Sessionless architecture

Sessionless ORM

How Ebean is architected to be a sessionless ORM

JPA is architecture such that the entity beans must be attached to the PersistenceContext in order for the entity beans to be persisted.

That is, JPA mandates attach/detach semantics. This has a number of consequences including:

  • Developers can't easily take control and persist selected objects
  • All attached beans must be in a valid state to flush
  • Flush implicitly flushes all dirty state (so dirty state created anywhere flushes implicitly)
  • Flush can reorder statements in unexpected ways (causing deadlocks)
  • The EntityManager scope must now be managed along with the transaction scope

Ebean architecture

  • No Entity manager, only manage transactions
  • Dirty state on each entity bean
  • Persisting (save,delete) does not require the PersistenceContext
  • PersistenceContext attached to the Transaction
  • Partially populated beans always expected

Persist features

JDBC batch control

With JPA there is:

  • No control over JDBC batch size
  • No ability to turn off getGeneratedKeys to optimise large inserts
  • No ability to turn off cascade behavior (to take full control)

Using JDBC batch is important so that Ebean can get optimal performance when persisting. With Ebean there is a JDBC batch buffer attached to the transaction and can seamlessly batch up persistence calls using JDBC batch.

Ebean provides full control over JDBC batch via the transaction including the batch size, getGeneratedKeys, and cascade behavior. Unlike JPA with Ebean it is easy to fully control and optimise batch processing.


Additional to full control over JDBC batch Ebean provides the ability on a transaction to:

  • Register transaction callbacks (Post commit callback etc)
  • Set and get user defined objects
  • Specify if L2 cache should be skipped for the transaction


Ebean provides access to the underlying java.sql.Connection for performing raw JDBC if needed along with transaction.addModification(table, ...) method to tell Ebean what tables were modified for L2 cache invalidation.

Ebean also has built in SqlUpdate and CallableSql for easy SQL bulk statements and calling stored procedures.

Transaction Isolation level

Ebean lets you start a transaction at a higher Isolation level. JPA does not support this.

Stateless updates

Ebean allows us to populate a bean (or object graph) and update() without loading the object object. This is useful in Rest like API's where we want to populate an entity object graph from JSON and perform an update.

Query features


Ebean has built in findCount which takes a copy of the query and optimises it for executing a count (by removing fetch, ordering etc). In JPA we would use the count() function and can't use the same query to for a findList type query.


JPA has no support for a PagedList query that supports finding the "total count" for the query as well as a page of results. (Spring Data JPA helps fill this gap somewhat).


JPA has no support for executing large queries. Ebean has findEach for executing large queries (cursors / streaming) that takes into account the scope of the persistence context , JDBC driver fetchSize and MySql specific treatment (because MySql has specific issues to deal with).


JPA has no equivalent to Ebean's findMap which returns the objects mapped by a property.

Async queries

Ebean has built in support for executing queries in the background returning Futures with findFutureList(), findFutureCount() and findFutureIds(). This provides an easy way to execute queries that can be cancelled.

Internally findFutureCount() is used as part of PagedList query such that the total count query can be executed in parallel to the findList() query.

As of history query

JPA has no support for SQL2011 AS OF queries yet.

Versions between history query

JPA has no support for SQL2011 VERSIONS BETWEEN queries yet.


JPA missed using generics with it's initial API and hence has both Query and TypedQuery which is not ideal.


JPQL has both poor support for partial objects and poor support for optimising complex queries for N + 1 by defining what part of the object graph should be fetched.

In it's current state JPQL is a poor language for optimising ORM queries. JPA 2.1 added in support for fetch groups as a query hint but there are a number of issues with this: being rather inelegant to use, only a query hint with relatively poor support and ultimately missing some important features for controlling object graph construction from mixed sources (L2, L3 and DB).

In JPA the emphasis on annotations FetchType.Eager and FetchType.Lazy and limitations in JPQL has put JPA in a bad position for optimising ORM queries and it will be interesting if they can get to the level of control over object graph construction that Ebean supports.

Type safe queries

You could argue there is a bit more "ceremony" with JPA Criteria queries which makes the query more verbose and harder to read.

Ebean "Query beans"
LocalDate today = new LocalDate();

List<Customer> customers =
  new QCustomer()
JPA Criteria
LocalDate today = new LocalDate();

EntityManager em = ...;

CriteriaBuilder builder = em.getCriteriaBuilder();
CriteriaQuery<Customer> query = builder.createQuery(Customer.class);
Root<Customer> root = query.from(Customer.class);

Predicate hasBirthday = builder.equal(root.get(Customer_.birthday), today);
Predicate isLongTermCustomer = builder.lessThan(root.get(Customer_.createdAt), today.minusYears(2);
query.where(builder.and(hasBirthday, isLongTermCustomer));

List<Customer> customers = em.createQuery(;

Java annotation processing is used by both Ebean (to generate "Query beans") and JPA (to generate JPA Query Meta model classes in order to provide type safe query construction and execution.


I suspect many JPA users look to use QueryDSL as a preference over the standard JPA Criteria meta model objects.



Unlike JPA Ebean does not require a default constructor.


Ebean has built in support for entities based on database views.

Entities without @Id

Ebean does not require entities to have an @Id property. These entities are considered "read only" and automatically bypass the persistence context. This entities are typically used for reporting purposes.

Naming convention

The JPA spec naming convention includes both mixed case and underscores - it is odd. Ebean's default naming convention of UnderscoreNamingConvention matches Hibernates ImprovedNamingStrategy and not the JPA spec naming convention.

Auditing & @History

Ebean has built in support for @WhenCreated, @WhenModified, @WhoCreated , @WhoModified and full SQL2011 @History support.


Ebean includes mapping support for Postgres JSONB, JSON and similar types for Oracle, MySql (and shortly SQL Server).


Ebean includes mapping support for Postgres ARRAY type.


Ebean includes support for @SoftDelete with associated delete permanent, cascading behavior and query support.


Ebean includes support for @Draftable which provides "live" and "editing" capability with publish() and restore() function.