Awkward JDBC API and MySQL User Group Meeting

Life has been super busy, but I have plenty of posting to catch up on. Fear not, there will be more content soon (after Monday, hopefully); I am working on editing a very relevant book, and I hope to be able to share my excitement after I finish.

Also on Monday is the next Boston MySQL User Group, which will go through how to do capacity planning in MySQL with very little pain and effort. In the beginning we will have 10 minutes for user questions, so we can all benefit from each other’s knowledge. I already have a user with a great question!

We have rebuilding our product all summer, with a deadline of releasing the product in the next 2 months. Our lead developer had put a surrogate key in our new schema about a month ago. He said he needed the surrogate key because “the ORM requires it.” I just accepted it.

My mistake was that I made an assumption. The table already had a primary key, but it was a composite key. I assumed that the ORM required a unique key to be one field, and thus I assumed he combined the 2 values in the primary key to get the unique key.

I was wrong. In adding the final subsystems into the schema this week, I noticed that the surrogate key was an auto-increment field. I also noticed he put it in every single table he dealt with. We had hours of meetings about schema, and this was NEVER put in as a requirement. Thus, today we had over three hours of agonizing discussions, including a back-and-forth of “If it’s going into the database I need to understand why,” and the lead developer saying “No you don’t.”

I severely wanted to say “If I don’t understand it, it does not go in the database,” but resisted. I asked him to send me the ORM so I could understand why it required the field. At first he said he would, and then kept talking to me about why I don’t need to understand the field; it didn’t add more overhead, it didn’t change the way the data relate to each other, etc.

I need to understand this because there may be other, similar requirements in the future. Or perhaps I’ll find a better way to do it (maybe a VIEW would work). Perhaps I’ll find other places where other fields need to be added. He finally explained that the API JDBC was using was awkward — it needs to retrieve basically the row number of any row it’s looking at, and if it deletes or changes the row number it uses the row number as the key to find the row.

Aha! That makes sense. However, why do the row numbers need to be in the database? Can’t it just retrieve the rows and put a row number in its own copy? Apparently, not. I cannot imagine that a mature technology would require something like that. It’s not that difficult to do. I said this, and the lead developer was insanely frustrated by it.

So I said, “Are you using Connector/J?” He was confused, but asked, “Is that JDBC?”

“Yes,” I replied. “Oh, then yes, we’re using it.”

“I don’t think so. If the interface is awkward, you’re not using Connector/J.”

He left my office. So I type in “Connector/J” into my MySQL Community Toolbar (I love it!) and find the following on

New features from the JDBC-3.0 API in the latest production version of MySQL Connector/J include getGeneratedKeys which allows users to retrieve auto-increment fields in a non-database-specific way. Auto-increment fields now work with object-relational mapping tools, as well as Enterprise Java Beans (EJB) servers with Container Managed Persistence (CMP) that support JDBC-3.0.

Hrm….retrieve auto-increment fields in a non-database-specific way? I think that solves our problem!!!

[EDIT: I am, apparently wrong….but I cannot imagine that anyone using JDBC specifies an auto-increment field for EVERY SINGLE TABLE their application will touch. Do people actually do this?!?!?]

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