Carbonado is an extensible, high performance persistence abstraction layer for Java applications, providing a relational view to the underlying persistence technology.
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Carbonado is an extensible, high performance persistence abstraction layer for Java applications, providing a relational view to the underlying persistence technology. Persistence can be provided by a JDBC accessible SQL relational database, or it can be a Berkeley DB. It can also be fully replicated between the two.

Even if the backing database is not SQL based, Carbonado still supports many of the core features found in any kind of relational database. It supports queries, joins, indexes, and it performs query optimization. When used in this way, Carbonado is not merely a layer to a relational database, it is the relational database. SQL is not a requirement for implementing relational databases.

Defining new types in Carbonado involves creating an interface or abstract class which follows Java bean conventions. Additional information is specified by inserting special annotations. At the very least, an annotation is required to specify the primary key. Annotations are a feature first available in Java 5, and as a result, Carbonado depends on Java 5.

On the surface, it may appear that Carbonado types are defined like POJOs. The difference is that in Carbonado, types are object representations of relations. It is not an object database nor an object-relational bridge. In addition, data type definitions are simply interfaces, and there are no external configuration files. All the code to implement types is auto-generated, yet there are no extra build time steps.

Carbonado is able to achieve high performance by imposing very low overhead when accessing the actual storage. Low overhead is achieved in part by auto generating performance critical code, via the Cojen library.

Version 1.2

Carbonado 1.2 adds many new features, which are summarized here and in the release notes.

  • General features

    • Loads and queries can invoke triggers.
    • Added support for derived properties.
    • Storable property values can be accessed by name in addition to the direct method.
  • Repositories

    • New volatile repository provided, backed by a ConcurrentSkipListMap.
    • Replicated repository resync operation allows a listener to be installed which can monitor progress or make changes.
    • Berkeley DB repositories add support for BigInteger and BigDecimal property types.
  • JDBC features

    • Created @Automatic annotation, which enables MySQL auto-increment columns.
    • Added sequence support for SQL databases that don't natively support sequences.
    • Support for automatic version management eliminating the requirement that triggers be installed on the database.
    • More lenient with respect to column mappings: numbers and dates can represented by Strings; character data type supported; non-null column can be marked as @Nullable if also @Independent.
  • Query engine features

    • Added Query.fetchSlice method for supporting limits and offsets.
    • Derived properties can be indexed, allowing function and join indexes to be defined.
    • Added support for "where exists" and outer joins in queries via new syntax. This is explained in the "Queries with joins" section of the User Guide.
    • Added convenience method, Query.exists.
    • Optimizations for covering indexes when using Berkeley DB.


Carbonado is broken down into several package bundles for better dependency management. The easiest way to get started with Carbonado is to use the Berkeley DB JE backed repository. For this, you need to get the Carbonado and CarbonadoSleepycatJE package bundles.


Loose mapping from Carbonado terminology to SQL terminology:

Carbonado SQL
Repository database
Storage table
Storable definition table definition
Storable instance table row
property column
Query select/delete statement
Cursor result set


Carbonado queries are not as expressive as SQL selects. Unlike SQL, Carbonado queries do not support data processing or aggregate functions.

Carbonado supports the minimal querying capability that makes automatic index selection possible. Other features available in SQL can be emulated in code. If the database is local, then this offers no loss of performance.

Applications that wish to use Carbonado only as a convenient layer over SQL will not be able to use full SQL features. Carbonado is by no means a replacement for JDBC. These kinds of applications may choose a blend of Carbonado and JDBC. To facilitate this, access to the JDBC connection in use by the current transaction is supported.

The Carbonado repositories that are backed by Berkeley DB use a rule-based query optimizer to come up with a query plan. Cost-based optimizers are generally much more effective, since they estimate I/O costs. Carbonado has a rule-based optimizer mainly because it is easier to write.

Persistence Technology Requirements

Carbonado is capable of supporting many different kinds of persistence technologies. A minimum set of features is required, however, in order to provide enough Carbonado features to justify the effort:

  • Arbitrary keys and values
  • Get value by key
  • Put value by key (does not need to distinguish insert vs update)
  • Delete value by key
  • Ordered key iteration
  • Iteration start specified via full or partial key

Ideally, the persistence technology should support transactions. If it does not, then its transactions must be implemented by batching updates in memory. The updates are not persisted until the transaction is committed. If atomic batch updates are supported, then the repository can report supporting an isolation level of "read committed". Otherwise, it can only support the lowest level of "read uncommitted".

Additional features which are nice to have, but not strictly required:

  • Reverse iteration
  • ACID transactions
  • Storable type segregation (eliminates need to define key prefixes)
  • Truncation by storable type, if segregated

See Also