Stream Fundamentals

JPAstreamer is all about Java 8 Streams that allow you to process data in a declarative manner similar to using SQL statements. If you are not yet familiar with the concept of Streams, you are encouraged to read this chapter carefully. Although, if you are comfortable with the use of Stream, feel free to skip directly to the next chapter.

What is a Stream?

A Java 8 Stream is an interface with implementations that support functional style operations on a stream of elements. The entire Java Collection framework was retrofitted with Stream support in Java 8.

Streams can be used to express a kind of “recipe“ style of operations, allowing us to compose a number of function. The functions are applied to the elements in the Stream only when the Stream is “started“. A Stream recipe says what to do but generally not how to do it which is good from an abstraction point of view. This means that Streams can be very efficient and general.

Consider the following simple example:

Stream.of( (1)
        .filter(n -> n.length() > 2) (2)
        .sorted() (3)
        .collect(Collectors.toList()); (4)
1 Creates a Stream with the given content
2 Retains only those Strings that are longer than 2 characters (i.e. "Bo" is dropped)
3 Sorts the remaining Strings in natural order
4 Collects the remaining sorted Strings in a List
Stream Pipeline
A visual representation of the Stream pipeline.

It starts by creating a Stream using the statement Stream.of(). Note that nothing happens with the Stream at this point. This yields a Stream which can be used to further build a “recipe” around. By adding filter() only Strings that are longer than two characters will be included. Again, the Stream is not started, this only tells the Stream that when it starts, the Strings should be filtered. Next, a sorted() operator is added to the Stream recipe (more formally called a Stream pipeline). This means that when the Stream is started, all Strings that passes the filter shall be sorted in natural order. Again, nothing is flowing through the Stream.

The last operation to be added is collect(). This operation is different to all the previous operations in the way that it is a Terminal operation. Whenever a Terminal operation is applied to a Stream, the Stream cannot accept additional operations to its pipeline. It also means that the Stream is started.

It shall be noted that elements in a Stream are pulled by the Terminal operation (i.e. the collect operation) and not pushed by the Stream-source. So, collect() asks for the first element and that request then traverse up to the Stream-source that will provide the first element “Zlatan”. The filter() operator will check if the length of “Zlatan” is greater than two (which it is) and will then propagate “Zlatan” to the sorted() operator. Because the sorted() operation needs to see all Strings before it can decide on its output order, it will ask the Stream-source for all its remaining elements which, via the filter, is sent down the Stream. Once all Strings are received by the sorted() operator, it will sort the Strings and then output its first element (i.e. “Adam”) to the collect() operator. The result of the entire Stream pipeline will thus be:

"Adam", "George", "Oscar", "Tim", "Zlatan"
Stream Pipeline
A Stream consists of a source followed by a pipeline of an arbitrary number of intermediate operations and a terminal operation.

Streams with JPAstreamer

With JPAstreamer, it is possible to use the same Stream semantics to operate on JPA Entities. In that case, database rows are streamed rather than Strings (as shown in the example above). This way, database tables can be viewed as pure Java Streams as shown hereunder: (1)
    .map(Film$.title) (2)
    .filter(s -> s.length() > 4) (3)
    .sorted() (4)
    .collect(Collectors.toList()); (5)
1 Creates a Stream of films from a database table represented by a JPA Entity called Film
2 Extract the title (a `String) from a Film using the automatically generated field Film$
3 Retains only those Strings that are longer than four characters (i.e. "Jaws" is dropped)
4 Sorts the remaining Strings in natural order
5 Collects the remaining sorted Strings in a List
Since Stream is an interface, JPAstreamer can select from a variety of different implementations of a Stream depending on the pipeline that is used and other factors. The Stream described above is rendered to a database query through JPA.