How does Spring Data JPA differ from Hibernate for large projects?

2012-10-09 java spring hibernate jpa spring-data-jpa

I am having a hard time deciding if I should stick with Hibernate for a new project, or get my feet wet with JPA and the new Spring Data implementation.

Is the Spring Data framework intended for large projects or small projects with modest query requirements?

While I certainly see the advantage in code reduction by using the @Query annotation, what do you do for dynamic queries? What about when you want to implement a save() method that's quite complex?

The documentation says to make a Custom interface and implementation that your main repository implements, but what if you need to access any super methods on the crud repository itself? The crud repository implements the custom one - not the other way around. It seems like an odd design.

I am very uncertain whether this framework will meet the challenges of complex and large applications. I've never ran into many problems with Hibernate, and I'm considering sticking with the good old reliable rather than go with Spring Data JPA.

What should I do? What unforeseen complications and costs will I encounter if I go with Spring Data JPA?


I've used Spring Data JPA in small and large projects with simple query demands. The main advantage is from not even having to use the @Query annotation. There is nothing in Spring Data that prevents you from using it in large projects and the recent QueryDSLsupport might help you. This is an example of using QueryDSL to target Hibernate.

If you foresee complex queries and you feel comfortable using Hibernate objects without JPA I think an alternative combination could be to have the simple Spring Data Repositorys next to complex Hibernate-based ones with the specific methods you might need. It might be less cumbersome that twisting a Hibernate implementation into Spring Data JPA structure.

So, spring-data does some extra magic that helps with complex queries. It is strange at first and you totally skip it in the docs but it is really powerful and useful.

It involves creating a custom Repository and a custom `RepositoryImpl' and telling Spring where to find it. Here is an example:

Configuration class - point to your still-needed xml config with annotation pointing to your repositories package (it looks for *Impl classes automatically now):

@EnableJpaRepositories(basePackages = {"com.examples.repositories"})
public class MyConfiguration {

jpa-repositories.xml - tell Spring where to find your repositories. Also tell Spring to look for custom repositories with the CustomImpl file name:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<beans xmlns="" xmlns:jpa=""
xmlns:xsi="" xmlns:util=""

<jpa:repositories base-package="com.example.repositories" repository-impl-postfix="CustomImpl" />


MyObjectRepository - this is where you can put annotated and unannotated query methods. Note how this repository interface extends the Custom one:

public interface MyObjectRepository extends JpaRepository<MyObject, Integer>, MyObjectRepositoryCustom {

    List<MyObject> findByName(String name);

    @Query("select * from my_object where name = ?0 or middle_name = ?0")
    List<MyObject> findByFirstNameOrMiddleName(String name);

MyObjectRepositoryCustom - repository methods that are more complex and cannot be handled with a simple query or an annotation:

public interface MyObjectRepositoryCustom {

    List<MyObject> findByNameWithWeirdOrdering(String name);

MyObjectRepositoryCustomImpl - where you actually implement those methods with an autowired EntityManager:

public class MyObjectRepositoryCustomImpl implements MyObjectRepositoryCustom {

    private EntityManager entityManager;

    public final List<MyObject> findByNameWithWeirdOrdering(String name) {
        Query query = query(where("name").is(name));
        query.sort().on("whatever", Order.ASC);
        return entityManager.find(query, MyObject.class);

Amazingly, this all comes together and methods from both interfaces (and the CRUD interface, you implement) all show up when you do:


You will see:

It really does work. And you get one interface for querying. spring-data really is ready for a large application. And the more queries you can push into simple or annotation only the better off you are.

All of this is documented at the Spring Data Jpa site.

Good luck.

Spring JPA will provide you a lot of abstraction from writing SQL and even some HQL using query method declaration. Spring JPA shines with its query generation but when you want a purely hibernate solution you can customize as needed as spring JPA is still based on hibernate. Check the docs for more info.