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Sproc vs ORM vs Inline vs Polyglot

With relational databases the common data access patterns tend to fall into three core options.

  • Direct access via inline SQL
  • Stored procedures using the standard library
  • ORM frameworks or libraries

Individually these have both pros and cons, often leading to heated debate and discussion.

Inline

  • Leaky abstractions.
  • Dangerous in places via SQL injection.
  • Quick and dirty solution.
  • Non testable by default.
  • Useful for integration testing where dynamic input is required and safe.

Stored Procedures (standard library)

  • Can be clunky and low level to use in places.
  • Non testable by default.
  • Allows the use of DB specific features internally.
  • Easy to tune and optimize as long as interface is stable.
  • Developers can optimise the execution of queries.

ORMs

  • Testable by default.
  • Complex, large and difficult to use correctly.
  • Leaky abstractions.
  • Optimisation is harder, especially for DB engineers.
  • Mini or lightweight alternatives exist, with less of the downsides.

Polyglot Persistence

The actual decision of which data access method to use can be a non issue providing a good abstraction is used. Whether you use inline SQL, stored procedures or full blown ORMs is beside the point. Instead of abstracting the implementation detail, focus on the role the object or function has to play. A benefit of this approach is the ability to mix and match data access patterns. Polyglot persistence is gaining more traction where alternate data storage solutions are more appropriate.

N+1

One common flaw that all these data access patterns can have is the N+1 problem.

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