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EclipseLink Extensible Entities

Starting in EclipseLink 2.3.0 developers now have the ability to define and use extensible entities where mappings can be added on the fly. This involves the entity storing extended attributes within a map instead of static attributes and then defining how values from this map are mapped to the database using an eclipselink-orm.xml mapping file. In addition to now being able to more dynamically define mappings EclipseLink has gone further to allow these extended mappings to be stored and managed externally. This external storage allows your extended mappings to be defined while the application is running.

Getting Started

The follow steps will help you configure your persistence unit so that it can have a set of mappings that are changeable after your application is deployed.

1. Design a standard JPA Application

2. Decide which Entities will allow flexible mappings, annotate them as such and provide facilities to store the addional data.

public class Customer{
    private Map<String, Object> extensions;
    public <T> T get(String name) {
        return (T) extentions.get(name);
    public Object set(String name, Object value) {
        return extensions.put(name, value);

3. When you design your schema, provide enough extra columns in your tables to accomodate the number of flexible mappings you will allow. e.g. The following table has 3 predefined columns and 3 columns designed to accomodate mappings added after design (FLEX_COL1, FLEX_COL2, FLEX_COL3)


4. Deploy your application

5. To provide additional mappings, provide an eclipselink-orm.xml file that contains the additional mappings.

<basic name="idNumber" attribute-type="String">
  <column name="FLEX_COL1"/>

6. Use persistence unit properties to get your application to use the file:

<property name="eclipselink.metadata-source" value="XML"/>
<property name="eclipselink.metadata-source.xml.url" value="foo://bar"/>

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