Data Models

NOTE: This page is a description on how to create CRUD data models (create, read, update, and delete) in the backend using Elide. For more information on interacting with an Elide API, please see our API usage documentation. More information for creating analytic models can be found here.

Elide generates its API entirely based on the concept of data models. Data models are JVM classes that represent both a concept to your application and also the schema of an exposed web service endpoint. Data models are intended to be a view on top of the data store or the set of data stores which support your Elide-based service.

All Elide models have an identifier field that identifies a unique instance of the model. Models are also composed of optional attributes and relationships. Attribute are properties of the model. Relationships are simply links to other related Elide models. Annotations are used to declare that a class is an Elide model, that a relationship exists between two models, to denote which field is the identifier field, and to secure the model.


Elide has first class support for JPA (Java Persistence API) annotations. These annotations serve double duty by both:

  • describing the attributes, relationships, and id field of a model.
  • provide an object relational mapping that can be used by an Elide data store to persist the model.

Elide makes use of the following JPA annotations: @OneToOne, @OneToMany, @ManyToOne, @ManyToMany, @Id, @EmbeddedId, and @GeneratedValue.
If you need more information about JPA, please review their documentation or see our examples below.

However, JPA is not required and Elide supports its own set of annotations for describing models:

Annotation Purpose JPA Non-JPA
Expose a model in elide   @Include
To One Relationship @OneToOne, @ManyToOne @ToOne
To Many Relationship @OneToMany, @ManyToMany @ToMany
Mark an identifier field @Id, @EmbeddedId  

Much of the Elide per-model configuration is done via annotations. For a full description of all Elide-supported annotations, please check out the annotation overview.

Exposing a Model as an Elide Endpoint

After creating a proper data model, you can expose it through Elide by marking with with @Include. Elide generates its API as a graph. This graph can only be traversed starting at a root node. Rootable entities are denoted by applying @Include to the top-level of the class with the rootLevel property unset or set to true. Non-rootable entities can be accessed only as relationships through the graph.

public class Author {
    private Long id;

    private String name;

    private Set<Book> books;
@Include(rootLevel = false)
public class Book {
    private Long id;

    private String title;

    private Set<Author> authors;

Considering the example above, we have a full data model that exposes a specific graph. Namely, a root node of the type Author and a bi-directional relationship from Author to Book. That is, one can access all Author objects directly, but must go through an author to see information about any specific Book object.

Model Identifiers

Every model in Elide must have an ID. This is a requirement of both the JSON-API specification and Elide’s GraphQL API. Identifiers can be assigned by the persistence layer automatically or the client. Elide must know two things:

  1. What field is the ID of the model. This is determined by the @Id or @EmbeddedId annotation.
  2. Whether the persistence layer is assigning the ID or not. This is determined by the presence or absence of the @GeneratedValue annotation.

Identifier fields in Elide are typically integers, longs, strings, or UUIDs. It is also possible to have composite/compound ID fields composed of multiple fields. For example, the following identifier type includes three fields that together create a primary key:

public class Address implements Serializable {
    private long number;
    private String street;
    private long zipCode;

This new compound ID type can then be referenced in an Elide model identifier like this:

@Include(rootLevel = true)
public class Building {
    private Address address;

Because JSON-API requires all ID fields to be Strings, composite/compound IDs require the developer to register an Elide Serde to serialize and deserialize the ID type to a String. For example, the following Serde will encode/decode an Address as a base64 encoded string:

@ElideTypeConverter(type = Address.class, name = "Address")
public class AddressSerde implements Serde<String, Address> {
    private static final Pattern ADDRESS_PATTERN =
            Pattern.compile("Address\\(number=(\\d+), street=([a-zA-Z0-9 ]+), zipCode=(\\d+)\\)");

    public Address deserialize(String val) {
        byte[] decodedBytes = Base64.getDecoder().decode(val);
        String decodedString = new String(decodedBytes);

        Matcher matcher = ADDRESS_PATTERN.matcher(decodedString);
        if (! matcher.matches()) {
            throw new InvalidValueException(decodedString);
        long number = Long.valueOf(;
        String street =;
        long zipCode = Long.valueOf(;

        Address address = new Address(number, street, zipCode);

        return address;

    public String serialize(Address val) {
        return Base64.getEncoder().encodeToString(val.toString().getBytes());

More information about Serde and user defined types can be found here.

Attributes vs Relationships

Elide distinguishes between attributes and relationships in a data model:

  1. Relationships are links from one model to another. They can be traversed directly through the API. If the relationship represents a collection, they can also be sorted, filtered, and paginated. Relationships must be explicitly marked with an annotation (for example - @ToMany) in the model. Relationships can be bidirectional or unidirectional.
  2. Attributes are properties of a model. Attributes can be primitive types, objects, or collections of objects or primitives. Attributes which are collections cannot be sorted, filtered, or paginated in the API. Complex attributes (collections or objects) cannot be used in a filter predicate. Attributes are not marked with annotations in Elide.

Model Properties or Fields

An elide model can be described using properties (getter and setter functions) or fields (class member variables) but not both on the same entity. For any given entity, Elide looks at whether @Id or @EmbeddedId is a property or field to determine the access mode (property or field) for that entity. All public properties and all fields are exposed through the Elide API if they are not explicitly marked @Transient or @Exclude. @Transient allows a field to be ignored by both Elide and an underlying persistence store while @Exclude allows a field to exist in the underlying persistence layer without exposing it through the Elide API.

Computed Attributes

A computed attribute is an entity attribute whose value is computed in code rather than fetched from a data store.

Elide supports computed properties by way of the @ComputedAttribute and @ComputedRelationship annotations. These are useful if your data store is also tied to your Elide view data model. For instance, if you mark a field @Transient, a data store such as Hibernate will ignore it. In the absence of the @Computed* attributes, Elide will too. However, when applying a computed property attribute, Elide will expose this field anyway.

A computed attribute can perform arbitrary computation and is exposed through Elide as a typical attribute. In the case below, this will create an attribute called myComputedAttribute.

public class Book {
    public String getMyComputedAttribute(RequestScope requestScope) {
        return "My special string stored only in the JVM!";

The same principles are analogous to @ComputedRelationships.

Lifecycle Hooks

Lifecycle hooks allow custom business logic (defined in functions) to be invoked during CRUD operations at four distinct phases of the client request:

  1. Pre Security - Executed immediate prior to Elide security check evaluation.
  2. Pre Flush - Executed immediate prior to Elide flushing the transaction. This is when database calls are first sent to the database.
  3. Pre Commit - Executed immediately prior to transaction commit but after all security checks have been evaluated.
  4. Post Commit - Executed immediately after transaction commit.

There are two mechanisms to enable lifecycle hooks on a particular model:

  1. The simplest mechanism decorates the elide model or model fields with the life cycle hook function class and the conditions of when to invoke it.
  2. Lifecycle hook functions can also be registered with the EntityDictionary when initializing Elide.

Life cycle hooks are simply functions that conform to the following interface:

 * Function which will be invoked for Elide lifecycle triggers
 * @param <T> The elide entity type associated with this callback.
public interface LifeCycleHook<T> {
     * Run for a lifecycle event.
     * @param operation CREATE, UPDATE, or DELETE
     * @param elideEntity The entity that triggered the event
     * @param requestScope The request scope
     * @param changes Optionally, the changes that were made to the entity
    void execute(LifeCycleHookBinding.Operation operation,
                 LifeCycleHookBinding.TransactionPhase phase,
                 T elideEntity,
                 RequestScope requestScope,
                 Optional<ChangeSpec> changes);

Annotation Based Hooks

Model fields can be decorated with a LifeCycleHookBinding annotation. The annotation provides the following information:

  1. The hook function to invoke.
  2. The model operation (CREATE, UPDATE, or DELETE) that triggers the hook.
  3. The transaction phase of when to trigger the hook (PRESECURITY, PREFLUSH, PRECOMMIT, or POSTCOMMIT).
  4. For class level triggers, whether or not the hook should be called for each impacted field or exactly once for the class.
class Publisher {
    private long id;

    @OneToMany(mappedBy = "publisher")
    @LifeCycleHookBinding(operation = UPDATE, phase = PRECOMMIT, hook = PublisherUpdateHook.class)
    private Set<Book> books;

Registered Function Hooks

Lifecycle hooks can be registered in Elide directly without an explicit annotation:

//Register a lifecycle hook for deletes on the model Book.  Call exactly once.
dictionary.bindTrigger(Book.class, DELETE, PRESECURITY, hook, false);

//Register a lifecycle hook for updates on the Book model's title attribute
dictionary.bindTrigger(Book.class, "title", UPDATE, POSTCOMMIT, hook);

//Register a lifecycle hook for updates on _any_ of the Book model's attributes
dictionary.bindTrigger(Book.class, UPDATE, POSTCOMMIT, hook, true);

Dependency Injection

Elide does not depend on a specific dependency injection framework. However, Elide can inject entity models, security checks, lifecycle hooks, and serdes during their construction. Elide provides a framework agnostic, functional interface to inject entity models:

 * Abstraction around dependency injection.
public interface Injector {

     * Inject an elide object.
     * @param entity object to inject
    void inject(Object entity);

     * Instantiates a new instance of a class using the DI framework.
     * @param cls The class to instantiate.
     * @return An instance of the class.
    default <T> T instantiate(Class<T> cls) {
        try {
            return cls.newInstance();
        } catch (InstantiationException | IllegalAccessException e) {
            throw new IllegalStateException(e);

An implementation of this interface can be passed to the EntityDictionary during its construction:

        EntityDictionary dictionary = new EntityDictionary(PermissionExpressions.getExpressions(),
                (obj) -> injector.inject(obj));

If you’re using the elide-spring-boot* artifacts, dependency injection is already setup using Spring. If you’re using the elide-standalone artifact, dependency injection is already setup using Jetty’s ServiceLocator.


Data models can be validated using bean validation. This requires JSR303 data model annotations and wiring in a bean validator in the DataStore.

Type Coercion

Type coercion between the API and underlying data model has common support across JSON-API and GraphQL and is covered here.


Elide supports two kinds of inheritance:

  1. Non-entity inheritance via the JPA annotation @MappedSuperclass.
  2. Entity inheritance via the JPA annotation @Inheritance.

Entity inheritance has a few caveats:

  1. Only the InheritanceType.JOINED and InheritanceType.SINGLE_TABLE strategies are supported.
  2. Entity relationships whose type is a superclass have different behavior in JSON-API and GraphQL:
    1. JSON-API will return the type and attributes of the subclass (as well as the super class).
    2. GraphQL will return the type and attributes of the superclass only.

API Versions

Elide models can be bound to a specific API version. Once bound, the models will only be visible to API requests that ask for the specific version. API versions are bound by creating a file with the ApiVersion annotation:

@ApiVersion(version = "1.0")
package example.models;


API versioning is optional configuration. By default, all models have no implicit version. The API client is also not required to provide a version in its request. By adding a version to one or more packages however, the versioned models will only be visible when the client provides the corresponding version in its request.

There is an important caveat when using API versioning with JPA models. JPA does not allow two Entity classes to share the same name - even if they belong to different packages. To work around this, you can either:

  • Rename the class (class BookV2) but preserve the elide model (@Include(type = "book")) and database table (@Table(name = "book")) names.
  • Rename the entity name (@Entity(name = "BookV2")) but preserve the elide model (@Include(type = "book")) and class (class Book) names.

Details of how to construct client queries for a specific version can be found here.


Data models are intended to be a view on top of the data store or the set of data stores which support your Elide-based service. While other JPA-based workflows often encourage writing data models that exactly match the underlying schema of the data store, we propose a strategy of isolation on per-service basis. Namely, we recommend creating a data model that only supports precisely the bits of data you need from your underlying schema. Often times there will be no distinction when first building your systems. However, as your systems scale and you develop multiple services with overlapping data store requirements, isolation often serves as an effective tool to reduce interdependency among services and maximize the separation of concern. Overall, while models can correspond to your underlying data store schema as a one-to-one representation, it’s not always strictly necessary and sometimes even undesirable.

As an example, let’s consider a situation where you have two Elide-based microservices: one for your application backend and another for authentication (suppose account creation is performed out-of-band for this example). Assuming both of these rely on a common data store, they’ll both likely want to recognize the same underlying User table. However, it’s quite likely that the authentication service will only ever require information about user credentials and the application service will likely only ever need user metadata. More concretely, you could have a system that looks like the following:

Table schema:


Authentication schema:


Application schema:


While you could certainly just use the raw table schema directly (represented as a JPA-annotated data model) and reuse it across services, the point is that you may be over-exposing information in areas where you may not want to. In the case of the User object, it’s quite apparent that the application service should never be capable of accidentally exposing a user’s private credentials. By creating isolated views per-service on top of common data stores, you sacrifice a small bit of DRY principles for much better isolation and a more targeted service. Likewise, if the underlying table schema is updated with a new field that neither one of these services needs, neither service requires a rebuild and redeploy since the change is irrelevant to their function.

A note about microservices: Another common technique to building microservices is for each service to have its own set of data stores entirely independent from other services (i.e. no shared overlap); these data stores are then synced by other services as necessary through a messaging bus. If your system architecture calls for such a model, it’s quite likely you will follow the same pattern we have outlined here with one key difference: the underlying table schema for your individual service’s data store will likely be exactly the same as your service’s model representing it. However, overall, the net effect is the same since only the relevant information delivered over the bus is stored in your service’s schema. In fact, this model is arguably more robust in the sense that if one data store fails not all services necessarily fail.