Using Service Builder to Generate a Persistence Framework

In the last learning path, you built an application using Liferay’s Model-View-Controller portlet framework. MVC is a great design pattern for web applications, but it contains only three components: a model for your data, a view for displaying that data, and a controller for handling page flows. The MVC design pattern contains no facility for saving, or persisting an application’s data model so that it can be retrieved later and be processed or displayed. For that, you need more layers in your application: a persistence layer and a service layer.

The persistence layer is responsible for saving and retrieving your model data. The service layer is like a buffer zone between your application and your persistence layer: having it gives you the freedom in the future to swap out your persistence layer for a different implementation without modifying anything but the calls in the service layer. This kind of loose coupling is good application design, and Liferay supports that in its frameworks. It does that by providing Service Builder, a framework for generating the model, service, and persistence layers of your application.

For more information about how Service Builder works, see the tutorial on its design. For now, you’ll jump right in and start creating your application’s service and persistence layers.

Creating a service.xml file

This learning path starts with the development environment and application you created in the first learning path. If you haven’t followed that path, you’ll need to create that application first, or download it from here. From here on, we’ll assume you have Liferay IDE and your application all set up and ready to go.

  1. Right-click on your project and select NewLiferay Service Builder.

  2. For the package path, use the package com.liferay.docs.guestbook.

  3. For the Namespace, use GB. This prefixes the table names in the database so they don’t conflict with any other similarly named tables.

  4. Uncheck the Include sample entity in new file box and click Finish.

  5. You’ll now see a form for configuring your services. Open the Entities item on the left and select the first, blank element. You’ll see the Entity form on the right. Name the entity Guestbook.

  6. Check the Local service check box.

  7. Select the Guestbook entity on the left and check the Uuid attribute from the list of optional attributes.

  8. Expand the Guestbook entity on the left to reveal its attributes. Click the Columns attribute.

  9. Click the Add Default Columns link at the bottom. This adds the primary key for this table/entity and some other columns that Liferay uses by default, such as the ID of the user who created this entity, the create date, the modified date, and more.

  10. Click the + button to the right of the list of columns. This lets you add a new column.

  11. Give your new column the name name and make it a String type.

  12. Click the Entities link on the left again. You’ll see that your Guestbook entity is already in the list.

  13. Click the + button to the right of the list of entities. This lets you add a new entity.

  14. Name your new entity Entry, and make sure both Local Service and Remote Service are checked.

  15. Select the Entry entity on the left and check the Uuid attribute.

  16. The Entry entity now appears in the list on the left. Expand it and click the Columns attribute.

  17. As you did before, click Add Default Columns.

  18. Click the + button to the right of the list of columns.

  19. Name your new column name and make it a String.

  20. Use the + button to add two more String columns: email and message.

  21. Use the + button to add a column of type long to hold the foreign key to the Guestbook entity. Call this column guestbookId.

lds-sb-1.png

Figure 1: When your entities have been defined, you should have a configuration like this one.

Excellent! You’ve now defined your entities. Since Service Builder is an object-relational mapper, at the same time you did that, you also defined your database tables in one shot.

Now you’ll want to look at your entities carefully. When you build forms for them, you’ll have to do validation on some of the fields. For example, some fields are requirements for filling out the form. Which fields from which entities are required? The first one that jumps to mind is the name field on both the Guestbook and the Entry entity. But the Entry entity also has some other required fields: what’s the point of submitting a guestbook entry without the message? And you may decide you want everyone to supply an email address and their name, to discourage abuse of your guestbook. Because of that, it’s a good idea to make all these fields required.

Liferay has great facilities for field validation which are covered later; right now, you’ll just prepare yourself to use them by defining custom Exception classes for your entities.

  1. On the outline on the left, scroll down to the bottom. Click on Exceptions, the second item from the bottom.

  2. Click the + button to add an exception. Call it GuestbookName.

  3. Use the same procedure to add EntryName, EntryMessage, and EntryEmail exceptions.

Great! The next thing you have to do is define some queries for your app. For that, you’ll need to understand some Liferay-specific concepts.

Understanding Liferay Portal Concepts

When you write a Liferay application, you can make it fit into Liferay’s overall framework by providing a context for it. All of Liferay’s built in applications take advantage of this context. For example, if you add a Wiki to two different sites, the data in each wiki is different for each site. In other words, one site doesn’t have access to another site’s wiki, yet the application they both use is the same. This is what Liferay calls scope.

Scope in Liferay Portal has a hierarchy, depicted in the illustration below. Here, you can see two portal instances. Each is a completely separate portal, with different users, sites, and every other kind of construct Liferay has. Two users are depicted in the portal instance on the left: one user is a member of the standalone site, while the other user is a member of an organization, which itself has a site. A wiki portlet could be placed on a page in either of these sites, and its data would be different. In other words, it would be scoped to that site. You can change an application’s scope to the page, and in that case, one site could host different wikis on different pages.

portal-scope.png

Figure 2: Scope is important in Liferay Portal.

If you write your application to support this, Liferay handles all of it automatically for you. You’ve already taken steps to support scope in your application by adding the default columns to your entities. Those default columns included the Company ID, the Group ID, the User ID, the user name, and some metadata, such as the create and modify dates.

The next thing you have to do is make sure your application’s queries filter by the Group ID. Generating queries, or finders, is what you’ll do next.

Finding Previously Stored Data

Assuming users add guestbook entries to your application, how should they be found? To determine that, you’ll need to look at your data design.

guestbook-tables.png

Figure 3: Your data design generally dictates the queries you can build.

As you can see, you have two tables. The first stores Guestbooks themselves: besides the default fields, it has only two: a primary key and a name. The second table stores Guestbook Entries: each entry has a foreign key going back to the guestbook to which it belongs. Since you’re designing this application to take advantage of Liferay Portal’s concept of scope, all queries should be by the groupId. It’s easiest to tackle the queries for the simpler table, the Guestbook table, first.

  1. In the Guestbook entity, click the Finders link.

  2. On the right side of the screen, click the + button to create a new Finder. Call it GroupId. For a return type, use Collection. In case you’re wondering, yes, this is a Java Collection.

  3. Notice that a new GroupId node has now been created under Finders on the left. Expand it to reveal the nodes beneath it.

  4. Click the Finder Columns node.

  5. On the right side of the screen, click the + button to create a column. Call it groupId.

  6. Save your Service Builder configuration by typing Ctrl-S.

Excellent! You’ve just created a finder that finds Guestbooks by the Group ID! Now you’ll want to create another one for finding all Guestbook entries, given a particular Guestbook ID and a Group ID. This lets you show the entries from the database in the same way you showed them from portlet preferences in the last learning path.

  1. In the Entry entity, click the Finders link.

  2. On the right side of the screen, click the + button to create a new Finder. Call it G_G and specify its return type as Collection. Why in the world would you want to call it G_G? It’s a Liferay convention. If you’re creating a finder that uses two (or more) columns, it’s named for the first letter of each column separated by underscore characters. This way, you can easily tell which fields the finder works on, and the method name Service Builder generates stays small.

  3. Notice that a new G_G node has now been created under Finders on the left. Expand it to reveal the nodes beneath it.

  4. Click the Finder Columns node.

  5. On the right side of the screen, click the + button to create a column. Call it groupId.

  6. Click the + button to create another column. Call it guestbookId.

  7. Save your Service Builder configuration by typing Ctrl-S.

You’ve now defined the finders you’ll need for your application. Note that you haven’t written a single line of SQL, Java, or even XML code. Next, you’ll generate all of that.

Generating Model, Service, and Persistence Layers

Once you’ve created your service.xml file, you’re ready to generate everything else you need to access your database. Note, however, that at the bottom of the service.xml editor are three tabs. You’ve been using the Overview tab. The Diagram tab lets you see a diagram of your database tables. The Source tab lets you see the XML source code you’ve been generating using the GUI editor.

Note that your service.xml file could just as easily have been written to the specifications of the DTD in the header. Liferay IDE/Developer Studio just makes it a lot easier to write. Once you’ve examined the source code to your service.xml file, go back to the Overview tab.

In the top right corner of the Service Builder editor is a button that looks like binary numbers superimposed on a page. If you roll your mouse over this button, a tooltip pops up which says that this is the Build Services button. Click it. At this point, Liferay’s Service Builder utility runs. When it completes, check out your project’s src folder.

lds-service-builder-packages.png

Figure 4: Service Builder generates a number of packages containing your model, service, and persistence layers.

Note that your project now has errors. It’s because the model class, Entry, that you created in the last tutorial, was replaced. As noted above, Service Builder, using just that one service.xml file, generates your model, service, and persistence layers. Thankfully, the location of the error in the GuestbookPortlet class is in code that you’ll replace, now that you have a proper service layer.

Speaking of that service layer, what exactly happened here? Why are there so many classes? We’re glad you asked. Service Builder is based on a design philosophy called loose coupling. At a macro level, you have three layers of your application: the model, the service, and the persistence layers. The application is designed in such a way that you can swap out the persistence layer with little to no change in the model and service layers.

application-layers.png

Figure 5: At a macro level, Service Builder generates three layers.

At a micro level, each layer is implemented using Java Interfaces and various implementations of those interfaces. Rather than have one Entry class that represents your model, Service Builder has generated a system of classes that include an Entry interface, an EntryBaseImpl abstract class for Service Builder to manage, and an EntryImpl class that you can customize. This gives you the flexibility of being able to customize your model, while still allowing Service Builder to generate the code it needs. That’s why Service Builder is a code generator for code generator haters: it generates the stuff that’s tedious to write, while giving you the freedom to customize anything you want.

For further information about Service Builder, what it’s built on, and how it works, please read the What is Service Builder? tutorial.

Congratulations! You’ve now used Service Builder to generate a service and persistence framework for your application. Next, you’ll integrate that framework into your application so you can use it.

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