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You are here: / / 5 ways to initialize lazy associations and when to use them

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Lazy loading of associations between entities is a well established best practice in JPA. Its main goal is to retrieve only the requested entities from the database and load the related entities only if needed. That is a great approach if you only need the requested entities. But it creates additional work and can be the cause of performance problems if you also need some of the related entities.

Let’s have a look at the different ways to trigger the initialization and their specific advantages and disadvantages.

Don’t want to read? You can watch it here!

Lets start with the most obvious and unfortunately also the most inefficient approach. You use the find method on the EntityManager and call a method on the relation.

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Well, you probably know it. This code performs an additional query to initialize the relation. That doesn’t sound like a real problem, but let’s calculate the number of executed queries in a more real world-ish scenario. Let’s say you have an entity with 5 associations which you need to initialize. So you will get 1 + 5 = 6 queries .

OK, that are 5 additional queries. That still doesn’t seem like a huge issue. But our application will be used by more than one user in parallel (I hope).

Let’s say your system has to server 100 parallel users. Then you will get 100 + 5*100 = 600 queries . That is called the n+1 select issue, and it should be obvious that this is not a good approach. Sooner or later, the number of additionally performed queries will slow your application down. Therefore you should try to avoid this approach and have a look at some other options.

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A better option to initialize lazy associations is to use a JPQL query with a fetch join.

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The advantage is that Hibernate fetches everything within one query. From a performance point of view, this is much better than the first approach.

And the main disadvantage is that you need to write additional code which executes the query. But it gets even worse if the entity has multiple associations and you need to initialize different associations for different use cases. In this case, you need to write a query for every required combination of associations you want to initialize. That can become quite messy.

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