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I think the problem is that too many developers think of ORMs as a black box that lets them avoid SQL and the DB, rather than a powerful tool for working with them.

Vlad Mihalcea, a Hibernate developer/evangelist, has been doing amazing work improving the project's documentation and providing educational material about how to use it properly without sacrificing performance[1]. I can't recommend his book High-Performance Java Persistence enough: https://leanpub.com/high-performance-java-persistence

For me, his key lesson is that ORMs can be incredibly useful if, and only if, your understanding of SQL and DB performance is good enough that you can use them in a DB-friendly way. It's really simple things like expressing relationships between your domain entities such that the resulting tables can be easily joined. You still get the productivity that comes from skipping loads of JDBC boilerplate, but you don't feel like there's a load of magic between you and the DB.

He also pushes the idea that you should use Hibernate in combination with other DB tools: Liquibase/Flyway for migrations, and JOOQ for optimised queries with lots of joins,or DB-specific work. By having a decent ORM, SQL builder, and migration tool, you can use be flexible depending on the situation. Complex, performance-insensitive business logic can use the domain model from the ORM, whereas API-backing queries can be expressed a single, tightly constrained JOOQ call, and the actual creation and maintenance of the schema can be done via pure SQL scripts that are managed by your migration tool.

[1] https://vladmihalcea.com/




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