ORM Concerns

April 17, 2008 at 11:49 am (Object Relational Mapping) (, , )

Object Relational Mapping (ORM) software is a great idea. You can’t deny that the mismatch between objects and relational data has to be dealt with. Instead of all the time, money and effort being spent here, why not get a tool that does most of the work for you? But… One direction that this can lead is towards dumb databases. After all, if putting a piece of software between the object & the db makes things easier, how much easier if the db and the object look exactly the same. Ta-da! Even less code to write & maintain. Unfortunately, TANSTAAFL (There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch) still applies. What you save in initial coding you will pay for in reporting, data cleanup, integrity issues, data integration issues… Anyway, I’ve been researching this, since, as I mentioned before, my company is looking to implement ORM and the architects in charge of the project are really excited by the idea of making the database a reflection of the object. Here are the list of concerns and potential issues that I’ve come up regarding ORM. Any comments or suggestions around this would be useful. In no particular order:

  •  I/O increase due to “chattier” applications:
    Most documentation indicates a lot more, smaller transactions, not to mention the possibility of frequent requests to verify structure (the app checking to see if the database has changed) prior to generating & running queries.
    Mitigation is to ensure appropriate configuration & use of nHibernate. Monitoring can be done with Profiler
  • I/O increase due to loading larger data sets more frequently
    Ensure the use of “lazy” collections to reduce data moved
    No other mitigation possible.
  • General performance issues due to “generic” procedures using less efficient access methods
    Generic data types used in queries can lead to indexes not being used
  • Zero possibility to tune queries in a production setting
    Any, all, changes require re-coding and re-deployment. There are no methods available for database only tuning except applying an index or forcing parameterization.
  • Reporting
    This includes transactional level reporting as well as moving data between a model driven design and a more flexible design (normalized or star schema or whatever) that better supports reporting. Coding time reduced on the front end is, to some degree, tacked on to the back-end.
    A data cleansing mechanism may be required.
    Redundancy of data an authoritative sources for data may require some refinement.
  • Data integrity
    Generated structures are dependent on discovery to determine the proper constraints required on the data, or all constraints are assumed to be in the code.
    Without integrity maintained with data the possibility of “dirty” data is increased (“USA”, “U.S.A.”,”US” all values entered through app).
  • Security
    We will have to give over full read/write privileges at the table level to the application. I think, it’s possible, we’d have to give it ‘dbo’ in production. Based on a few statements in some of the research, it’s even possible we’d have to give it ‘sa’ (although that is completely unproven currently).
  • Integration with other systems at the data level
    Depending on the application, this may not be required. But if it is required at any point, it will entail a larger than normal effort to convert the data to a more normalized structure.

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