Proof Of Concept: A fully type safe version of Anorm
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Proof Of Concept: A fully type safe version of Anorm

What if Play could:

  • Validate the syntax of your SQL statements?
  • Validate the structure of your SQL statements over the real database schema?
  • Extract the type informations from this schema and use them to enrich the Scala types?

Now, with Scala 2.10 and macro it is possible.

Using a Scala macro, it finds your SQL statements in your application code, send them to the database for compilation, analysis and validation, and use the analysis result to compute a Scala type for your SQL statement.

So the basic idea is to transform:

SELECT name, age from people where id = ?

To something like:

Int => Stream[(String,Int)]

This demo project is a demonstration of what a typed version of Anorm would look like.

Yes, it's close to and has been inspirated by sqltyped, but it uses a different implementation based on JDBC MetaData (that has advantages and disadvantages).


Just install the latest sbt, or download the latest Play package.

Then clone the repo and launch the Play console:

$ cd anormtyped-demo
$ sbt

[info] Loading project definition from /Volumes/Data/gbo/Desktop/anormtyped-demo/project        
[info] Set current project to anormtyped-demo (in build file:/Volumes/Data/gbo/Desktop/anormtyped-demo/)
       _            _
 _ __ | | __ _ _  _| |
| '_ \| |/ _' | || |_|
|  __/|_|\____|\__ (_)
|_|            |__/

play! 2.1-RC2 (using Java 1.6.0_37 and Scala 2.10.0),

> Type "help play" or "license" for more information.
> Type "exit" or use Ctrl+D to leave this console.

[anormtyped-demo] $

You also need to install PostgresSQL, and to create a new database that you will initialize with the content of the world.sql file available in the application root folder.

Unfortunately in this POC we can't use Play evolutions to update the database schema, because the evolution scripts are applied on the application start, and queries are type checked at compilation time... This is one of the several problems to solve

Check the main Play configuration file (in conf/application.conf) and adjust the JDBC settings if needed:


Once the database is ready, you can run the application:

[anormtyped-demo] $ run

And open the running application at http://localhost:9000/

Nothing really fancy here, it's a very basic Play application. It doesn't even use the template engine to keep everything into a single file.

The whole application code can be found in Application.scala.

Meet the TypedSQL queries

The interesting parts are the TypedSQL expressions that can be found at the top of the controller code (in app/controllers/Application.scala):

val allCountries = TypedSQL(
    select code, name, continent, indepyear, population, headofstate
    from country

val findPopulationByCode = TypedSQL(
    select population from country where code = ?

val findAllCitiesInContinent = TypedSQL(
    select, from city 
    join country on city.countrycode = country.code 
    where country.continent like ?

val insertCity = TypedSQL(
    insert into city (name, countrycode) 
    values (?,?)

val deleteCity = TypedSQL(
    delete from city where id = ?

They look a bit like the plain old Anorm SQL queries, but you see that they don't define any parser. This is because the in and out types for the queries are inferred from the database itself.

For example, the findPopulationByCode query, will act as a function taking a single String parameter, and returning a List[Int]. Here String has been automatically inferred from the database schema where country.code is defined as VARCHAR. The same apply for country.population which has been inferred as Int:

scala> findPopulationByCode(88)
error: type mismatch; found : Int(88) required: String

scala> findPopulationByCode("FRA").singleOpt
res0: Option[Int] = 59225700

See the magic

Now let's check that everything is type safe, and properly checked at compilation time.

Try to make a syntax error in any SQL statement, such as:

val findPopulationByCode = TypedSQL(
    selXect population from country where code = ?

Refresh your browser and see the error message:

It will also detect a mistake in the schema, such as:

val findPopulationByCode = TypedSQL(
    select population from country where id = ?

And of course the type errors:

val findPopulationByCode = TypedSQL(
    select population from country where surfacearea = ?

Here the SQL statement compiles properly, but it's signature change accordingly to the new types used in the query.

Detecting incompatible database schema changes

It will also help you to avoid errors generated by an incompatible database schema change. First, fix all the pending errors you introduced just before, and alter the world database schema in the PSQL console:


Here we changed the country.population column to accept null values. So of course, it should change something at our code level. Go to the Play console, and recompile the application (first clean the app to force the recompilation even if your source files didn't changed):

[anormtyped-demo] $ clean
[success] Total time: 0 s, completed Jan 16, 2013 11:08:38 PM
[anormtyped-demo] $ compile
[info] Updating {file:/Volumes/Data/gbo/Desktop/anormtyped-demo/}anormtyped-demo...
[info] Done updating.                                                             
[info] Compiling 5 Scala sources and 1 Java source to /Volumes/Data/gbo/Desktop/anormtyped-demo/target/scala-2.10/classes...
[error] /Volumes/Data/gbo/Desktop/anormtyped-demo/app/controllers/Application.scala:27: type mismatch;
[error]  found   : ((String, String, String, Option[Int], Int, Option[String])) => controllers.Application.Country
[error]  required: ((String, String, String, Option[Int], Option[Int], Option[String])) => ?
[error]   ).map(Country.tupled)
[error]                 ^
[error] one error found
[error] (anormtyped-demo/compile:compile) Compilation failed
[error] Total time: 2 s, completed Jan 16, 2013 11:08:43 PM

Yeah, our previous Int type has been changed to Option[Int] accordingly to the new database Schema.

Time to fix our code!