Comprehensive, flexible denormalization for mongoid that stays in sync
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Comprehensive, flexible denormalization for Mongoid that stays in sync

Everything and the kitchen sync...

Mongoid Alizé helps you improve your Mongoid application's read performance by making it easy to store related data together.

Features of Mongoid Alizé

  • Extremely light DSL and easy setup
  • Works with one-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many relations.
  • Callbacks set on both sides of relations keep data in sync. Even on destroys!
  • Atomic modifiers are used for superior performance.
  • Supports polymorphic relations as of 0.3.0.
  • Custom callbacks and exposed metadata provide flexibility and extensibility (e.g. asynchronous denormalization)
  • Comprehensive test suite with dozens of examples
  • The wiki, soon to be full of war stories and protips.
  • Supports mongoid 4+ (experimental), mongoid 3+ and mongoid 2.4+


Mongoid Alizé supports Mongoid versions 2, 3, 4, and now 5.


Add the gem to your Gemfile:

gem 'mongoid_alize'

Or install with RubyGems:

$ gem install mongoid_alize


Here's a simple use case. A Post model would like to denormalize some data about its author - the User.

class Post
  include Mongoid::Document
  include Mongoid::Alize
  field :title
  field :category
  has_one :user

  # ***
  alize :user, :name, :city # denormalize name and city from user
  # ***


# User data now saves into the Post record
@post.user = User.create!(:name => "Josh", :city => "San Francisco")
@post.user_fields["name"] #=> "Josh"
@post.user_fields["city"] #=> "San Francisco"

Here's another case - where we'd like to store Post data into the User record. Note there are 'many' posts.

class User
  include Mongoid::Document
  include Mongoid::Alize
  field :name
  field :city
  has_many :posts

  # ***
  alize :posts # denormalize all fields from posts (the default w/ no fields specified)
  # ***


# Post data now saves into the User record
@user.posts << Post.create!(:title => "Building a new bike", :category => "Cycling")
@user.posts << Post.create!(:title => "Bay Area Kayaking", :category => "Kayaking")
@user.posts_fields #=> [{ "title" => "Building a new bike", :category => "Cycling" },
                   #    { "title" => "Bay Area Kayaking", :category => "Kayaking" }]

One-to-one, many-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many referenced relations are all supported.

Changes made to the denormalized models will be propagated to the document(s) where that data has been denormalized for saves and destroys.

Migration / First-time installation

Once you've added your alize configuration you'll need to populate your new fields with data. Here's what a typical migration looks like for one model:

User.all.each do |user|
  user.force_denormalization = true!

Assuming User is the model w/ denormalized relations, this will iterate over your users and cause alize to denormalize data from the relations you have specified. Because the user's relations have not "changed" (in the ActiveModel attributes sense) the force_denormalization flag is needed.

Migrating from mongoid_denormalize

Here's a simple example on how to migrate from another denormalization framework. This code moves the user_name field to user_fields[name].

for post in posts
  post.set(:user_fields, :name => post["user_name"])

There's one caveat: If you happened to denormalize an ObjectId from another object as a String, you need to convert it to the correct type during the migration. (Thanks @krismartin!)

object.set(:post_fields, :user_id => Moped::BSON::ObjectId(post["user_id"]))

Advanced Usage

Callbacks are created as instance methods on the model (in the first example above, these would be denormalize_from_user on Post and denormalize_to_posts on User. You can override these to extend behavior. To call the original from your override, simply append a _ to the front of the method name, so denormalize_from_user becomes _denormalize_from_user.

This is ideal for say, doing denormalization in the background. The traditional Delayed::Jobs-like approach would be this:

def denormalize_from_user
handle_asynchronously :denormalize_from_user

(Note: This extra business is needed because it's not always predictable when denormalize methods get defined by a class since callback method definitions can be defined from the inverse side.)

default_alize_fields is the method used to generate the denormalization field list when no fields are passed to alize. Override to set an alternative field list for your model.

Examples and specs

Check out spec/mongoid_alize_spec.rb to see working examples across all types of relations.


Release 0.5.0

Now supporting Mongoid 5.

Release 0.4.2

Several issues and pull requests fixed. Thanks johnnyshields!

Release 0.4.0

Now supporting Mongoid 3.

Release 0.3.0

Unifying how data is stored

mongoid_alize 0.3.0 is imcompatible with previous versions for one-to-one relations. Previous versions defined fields of the form %{relation}_%{field_name}, e.g. post_username to store the username from post. This caused the implementation of one-to-one and one-to-many relations to be quite different, and it made handling polymorphic associations infeasible because fields are different for each related model. There are several other reasons why this setup wasn't optimal: data types for one-to-ones had to be considered up-front, and creating distinct groups of denormalized fields based on the same relation (something planned for in the future) wouldn't be possible. Last but not least, this makes the eventual handling of this JSON by a client more symmetrical (e.g. my code to instantiate nested Backbone.js models from denormalized data became much more concise).

The bottom line is that it all works the same now. If you're doing a one-to-one from a user relation, the denormalized data is stored as a Hash in a user_fields. If you are doing a many-to-one, it's still user_fields - but as an Array. And if it's polymorphic in either case, it's still user_fields, but the fields stored might be different each time.

Polymorphic support

Polymorphic relations are supported. That said, there are two things to be aware of.

One is the natural limitation of the alize macro when it comes to polymorphic relations - the Class of the object stored by the relation is known only at runtime. So, when you specify alize on the polymorphic side (the side with the :polymorphic => true argument to the relation), alize cannot apply the to-side macro automatically - it doesn't know how to find the inverse(s). To still get to-side behavior, you'll need to add the alize_to macro for any class/relation that can be an inverse (i.e. any relation that uses the :as => :something parameter to the relation definition.)

The second challenge is that the fields to denormalize will likely be different on per-inverse basis. Perhaps your :addressable relation can store both homes and offices but needs to store different fields for each (e.g. offices have a company name, and homes belong to owners). This can be accomplished by passing a proc to the :fields option key when defining the relation. The block will be passed the model instance in question:

alize :addressable, :fields => lambda { |addressable|
  if addressable.is_a?(Home)
  elsif addressable.is_a?(Office)

Protip - In practice, rather than doing ugly type checking, I implement a method on any class that can be addressable that returns a list of fields:

class Home
  def alize_fields_for_addressable

class Office
  def alize_fields_for_addressable

alize :addressable, :fields => lambda { |addressable| addressable.alize_fields_for_addressable }

Note the fields option is valid for anything you alize.

denormalize_from_all and denormalize_to_all hooks

Each class where Mongoid::Alize is included has two new methods - denormalize_from_all and denormalize_to_all. These methods run all of the alize callbacks (in the appropriate direction) for that model.

This comes in handy when you want to trigger denormalization without going through the save callback cycle. Keep in mind that denormalize_from methods do not automatically persist the data that's updated in the model (b/c they're traditionally used in a before save). So if you call denormalize_from_all you'll need to handle persistance yourself - usually through atomic mongoid operations like set.

Protip: If you need even more flexibility, you now have access to alize's callback metadata in either direction via the class methods alize_from_callbacks and alize_to_callbacks. Each is an array of Mongoid::Alize::Callback objects.

Protip #2: Make sure to pair with the force_denormalization attr if you want all callbacks to skip dirty checking (appropriate for batch updates, sync-ing stale data, etc)

Protip #3: I use this to fire to denormalizations after to denormalizations (and this will be the default behavior soon). If you are denormalizing denormalized data (meta, I know) you can use this to make sure updates to a model trigger denormalization to it's model's.


One-to-one performance is dramatically improved. Updating all fields is accomplished via one set operation.

Misc 0.3.0 updates

  • alize_to and alize_from are available separately if you only want one type of behavior for a relation. alize still does both (except for polymorphic relations, in which case it acts as alize_from)
  • You can pass a :fields proc to any alize to dynamically determine stores fields at the instance level.


You'll need to rewrite the parts of your application that use one-to-one denormalization. Instead of finding data in a post_title field, you'll be looking in post_fields["title"]. After updating your code, re-denormalize your data with 0.3.0 installed (loop through objects and call save with the force_denormalization attr set to true).

Will the API keep changing?

It's my intent to follow the Semantic Versioning Spec. So until 1.0, it's possible that breaking changes may be introduced. I'll do my best to outline the changes each time and give advice on how to respond to changes. The goal is to get to 1.0 as quickly as possible, but there is still some real-world mileage to cover.

Tests / Contributing

The Gemfile has all you need to run the tests (w/ some extras like Guard and debugger). To run the specs:

bundle install
bundle exec rspec

Contributions and bug reports are welcome.

Todos/Coming Soon

  • Performance improvements
  • Your feature requests and issues!

Credits / License

Mongoid::Alize - Copyright (c) 2012 Josh Dzielak MIT License

A big thanks to Durran Jordan for creating Mongoid.