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A Guide to Persistence Technologies: Apache OpenJPA

This chapter explains how to code against the OpenJPA APIs, map entities, and configure the system for your applications.
This chapter is from the book

In this chapter we discuss OpenJPA, an implementation of the Java Persistence API 1.0 specification. We will fill in our evaluation template and implement our common example with OpenJPA. We will discuss OpenJPA extensions to the specification and finish with a brief look forward at JPA 2.0.


In Chapter 1, "A Brief History of Object-Relational Mapping," we gave some history of the Java Persistence space. We discussed the development of the EJB spec from a persistence standpoint, how it grew in developer dissatisfaction over the years, and how open-source frameworks like Hibernate began to grow. We also discussed how this led to the creation of JPA.

As discussed in Chapter 1, by the time version 2 of the Enterprise Java Beans specification started to make its way into products, a counter-current was building in the Java community that began looking for other ways of doing persistence. When the EJB 3.0 committee began meeting, it became clear that revisiting persistence would need to be a key feature of the new specification. The opinion of the committee was that something significant needed to be changed—and as a result, the committee made the following decisions:

  • The EJB 3.0 persistence model would need to be a POJO-based model and would have to address the issue of "disconnected" or detached data in a distributed environment.
  • The specification would need to support both annotations and XML descriptors to define the mapping between objects and relational databases.
  • The mapping would need to be complete—specifying not only the abstract persistence of a class, but also its mapping to relational tables and mappings of attributes to columns.

So the EJB committee combined the best ideas from several sources—TopLink, Hibernate, and Java Data Objects API—to create a new persistence architecture, which was released as a separate part of EJB 3.0 and dubbed the Java Persistence API. JPA represents the confluence of a number of different threads in the Java persistence arena and has since been adopted by all the major persistence vendors and various open-source projects.

In the preceding chapter, we evaluated Hibernate. You will find many features in JPA similar to Hibernate. Hibernate itself has a full-blown JPA implementation as part of its Entity Manager that you can read about for more details [Hibernate]. In this chapter, however, we are going to use Apache OpenJPA.

The Apache OpenJPA project is an Apache-licensed open-source implementation of the Java Persistence API. OpenJPA is focused on building a robust, high-performance, scalable implementation of the JPA specification. You can read more about the Apache Open JPA project at the website [OpenJPA 1].

The original source code contribution was provided by BEA (via their SolarMetric Kodo acquisition, discussed in the "History" section to follow). Several other companies and individuals are participating as committers, contributors, and users in the OpenJPA project, including IBM. The OpenJPA community continues to grow and prosper, with the expectation of graduating from incubation sometime in the near future.

Type of Framework

Much like Hibernate, OpenJPA is a full Domain Mapper, allowing you to map a whole set of objects to your database tables, and abstracting the SQL language from the developer.


OpenJPA started its life with another specification called JDO, as discussed in Chapter 1. SolarMetric was one of the first implementers of the JDO specification back in 2001, with a product called Kodo. As the JPA specification began to finalize, SolarMetric began making Kodo both a JPA and JDO implementation. In 2005, BEA purchased SolarMetric and contributed most of the JPA code to Apache as the project OpenJPA. As stated earlier, other vendors like IBM are part of the OpenJPA community. BEA continues to have the SolarMetric Kodo product based on OpenJPA. OpenJPA will be the core persistence engine of BEA WebLogic Server, IBM WebSphere, and the Apache Geronimo Application Server. In May 2007, OpenJPA graduated from the incubator to a top-level project and also passed Sun's Technology Compatibility Kit compliant with the Java Persistence API. In September 2007, OpenJPA released its first GA version.

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