4.3. Restrictions on Persistent Classes

4.3.1. Default or No-Arg Constructor
4.3.2. Inheritance
4.3.3. Persistent Fields
4.3.4. Conclusions

There are very few restrictions placed on persistent classes. Still, it never hurts to familiarize yourself with exactly what JDO does and does not support.

4.3.1. Default or No-Arg Constructor

The JDO specification requires that all persistence-capable classes must have a no-arg constructor. This constructor may be private, if desired. Because the compiler automatically creates a default no-arg constructor when no other constructor is defined, only classes that define constructors must also include a no-arg constructor.


Kodo JDO's enhancer will automatically add a protected no-arg constructor to your class when required. Therefore, this restriction does not apply under Kodo.

4.3.2. Inheritance

JDO fully supports inheritance in persistent classes. It allows persistent classes to inherit from non-persistent classes, persistent classes to inherit from other persistent classes, and non-persistent classes to inherit from persistent classes. It is even possible to form inheritance hierarchies in which persistence skips generations. There are, however, a few important limitations:

  • Persistent classes cannot inherit from certain natively-implemented system classes such as java.net.Socket and java.lang.Thread.

  • If a persistent class inherits from a non-persistent class, the fields of the non-persistent superclass cannot be persisted.

  • All classes in an inheritance tree must use the same JDO identity type. If they use application identity, they must either use the same identity class, or else they must each declare that they use separate identity classes whose inheritance hierarchy and whose modifiers (such as whether they are abstract) exactly mirror the inheritance hierarchy of the persistent class hierarchy. We will cover JDO identity shortly.

4.3.3. Persistent Fields

JDO manages the state of all persistent fields. Before you access a field, JDO makes sure that it has been loaded from the data store. When you set a field, JDO records that it has changed so that the new value will be persisted. This allows you to treat the field in exactly the same way you treat any other field -- another aspect of JDO's transparent persistence.

JDO includes built-in support for most common field types. These types can be roughly divided into three categories: immutable types, mutable types, and relations.

Immutable types, once created, cannot be changed. The only way to alter a persistent field of an immutable type is to assign a new value to the field. JDO supports the following immutable types for persistent fields:

  • All primitives (int, float, byte, etc)

  • All primitive wrappers (java.lang.Integer, java.lang.Float, java.lang.Byte, etc)

  • java.lang.String

  • java.math.BigInteger

  • java.math.BigDecimal

  • java.lang.Number

  • java.util.Locale

Persistent fields of mutable types can be altered without assigning the field a new value. Mutable types can be modified directly through their own methods. The JDO specification requires that implementations support the following mutable field types:

  • java.util.Date

  • java.util.HashSet

Most implementations do not allow you to persist nested mutable types, such as HashSets of Dates.


Many JDO implementations support more than just the HashSet and Date mutable types. Kodo JDO supports the following:

  • java.util.Date

  • java.util.List

  • java.util.ArrayList

  • java.util.LinkedList

  • java.util.Vector

  • java.util.Set

  • java.util.HashSet

  • java.util.SortedSet

  • java.util.TreeSet

  • java.util.Map

  • java.util.HashMap

  • java.util.SortedMap

  • java.util.TreeMap

  • java.util.Hashtable

  • java.util.Properties

Kodo JDO allows you to plug in direct support for additional mutable types as well.

JDO implementations support mutable fields by transparently replacing the field value with an instance of a special subclass of the field's declared type. For example, if your persistent object has a field containing a java.util.Date, the JDO implementation will transparently replace the value of that field at runtime with some vendor-specific Date subclass -- call it JDODate. The job of this subclass is to track modifications to the field. Thus the JDODate class will override all mutator methods of Date to notify the JDO implementation that the field's value has been changed. The JDO implementation then knows to write the field's new value to the data store at the next opportunity.

Of course, when you develop and use persistent classes, this is all transparent. You continue to use the standard methods of mutable fields as you normally would. It is important to know how support for mutable fields is implemented, however, in order to understand why JDO has such trouble with arrays. JDO allows you to use persistent array fields, and it automatically detects when these fields are assigned a new array value or set to null. Because arrays cannot be subclassed, however, JDO cannot detect when new values are written to array indexes. If you set an index of a persistent array, you must either reset the array field, or you must explicitly tell the JDO implementation you have changed the array field; this is referred to as "dirtying" the field. Dirtying is accomplished through the JDOHelper's makeDirty method.

Example 4.2. Accessing Mutable Persistent Fields

 * Example demonstrating the use of mutable persistent fields in JDO.
 * Assume Person is a persistent class.
public void addChild (Person parent, Person child)
    // can modify most mutable types directly; JDO tracks
    // the modifications for you
    Date lastUp = parent.getLastUpdated ();
    lastUp.setTime (System.currentTimeMillis ());
    Collection children = parent.getChildren ();
    children.add (child);
    child.setParent (parent);

    // arrays need explicit dirtying if they are modified,
    // but not if the field is reset
    parent.setObjectArray (new Object[0]);
    child.getObjectArray ()[0] = parent;
    JDOHelper.makeDirty (child, "objectArray");
    // or: child.setObjectArray (child.getObjectArray ());

As the parent-child example above illustrates, JDO supports relations between persistent objects in addition to the standard Java types covered so far. All JDO implementations should allow user-defined persistent classes and collections of user-defined persistent classes as persistent field types. The exact collection classes you can use to hold persistent relations will depend on which mutable field types the implementation supports. Some JDO implementations may also allow map fields in which the keys, values, or both are relations to other persistent objects. Again, the exact types of maps allowed depend on the implementation's mutable field type support.

Most JDO implementations also have some support for fields whose concrete class is not known. Fields declared as type java.lang.Object or as a user-defined interface type fall into this category. Because these fields are so general, though, there may be limitations placed on them. For example, they may be impossible to query, and loading and/or storing them may be inefficient.


Kodo JDO supports user-defined persistent objects as elements of any of the supported collection types. It also supports user-defined persistent objects as keys, values, or both in any supported map type.

Kodo JDO supports persistent java.lang.Object fields by serializing the field value and storing it as a sequence of bytes. It supports persistent interface fields by storing the unique id value of the object stored in the field, then re-fetching the corresponding object when the field is loaded. Collections and maps where the element/key/value type is java.lang.Object or an interface are fully supported as well.

4.3.4. Conclusions

This section detailed all of the restrictions JDO places on persistent classes. While it may seem like a lot of information was presented, you will seldom find yourself hindered by these restrictions in practice. Additionally, there are often ways of using JDO's other features to circumvent any limitations you run into. The next section explores a powerful JDO feature that is particularly useful for this purpose.