Development, Java, Spring

Using Spring Data to persist a Set of Enums in a Many-To-Many relationship

Usually, when we write a Many-To-Many relationship it is between 2 entities. Sometimes, it could happen that we have an entity which has a field which is a set of enum. In this case, we need to approach the problem differently and Spring comes to help.

Let’s see an example where we have two classes: Person and Skill (e.g. swimming, running, etc).

Many-To-Many between entities example

The following code shows what the situation is when Person and Skill are both entities.

public class Person {
  private Long id;
  private String name;
  @ManyToMany(fetch = FetchType.LAZY)
  @JoinTable(name = "person_skill", joinColumns = {
            @JoinColumn(name = "person_id")}, inverseJoinColumns = {
            @JoinColumn(name = "skill_id")})
  private Set<Skill> skillSet;
}

public class Skill {
  private Long id;
  private String name;
}

To use this mapping, you would have 3 tables. You can create them with the following SQL code.

CREATE TABLE `person` (
  `id` BIGINT(20) NOT NULL AUTO_INCREMENT,
  `name` VARCHAR(45) NOT NULL,
  PRIMARY KEY (`id`));

CREATE TABLE `skill` (
  `id` BIGINT(20) NOT NULL AUTO_INCREMENT,
  `name` VARCHAR(45) NOT NULL,
  PRIMARY KEY (`id`));

CREATE TABLE `person_skill` (
  `person_id` BIGINT(20) NOT NULL,
  `skill_id` BIGINT(20) NOT NULL,
  PRIMARY KEY (`person_id`, `skill_id`),
  INDEX `skill_fk_idx` (`skill_id` ASC),
  CONSTRAINT `person_fk`
    FOREIGN KEY (`person_id`)
    REFERENCES `person` (`id`)
    ON DELETE CASCADE
    ON UPDATE CASCADE,
  CONSTRAINT `skill_fk`
    FOREIGN KEY (`skill_id`)
    REFERENCES `skill` (`id`)
    ON DELETE CASCADE
    ON UPDATE CASCADE);

 

Many-To-Many between entity and enum example

The following code shows what the situation is when Person is an entity and Skill is an enum.

public class Person { 
  private Long id; 
  private String name; 
  @ElementCollection(targetClass = Skill.class)
  @CollectionTable(name = "person_skill",
            joinColumns = @JoinColumn(name = "person_id"))
  @Enumerated(EnumType.STRING)
  @Column(name = "skill_id")
  private Set<Skill> skillSet;
} 

public enum Skill {
  RUNNING, SWIMMING
}

To use this mapping, you would have only 2 tables, because Skill is not an entity and would not have its own table. You can create them with the following SQL code.

CREATE TABLE `person` (
  `id` BIGINT(20) NOT NULL AUTO_INCREMENT,
  `name` VARCHAR(45) NOT NULL,
  PRIMARY KEY (`id`));

CREATE TABLE `person_skill` (
  `person_id` BIGINT(20) NOT NULL,
  `skill_name` VARCHAR(45) NOT NULL,
  PRIMARY KEY (`person_id`, `skill_name`),
  CONSTRAINT `person_fk`
    FOREIGN KEY (`person_id`)
    REFERENCES `person` (`id`)
    ON DELETE CASCADE
    ON UPDATE CASCADE);

As you can see here, you don’t have the table skill because Skill is not an entity but only an enum; you only have to create the table which represents the relationship between Person and Skill. Furthermore, since we added the annotation @Enumerated(EnumType.STRING) Spring Data will save the name of the entity in the database (look, we put a VARCHAR column). If you prefer, you could use EnumType.ORDINAL and Spring Data will save the ordinal value of the entity (1,2,3,etc..), so change the column to accept a numeric value.

That’s it!