General ORM Integration Considerations

This section highlights considerations that apply to all ORM technologies. The Hibernate section provides more details and also show these features and configurations in a concrete context.

The major goal of Spring’s ORM integration is clear application layering (with any data access and transaction technology) and for loose coupling of application objects — no more business service dependencies on the data access or transaction strategy, no more hard-coded resource lookups, no more hard-to-replace singletons, no more custom service registries. The goal is to have one simple and consistent approach to wiring up application objects, keeping them as reusable and free from container dependencies as possible. All the individual data access features are usable on their own but integrate nicely with Spring’s application context concept, providing XML-based configuration and cross-referencing of plain JavaBean instances that need not be Spring-aware. In a typical Spring application, many important objects are JavaBeans: data access templates, data access objects, transaction managers, business services that use the data access objects and transaction managers, web view resolvers, web controllers that use the business services, and so on.

Resource and Transaction Management

Typical business applications are cluttered with repetitive resource management code. Many projects try to invent their own solutions, sometimes sacrificing proper handling of failures for programming convenience. Spring advocates simple solutions for proper resource handling, namely IoC through templating in the case of JDBC and applying AOP interceptors for the ORM technologies.

The infrastructure provides proper resource handling and appropriate conversion of specific API exceptions to an unchecked infrastructure exception hierarchy. Spring introduces a DAO exception hierarchy, applicable to any data access strategy. For direct JDBC, the JdbcTemplate class mentioned in a previous section provides connection handling and proper conversion of SQLException to the DataAccessException hierarchy, including translation of database-specific SQL error codes to meaningful exception classes. For ORM technologies, see the next section for how to get the same exception translation benefits.

When it comes to transaction management, the JdbcTemplate class hooks in to the Spring transaction support and supports both JTA and JDBC transactions, through respective Spring transaction managers. For the supported ORM technologies, Spring offers Hibernate and JPA support through the Hibernate and JPA transaction managers as well as JTA support. For details on transaction support, see the Transaction Management chapter.

Exception Translation

When you use Hibernate or JPA in a DAO, you must decide how to handle the persistence technology’s native exception classes. The DAO throws a subclass of a HibernateException or PersistenceException, depending on the technology. These exceptions are all runtime exceptions and do not have to be declared or caught. You may also have to deal with IllegalArgumentException and IllegalStateException. This means that callers can only treat exceptions as being generally fatal, unless they want to depend on the persistence technology’s own exception structure. Catching specific causes (such as an optimistic locking failure) is not possible without tying the caller to the implementation strategy. This trade-off might be acceptable to applications that are strongly ORM-based or do not need any special exception treatment (or both). However, Spring lets exception translation be applied transparently through the @Repository annotation. The following examples (one for Java configuration and one for XML configuration) show how to do so:

  • Java

  • Kotlin

public class ProductDaoImpl implements ProductDao {

	// class body here...

class ProductDaoImpl : ProductDao {

	// class body here...


	<!-- Exception translation bean post processor -->
	<bean class="org.springframework.dao.annotation.PersistenceExceptionTranslationPostProcessor"/>

	<bean id="myProductDao" class="product.ProductDaoImpl"/>


The postprocessor automatically looks for all exception translators (implementations of the PersistenceExceptionTranslator interface) and advises all beans marked with the @Repository annotation so that the discovered translators can intercept and apply the appropriate translation on the thrown exceptions.

In summary, you can implement DAOs based on the plain persistence technology’s API and annotations while still benefiting from Spring-managed transactions, dependency injection, and transparent exception conversion (if desired) to Spring’s custom exception hierarchies.