iBatis or Hibernate ?

December 16, 2011

Hello,
I have been thinking to write this one since long. It almost now took 10 months to write the new blog entry.
In this one I will be talking about the iBatis and Hibernate. I purposely did not mention comparison as I myself do not think they are comparable to each other. Both of them have a different purpose and different applications in designing the solutions for Data access. While taking interviews I often come across candidates mentioning iBatis as a competitor of Hibernate. This exactly is the reason I felt I should share my views around the same.

iBatis is a very good and handy SQLMapper tool. I had experienced it’s usefulness while consuming the iBatis framework to build the solution that involved invoking Oracle Stored Procedures that returns REFERENCE cursors back. You simply configure the returned resultset to the Java objects and you are done. You get to work with the Java Objects in your application without bothering to write the usual and monotonous traversing logic and initializing the Java objects on your own. But this is where some colleagues starts thinking it as an ORM(Object Relational Mapping) tool. This is not the fact. iBatis  helps you map Java objects to the Parameters being passed to Stored PRocedure/Function/SQL without worrying about JDBC.

ORM has a altogether different domain to address. To understand this we have to first understand the challenges involved in mapping Object model to Relational model. This is usually called as Object Relational Impedance. We will see few of them hereafter.
First and foremost thing is Object Inheritance available in Object model which is not in Relational model. Hibernate as such addresses this by implementing Table per Class, Table per subclass and Table per Class hierarchy. We cannot go into more details of these and already a lot of information is available around this. The crux is when persisting/retrieving the Object hierarchy to/from database, either a discriminator column or table joins are implemented based on the strategy selection.
Another important feature that ORM tool provides is persisting the Object Graph when parent is being persisted. These are some of the things which are not addressed by iBatis. Well, you can do this with iBatis provided you write your own code for this. ORM tools also has a feature that helps identifying the dirty instance and persist it to the database once it is associated to Persistence context. Apart from this ORM has lot of other features which can be checked here.

In essence when we want to build a solution that involves just retrieving data from database and present it to the user, iBatis is simpler and effective solution. Whereas when one has the liberty to derive Relational model from the Object model and heavily retrieve/persist Object Graphs, Hibernate is appropriate solution. Using hibernate only for Data retrieval makes your solution over-engineered.

Hope this helps someone trying to compare iBatis and Hibernate.

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