On Hibernate, Spring, Sessions and Transactions

I was recently working with Spring and Hibernate on a pet project and ran into some issues with Session and Transaction management that proved to be pretty interesting in the end. The following assumes a working knowledge of Hibernate and Spring...

I was in the midst of writing some JUnit 4.x tests using SpringJUnit4ClassRunner and the @TransactionalConfiguration / @Transactional annotations for automatic rollback of @Test methods. I wanted to do some manipulation of the database prior to my tests using a separate method annotated with @Before. What I was reminded of very quickly is that Spring's class runner will not apply a transactional aspect to this method since it's not actually a @Test. This isn't a problem if you are using HibernateTemplate / HibernateCallback, since it ultimately has a reference back to your TransactionManager to handle transactions. But if you want to work with the raw Hibernate APIs it can be problematic.

There are two things to keep in mind: (1) SessionFactory.getCurrentSession() will only work if you have configured the SessionFactory appropriately, and (2) depending on the configuration, you may have to manage Transactions explicitly. The configuration property in question is "hibernate.current_session_context_class" and it is commonly configured one of three different ways:

1. Omitted the property from the configuration

Hibernate will throw an exception on calls to getCurrentSession() complaining that there is no CurrentSessionContext configured.

2. Configured with 'thread'

hibernate.current_session_context_class=thread

Hibernate will bind the Session returned from getCurrentSession() to the current thread and you must manage transactions programmatically. Generally all that's required is to call Session.beginTransaction(). You can also invoke Transaction.commit() or rollback() if you wish.

3. Configured with SpringSessionContext

hibernate.current_session_context_class=org.springframework.orm.hibernate3.SpringSessionContext

Hibernate will assume it is executing inside of a Spring transactional context (i.e. through a Spring transactional aspect) and Spring will now manage your transaction for you. However if you call getCurrentSession() outside of such a context, Hibernate will throw an exception complaining that no Session is bound to the thread.

What does all this mean?

  1. Use SpringSessionContext if your operations will be done through classes that are invoked through a Spring-managed transactional context or if you can introduce HibernateTemplate and/or HibernateCallback wherever you need it.
  2. Use "thread" if you need to raw with the raw Hibernate Session/Transaction API and remember that you'll need to manage transactions programmatically.