. If your persistent classes are not enhanced, Hibernate will ignore lazy property settings and return to immediate fetching.
For bytecode instrumentation, use the following Ant task:
<target name="instrument" depends="compile">
    <taskdef name="instrument" classname="org.hibernate.tool.instrument.InstrumentTask">
        <classpath path="${jar.path}"/>
        <classpath path="${classes.dir}"/>
        <classpath refid="lib.class.path"/>

    <instrument verbose="true">
        <fileset dir="${testclasses.dir}/org/hibernate/auction/model">
            <include name="*.class"/>
A different way of avoiding unnecessary column reads, at least for read-only transactions, is to use the projection features of HQL or Criteria queries. This avoids the need for buildtime bytecode processing and is certainly a preferred solution.
You can force the usual eager fetching of properties using fetch all properties in HQL.