William Jiang

JavaScript,PHP,Node,Perl,LAMP Web Developer – http://williamjxj.com; https://github.com/williamjxj?tab=repositories

Tag Archives: ORM

PHP: another way to implement ORM

ORM: Object vs. Associate Array

I want to do ‘DB tables‘ <==> ‘PHP Objects‘ mapping, to extract some common features between them. Here are the 2 choices:

(1) Use a class to reflect a DB table:
Traditionally, the ORM (Object-Relational Mapping) uses a object to map DB table:
  (a) properties – exact the same as corresponding DB table column definition;
  (b) methods – POJO style getters and setters to represent persistent column objects.
(2) Use an associate array to reflect a DB table:
Also, plain config file can be used to represent a DB table, instead of a class model.
This is my way for the quick solution.
PHP provides easy-use and powerful functions to operate config file, such as parse_ini_file() , to get the table information in an associate array.

The following I list some disadvantages of using ORM class model:

1. SQL is separated and divided everywhere.
The nature SQL relationships are damaged, that means it is hard to get benefits of native SQL features. E.g., in doctrine document, generally each OneToOne or ManyToOne Relation in the Database is replaced by an instance of the related object in the domain model. Each OneToMany or ManyToMany Relation is replaced by a collection of instances in the domain model. You never have to work with the foreign keys, only with objects that represent the foreign key through their own identity.
2. The codes become very difficult to trace/debug if you want to find what hell SQL actually is.
3. Low performance and hard to optimize.
It is no doubt that DB object model mappings will lost benefits of performance.
For example, the ORM has POJO (Plain Old Java Objects) to be the persistent API. POJO are the Objects with just getters and setters, often used in domain modelling.
So in the mapping class, there are a lot of getters, setters; SQL are hidden; all objects methods have to do SQL convertion each time; for complex SQL, it would be disaster to assembly the SQL.
4. Hard to integrate with 3rd library, such as jQuery & plugins, AJAX.
5. It is not Intuitive, very difficult to modify and extend compared to pure SQL.

The following codes I get from Doctrine, which is a start-level introduction of this famous PHP ORM.
For a simple User class, a tedious class to create to represent a DB table:

class User {
 protected $id;
 public $name;

 public function getId(){
  return $this->id;

 public function getName(){
  return $this->name;

 public function setName($name){
  $this->name = $name;

With this definition and Doctrine Object Relational Mapper‘s help, the following OO method works:

$newUsername = $argv[1];
$user = new User();
echo "Created User with ID " . $user->getId() . "\n";

It is pretty bored, lack of flexible, and inconvenient; if you are good at SQL, you never think about to do DB operation like that: for a simple ‘insert into Users()’, they do a large Circling to get there, stupid, eh?

using Associate Array/flat config file to implement ORM

As a experienced programmer, I use as many as possible array/associate array/hash tables in my codes, they relief me quite a lot, make my work easier and high performance. Using array/associate arry are always good choices, plus some supplements, such as Regular express, $_SESSION, and jQuery, you can implement everything, quick and efficient.

ORM object-based solution is not my first choice, so I use Array instead. It works pretty well, overcome above disadvantages of class models.

The implementation are pretty simple and intuitive. The following are advantages:

  • Manually add/modify table information into a config file. Pretty easy. Compared to ORM mapping (write class, setters, getters…), it walks in a straight way, not a big cycle.
  • Parse the table information into arrays. These arrays belong to this class, So each class represents a DB table, and pocessing common and specific features for this table.
  • Common classes are build to process universal features: such as CRUD, List, sorting, pagination, edit form, export reports, etc. different classes will share these common web features by inheritance these classes, in other words, individual class and table are transparent, no matter what data resources, all these common features () are available for them.
  • For some specific features in a individual class, it can implement by itself, e.g., some class has the feature of WYSIWYG, some needs multi-files upload.

Here is a quick implement: I transfer my wordpress blog into this array-based ORM, what I did is manually edit the config file, no PHP codes touched. For different tables, it works the same way: just add entry into config file! The following is a snippet section of this config file, pretty easy to understand:

table_name = wp_posts
primary_key = ID
type = int

ID = id
post_author = post_author
post_date = post_date
post_content = post_content
post_title = post_title
post_status = post_status
post_name = post_name
post_type = post_type,post_size,post_mime_type
comment_count = comment_count

post_name = text
post_content = textarea

The explaination of the config file:

1. wordpress_table_information
The table information: name, primary key & type, foreign key & type
2. wordpress
What columns in the table to be list in web? the comma ‘,’ means to list 2(or more) columns in a row.
3. wordpress_column_types
Normally, all the table columns are list as plan html text; for some reasons(update column, better display, link), some columns need specific indicating: in here, the text and textarea are to indicate these columns are <inpt type=”text” > and <textarea>

The core part is to parse the config file and setup an array to hold the table information:

function get_mappings($section=NULL, $map_file=NULL)
 // which section to parse? by default it is the section with same name of the class instance.
 if(! $section) $section = $this->self;
 // which configure file is used? use macro definition.
 if(! $map_file) $map_file = MAP_FILE;
 // set a back-door.
 if(isset($this->map_file)) $map_file = $this->map_file;

 // if class array 'ini_array' is empty, do parse_ini_file().
 if (count($this->ini_array)==0) {
  if (file_exists($map_file)) {
   $this->ini_array = parse_ini_file($map_file, true);
  else {
   die('No MAPPINGS FILE: ['.$map_file.']: ' . __FILE__ .'->'. __LINE__);
 // class property ini_array hold all the parsed configure information,
 // return the array of this class needs.
 if(array_key_exists($section, $this->ini_array))
  return $this->ini_array[$section];
 else return;

Here, parse_ini_file is very useful: it likes a ORM convertion, converts DB table to array.

After the parse, we get an associated array:

  'wordpress_table_information' => array(
    'table_name' => wp_posts
    'primary_key' => ID
    'type' => int
  'wordpress' => array(
    'ID' => id
    'post_author' => post_author,
    'post_date' => post_date,
    'post_content' => post_content,
    'post_title' => post_title,
    'post_status' => post_status,
    'post_name' => post_name,
    'post_type' => 'post_type,post_size',
    'comment_count' => 'comment_count',
  'wordpress_column_types' => array(
    'post_name' => text,
    'post_content' => textarea

By using PHP powerful array-functions, it becomes possible to process and present any kind of data.


Recently, I finished a project with the following features:

  • It is a SaaS (Software as a Service).
  • It is for general purpose: different data resources can be applied with the same PHP codes — ‘reuseable‘.
  • It is alike a ORM system(Object-relational mapping):
    the mapping of PHP codes and Database Structure are controlled by plain text configure files.
  • It is a MVC structure. for ‘V’: using Smarty templates.
  • jQuery supports: all AJAX features, plus jQuery 3rd plugins.
    For the View, using jQuery plus Smarty templates, it is a high efficient and reasonable solution.
  • Whole LCRUD features:
    List/sorting/pagination, create, update, view/edit, delete, generate csv/pdf/xml reports, etc.
  • Easy to configure:
    For new data sources, the only step to make it work is to add entries in a configure file. So all the work is to edit this simple configure file.
  • Quick implementation:
    e.g., for a new data resources (MySQL table, csv file, XML file etc), it takes only 5-10 minutes to do configure; then all the features are applied.

Due to the reasons of time deadline and specific requests, I did it by PHP OOP, not existing framework. It is pretty cool, very powerful and high performance; the ability of ‘reuse’ are amazing.

I did the ORM (Object-relational mapping ) by myself, not assistance of library, framework or tools. I google some framework such as doctrine which needs long-time learning curve that I can’t afford.

Now it is time to lookback and do some summary. I will list some materials regarding on PHP ORM.

What is ORM (Object/Relational Mapping)?

According to wiki, Object-relational mapping (ORM, O/RM, and O/R mapping) in computer software is a programming technique for converting data between incompatible type systems in object-oriented programming languages. This creates, in effect, a “virtual object database” that can be used from within the programming language. There are both free and commercial packages available that perform object-relational mapping, although some programmers opt to create their own ORM tools.

About Relational Persistence, I get the following info from Java famous Hiberate:

  • Persistence
    Hibernate is concerned with helping your application to achieve persistence. So what is persistence? Persistence simply means that we would like our application’s data to outlive the applications process. In Java terms, we would like the state of (some of) our objects to live beyond the scope of the JVM so that the same state is available later.
  • Relational Databases
    Specifically, Hibernate is concerned with data persistence as it applies to relational databases (RDBMS). In the world of Object-Oriented applications, there is often a discussion about using an object database (ODBMS) as opposed to a RDBMS. We are not going to explore that discussion here. Suffice it to say that RDBMS remain a very popular persistence mechanism and will so for the foreseeable future.
  • The Object-Relational Impedence Mismatch
    ‘Object-Relational Impedence Mismatch’ (sometimes called the ‘paradigm mismatch’) is just a fancy way of saying that object models and relational models do not work very well together. RDBMSs represent data in a tabular format (a spreadsheet is a good visualization for those not familiar with RDBMSs), whereas object-oriented languages, such as Java, represent it as an interconnected graph of objects. Loading and storing graphs of objects using a tabular relational database exposes us to 5 mismatch problems…

    1. Granularity
      Sometimes you will have an object model which has more classes than the number of corresponding tables in the database (we says the object model is more granular than the relational model). Take for example the notion of an Address…
    2. Subtypes (inheritance)
      Inheritance is a natural paradigm in object-oriented programming languages. However, RDBMSs do not define anything similar on the whole (yes some databases do have subtype support but it is completely non-standardized)…
    3. Identity
      A RDBMS defines exactly one notion of ‘sameness’: the primary key. Java, however, defines both object identity (a==b) and object equality (a.equals(b)).
    4. Associations
      Associations are represented as unidirectional references in Object Oriented languages whereas RDBMSs use the notion of foreign keys. If you need bidirectional relationships in Java, you must define the association twice.
      Likewise, you cannot determine the multiplicity of a relationship by looking at the object domain model.
    5. Data navigation
      The way you access data in Java is fundamentally different than the way you do it in a relational database. In Java, you navigate from one association to an other walking the object network.
      This is not an efficient way of retrieving data from a relational database. You typically want to minimize the number of SQL queries and thus load several entities via JOINs and select the targeted entities before you start walking the object network.


ORM is a very good choice for ‘SaaS‘ which is a general, uniform software to use different data resources, to cater different requirements with same software. We don’t need to hardcode any coding when import new data sources, this will make it attractive to extend, explore, admin, mantain many apps with same codes. It makes things simple, clean, and save lots of codes.