Re: J2EE - entities - When do JPA entity units get saved into the database

Owen Jacobson <>
Tue, 29 Apr 2008 08:06:33 -0700 (PDT)
On Apr 29, 10:33 am, Taras_96 <> wrote:

Hey Owen,

I reckon that what you've mentioned are the answers that I'm looking
for, but your post doesn't entirely make sense to me...

On Apr 28, 10:04 pm, Owen Jacobson <> wrote:

It's unfortunate (but understandable) that the EJB 3 persistence spec
reused the term "entity", as JPA entities and EJB 2 Entity Beans have
almost nothing to do with one another beyond "they map to the

EJB 2 entity beans are full-blown remote objects; when you return an
entity bean from an EJB, the code receiving it may actually receive a
remote stub pointing to a server object. JPA entities are merely
serialized as-is and returned across remote calls.

What does this mean? That a a remote client obtaining a EJB3 bean will
obtain a copy of the object, whose methods will actually operate on
the copy rather than being stubs?


Both JPA entities and EJB 2 entity beans will automatically persist
field changes back to the database if the changes occur within the
same transaction that the entity was loaded in AND if the object has
not passed across a remote method call (even within the same JVM).

What do you mean by loading the entity? Could you give a couple of
examples of changes that do and changes that do not occur in the same

Using EJB 2 entity beans, calling a finder method is "loading the
entity". Using EJB 3/JPA entities, calling EntityManager.find (...)
loads the entity, as do the various query methods.

EJB 2 entity beans will also automatically persist changes back even
after the transaction has completed or when referenced across a remote
interface, at the cost of making every method call on the entity a
remote method.

Does this mean:

MyBeanHome home = // get a reference to MyBeanHome
MyBean bean = home.find(someKey); // <- is this what you mean by
'loading the entity'?
bean.setFistName("foo"); // <- here a transaction has completed
bean.setLastName("bar"); // <- here *another* transaction has been


If there isn't already a transaction going on, then yes, each of those
set methods may take place in its own transaction (subject to the
transaction settings in ejb-jar.xml). If there's already a
transaction in progress (either BMT or CMT), then the set methods will
usually participate in the ongoing transaction.

However, if the value of 'bean' escapes out of an ongoing transaction,
and then later someone calls setFirstName, that call will still update
the database.

Not so with JPA entities: when an entity reference exists past the end
of the transaction that created it, the entity is "detached" from the
database and changes to it affect only the object, not the database;
hence the EntityManager.merge method for "reattaching" detached

The EntityManager merge method takes a JPA entitiy that has been
allowed to escape its original context, either by being passed or
returned across a remote interface or by surviving past the end of the
transaction that originally loaded it, and "reattaches" it to the
database (in the process persisting changes from the entity into the
database and vice-versa). The persist method does what it says on the
tin: it stores the entity in the database as-is (and attaches it to
the database within the transaction).


This last paragraph doesn't really make sense to me.. do you know of
any resources that explain this well (eg: what do you mean by
'original context'? Or 'surviving' past the end of the transaction
that originally loaded it?)

Let's say you have a stateless session bean PersonDAO:

public class JPAPersonDAO implements PersonDAO {

  private EntityManager em;

  public Person getPersonByName (String firstName) {
    return em.find (Person.class, firstName);
    // (a)

If this EJB is called directly by a servlet and no UserTransaction
code is involved on the servlet side, then at (a) the resulting Person
object is detached from the database (as the container-managed
transaction for the EJB method call ends).

Now let's introduce a second EJB:

public PersonFrobnicator implements Frobnicator {
  private PersonDAO dao;

  public void frobPersonByName (String name) {
    Person p = dao.getPersonByName (name);
    p.setNote ("I've been frobbed!");

When something outside the EJB container calls frobPersonByName, the
container starts a transaction, which propagates into the methods
called from frobPersonByName. Because the Person object looked up
from the DAO was looked up in the same transaction it's being modified
in and is not being passed across a remote interface, the change to
the note property will be persisted to the database.

If the JPAPersonDAO EJB declared its interface as
@Remote(PersonDAO.class) instead, the returned Person would be
detached even though the transaction it was loaded in hasn't
completed, and there would need to be an explicit save step where the
modified Person is sent back to the DAO to be saved to the DB.

Does that clear it up at all, or does it make things worse?


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