Fey - Better SQL Generation Through Perl
use Fey::Literal::Function; use Fey::Placeholder; use Fey::Schema; use Fey::SQL; my $schema = hand_waving(); my $user = $schema->table('User'); my $group = $schema->table('Group') my $select = Fey::SQL->new_select(); my $func = Fey::Literal::Function->new( 'LCASE', $user->column('username') ); $select->select( $user->columns( 'user_id', 'username' ) ) ->from( $user, $group ) ->where( $group->group_id, 'IN', 1, 2, 3 ) ->and ( $func, 'LIKE', 'smith%' ); print $select->sql($dbh);
Fey distribution contains a set of modules for representing the
components of a DBMS schema, and for dynamically generating SQL
queries based on that schema.
Loading this module does nothing. It's just here to provide docs and a version number for the distro.
WHAT IS Fey?
The goal of the core
Fey distro is to provide a simple, flexible
way of dynamically generating complex SQL queries in Perl. Other
packages build on top of this functionality to create a complete ORM
If you're interested in an ORM, take a look at the
To generate SQL with Fey, you first need to create a set of objects
representing the tables and foreign keys in your schema. The simplest
way to do this is to use the
Fey-Loader distro, which will connect
to an existing schema and generate a set of objects for you.
Alternatively, you can create these objects via Fey's API. You would first create a Fey::Schema object. This object will hold all of your tables and foreign keys. If you want to create your schema this way, you should start with the Fey::Schema, Fey::Table, and Fey::FK APIs. You'll also want to use the Fey::Column API.
THE CORE Fey DISTRO
The emphasis in the core Fey distro is on dynamic queries, particularly on the tables/columns/etc involved in the query, not just the bound parameters.
This is not what I mean by a dynamic query ...
SELECT user_id FROM User where username = ?
While this is dynamic in the sense that the username is parameterized
and may change on each invocation, it is still easily handled by a
phrasebook class. If that is all you need, I suggest checking out any
Imagine that we have a database with a User table and a Message table,
where each message has a user who is that message's creator. We might
want to grab all the users in the database, in which case we would do
SELECT against the User table ...
SELECT * FROM User
But maybe we want to get all the users who have created a message in the last week:
SELECT User.* FROM User JOIN Message USING (user_id) WHERE Message.creation_date >= ?
The resultset for our query is still the same (0+ users) but the constraints of the query are more complex. Now imagine another dozen or so permutations on how we search for users. This is what I mean by "dynamically" generating queries.
You probably don't need to read this if you just wanted to know how to use Fey.
Why Not Use a Phrasebook?
Let's assume we have a simple User table with the following columns:
username state first_name last_name access_level
Limiting ourselves to queries of equality ("username = ?", "state = ?"), we would still need 32 (1 + 5 + 10 + 10 + 5 + 1) entries to handle all the possible combinations of columns. Now imagine adding in variants like allowing for wildcard searches using LIKE or regexes, or more complex variants involving an "OR" in a subclause.
This gets even more complicated if you start adding in joins, outer joins, and so on. It's plain to see that a phrasebook gets too large to be usable at this point. You'd probably have to write a program just to generate the phrasebook and keep it up to date!
Why Not String Manipulation?
The next idea that might come to mind is to dump the phrasebook in
favor of string manipulation. This is simple enough at first, but
quickly gets ugly. Handling all of the possible options correctly
requires lots of fiddly code that has to concatenate bits of SQL in
the correct order, taking into account where to put in commas,
AND, and so on and so forth. I've been there, and trust
me, it's madness.
The core Fey modules provide a solution to the dynamic SQL problem. Using Fey, you can specify queries in the form of Perl methods and objects. Fey provides a set of objects to represent the parts of a schema, specifically tables, columns, and foreign keys. Using these objects along with Fey::SQL, you can easily generate very complex queries.
This core distro is also intended to be the foundation for building
higher-level tools like an ORM. See
Fey::ORM for just such a thing.
HISTORY AND GOALS
This module comes from my experience writing and using Alzabo. Alzabo does everything this module does, and a lot more. The fact that Alzabo does so many things has become a fairly problematic in its maintenance, and Alzabo was over 6 years old at the time this project was begun (August of 2006).
Rather than coming up with a very smart solution that allows us to use 80% of a DBMS's functionality, I'd rather come up with a solution that's dumber but supports all (or at least 99%) of the DBMS's features. It's easy to add smarts on top of a dumb layer, but it can be terribly hard to add that last 20% once you've got something really smart.
The goals for Fey, based on my experience with Alzabo, are the following:
Provide a simple way to generate queries dynamically. I really like how this works with Alzabo conceptually, but Alzabo is not as flexible as I'd like and it's "build a data structure" approach to query building can become very cumbersome.
Rather than complex data structures, with Fey you call methods on a
Fey::SQLobject to build up a query. This turns out to be simpler to work with.
Fey, unlike Alzabo, can be used to generate multi-row updates and deletes, and it supports sub-selects, unions, etc. and all that other good stuff.
Fey supports complex query creation with less fiddliness than Alzabo. This means that the class to represent queries is a little smarter and more flexible about the order in which bits are added.
For example, in using Alzabo I often came across cases where I wanted to add a table to a query's join if it hasn't already been added. With Alzabo, there's no nice clean way to do this. Simply adding the table to the join parameter twice will cause an error. It would be nice to simply be able to do this
$select->join( $foo_table => $bar_table );
and have it do the right thing if that join already exists (where the right thing is just do nothing).
Fey::SQLdoes exactly that.
Provide the core for an RDBMS-OO mapper similar to a combination of
At the same time, query generation and the ORM are decoupled. You can use Fey::SQL to generate queries without having to every use the
Be declarative like Moose. In particular, the
Fey::ORMORM is as declarative as possible, and aims to emulate Moose's declarative sugar style where possible.
Leverage the API user's SQL knowledge. Building up queries with Fey looks enough like SQL that you shouldn't have to think too hard about it. This means join support is baked in at a core level, as are subselects and ideally anything else you can do in SQL.
Problems with Alzabo
Here are some of the problems I've had with Alzabo over the years which inspired me to create Fey ...
Adding support for a new DBMS to Alzabo is a lot of work, so it only supports MySQL and Postgres. Alzabo tries to be really smart about preventing users from shooting themselves in the foot, and requires a lot of DBMS-specific code to achieve this.
In retrospect, being a lot dumber and allowing for foot-shooting makes supporting a new DBMS much easier. People generally know how their DBMS works, and if they generate an invalid query or table name, it will throw an error.
For example, while Fey can accommodate per-DBMS query (sub)classes, it does not include any by default, and is capable of supporting many DBMS-specific features without per-DBMS classes.
Alzabo has too much DBMS-specific knowledge. If you want to use a SQL function in a query, you have to import a corresponding Perl function from the appropriate
Alzabo::SQLMaker, which limits you to what's already defined, or forces you to go through a cumbersome API to define a new SQL function for use in your Perl code.
By contrast, Fey has simple generic support for arbitrary functions via the
Fey::Literal::Functionclass. If you need more flexibility you can use the
Fey::Literal::Termsubclass to generate an arbitrary snippet to insert into your SQL.
A related problem is that Alzabo doesn't support multiple versions of a DBMS very well. Either it doesn't work with an older version at all, or it doesn't support some enhanced capability of a newer version. It mostly supports whatever version I happened to be using when I wrote a specific piece of functionality.
There are now free GUI design tools for specific databases that do a better job of supporting the database in question than Alzabo ever has.
Alzabo separates its classes into Create (for generation of DDL) and Runtime (for DML) subclasses, which might have been worth the memory savings six years ago, but just makes for an extra hassle now.
When I originally developed Alzabo, I included a feature for generating high-level application object classes which subclass the Alzabo classes and add "business logic" methods. This is what is provided by
Nowadays, I prefer to have my business logic classes simply use the Alzabo classes. In other words, I now prefer "has-a" and "uses-a" versus "is-a" object design for this case.
Method auto-generation based on a specific schema can be quite handy, but it should be done in the domain-specific application classes, not as a subclass of the core functionality.
Storing schemas in an Alzabo-specific format is problematic for many reasons. It's simpler to simply get the schema definition from an existing schema, or to allow users to define it in code.
Alzabo's referential integrity checking code was really cool back when I mostly used MySQL with MYISAM tables. Now it's just a maintenance burden and a barrier for new features.
I didn't catch the testing bug until quite a while after I'd started working on Alzabo. Alzabo's test suite is nasty. Fey is built with testability in mind, and high test coverage is part of my ongoing goals for the project.
Alzabo does too many things, which makes it hard to explain and document.
WHY IS IT NAMED Fey?
When I first started working on Fey, it was named "Q". This was a nice short name to type, but obviously unsuitable for releasing on CPAN. I wanted a nice short name that could be used in multiple distributions, like John Siracusa's "Rose" modules.
I was standing in the shower one day and had the following series of thoughts leading to Fey. Reading this will may give you an unpleasant insight into my mind. You have been warned.
This module is "SQL-y", as in "related to SQL". However, this name is bad for a number of reasons. First, it's not clear how to pronounce it. It may make you think of a YACC grammar ("SQL.y"). It's a weird combo of upper- and lower-case letters.
SQLy => Squall
"SQLy" and "Squall" share a number of letters, obviously.
Squall is a single short word, which is good. However, it's a bit awkward to type and has a somewhat negative meaning to me, because a storm can mean trouble.
Squall => Lionheart => Faye
Squall Lionheart is a character in Final Fantasy VIII, which IMO is the best Final Fantasy game before the PS2.
The inimitable Faye Wong sang the theme song for FF VIII. I love Faye Wong.
Faye => Fey
And thus we arrive at "Fey". It's nice and short, easy to type, and easy to say.
Some of its meanings are "otherworldly" or "magical". Attempting to combine SQL and OO in any way is certainly unnatural, and if done right, perhaps magical. Fey can also mean "appearing slightly crazy". This project is certainly that.
Yes, I'm a nerd, I know.
Please report any bugs or feature requests to
or through the web interface at http://rt.cpan.org. I will be
notified, and then you'll automatically be notified of progress on
your bug as I make changes.
I am also usually active on IRC as 'drolsky' on
If you'd like to thank me for the work I've done on this module, please consider making a "donation" to me via PayPal. I spend a lot of free time creating free software, and would appreciate any support you'd care to offer.
Please note that I am not suggesting that you must do this in order for me to continue working on this particular software. I will continue to do so, inasmuch as I have in the past, for as long as it interests me.
Similarly, a donation made in this way will probably not make me work on this software much more, unless I get so many donations that I can consider working on free software full time (let's all have a chuckle at that together).
Dave Rolsky <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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- Oliver Charles <firstname.lastname@example.org>
COPYRIGHT AND LICENCE
This software is Copyright (c) 2011 - 2016 by Dave Rolsky.
This is free software, licensed under:
The Artistic License 2.0 (GPL Compatible)