Lately I have been playing around and enjoyed learning about the Rust programming. Today I spend some time working with Diesel, a Rust ORM.

Schema generation

Diesel uses a schema definition (usually called schema.rs) to ensure the type-safety of its API.

When started such a project there are usually two options:

  1. Everything is brand new, there is no existing database -> the dabase can be generated from the data types used in the program
  2. Writing a program for an existing database -> you don’t necessarily want an exact 1:1 mapping of the DB schema into your code. For many reasons there may be a lot of things your application does not care about in the DB schema

As I have an existing database, I generated my schema using the diesel print-schema command. The command dumps the DB structure into my schema.rs file.

Note: Don’t forget to add the generated schema module to your main.rs using mod schema;

Schema Mapping

The second step is to create the structs corresponding to your shema.

schema.rs:

table! {
    cover (id) {
        id -> Int8,
        // version -> Int8,
        name -> Varchar,
        url -> Varchar,
    }
}

cover.rs:

use diesel::Queryable;

#[derive(Queryable, Clone)]
pub struct Cover {
    pub id: i64,
    pub name: String,
    pub url: String,
}

Note that in my schema I commented out the version column. Indeed, at this current stage, I don’t really care about that field.

Note: If a field is in your schema.rs, it should be in your struct as well. If the field is not in the struct, requests will have to specify all the columns every time, which is a bit cumbersome.

Note: Make sure the order of the fields in your schema and your struct is the same. Diesel does its mapping using tuples, so the order of the fields matters.

The connection to the DB

If you are working in a simple use case, a single connection to the database may be enough. However, if your application is expected to issue multiple requests concurrently, it is recommended to use a pool of connections.

I used the following libraries to help me with the creation of my pool of connections:

  • lazy_static: allows to define global constants computed at runetime
  • r2d2: a generic connection pool library
  • r2d2-diesel: support for diesel connection pool

The snippet below is heavily inspired from a snippet a saw somewhere else, I just can’t recall where it was…

database.rs

use diesel::pg::PgConnection;
use r2d2::{Pool, PooledConnection};
use r2d2_diesel::ConnectionManager;
use std::env;

// Type aliases to simplify a bit the types
type PostgresPool = Pool<ConnectionManager<PgConnection>>;
pub type PostgresPooledConnection = PooledConnection<ConnectionManager<PgConnection>>;

// Using lazy static to have a global reference to my connection pool
// However, I feel that for testing/mocking this won't be great.
lazy_static! {
    static ref POOL: PostgresPool = { init_pool() };
}

fn init_pool() -> PostgresPool {
    // I chose configuration via an environment variable
    let database_url = env::var("DATABASE_URL").expect("DATABASE_URL must be set");
    let manager = ConnectionManager::<PgConnection>::new(database_url);
    Pool::builder()
        .build(manager)
        .expect("Failed to create pool.") // Unrecoverable failure!
}

/// Get a connection from a static pool of connections
pub fn get_pooled_connection() -> PostgresPooledConnection {
    let pool = POOL.clone();
    let database_connection = pool.get().expect("Failed to get pooled connection"); // Not sure when a panic is triggered here
    database_connection
}

Simple Query

This is how you can then make a query using Diesel:

use database::get_pooled_connection;

fn list_covers() -> Vec<Cover> {
    use schema::cover;
    let connection = &*get_pooled_connection();
    cover::table::load(connection).expect("Error loading covers")
}

Joining

Let’s have a look at a slightly more complex example involving 2 tables which needs to be joined. The snippet below fetches the 5 latest news.

schema.rs

table! {
    cover (id) {
        id -> Int8,
        name -> Varchar,
        url -> Varchar,
    }
}

table! {
    news (id) {
        id -> Int8,
        content -> Text,
        date -> Nullable<Timestamp>,
        title -> Varchar,
        cover_id -> Int8,
    }
}

joinable!(news -> cover (cover_id)); // Materialize a assiocation and a foreign key

allow_tables_to_appear_in_same_query!(
    cover,
    news,
);

news.rs

use chrono::prelude::*;
use diesel::{ExpressionMethods, QueryDsl, Queryable, RunQueryDsl};
use cover::Cover;
use database::get_pooled_connection;

#[derive(Debug, Queryable)]
struct NewsRow {
    id: i64,
    content: String,
    date: Option<NaiveDateTime>,
    title: String,
    cover_id: i64,
}

pub struct News {
    pub id: i64,
    pub content: String,
    pub date: Option<NaiveDateTime>,
    pub title: String,
    pub cover: Cover, // Here I want to have a Cover, not a cover_id
}

impl News {
    fn from(news_row: &NewsRow, cover: &Cover) -> News {
        // Too much cloning? Maybe, I am not sure... 
        News {
            id: news_row.id,
            content: news_row.content.clone(),
            date: news_row.date.clone(),
            title: news_row.title.clone(),
            cover: cover.clone(),
        }
    }
}

fn get_latest_news() -> Vec<News> {
    use schema::cover;
    use schema::news;
    let connection = &*get_pooled_connection();
    news::table
        .inner_join(cover::table)
        .limit(5)
        .order(news::date.desc())
        .load::<(NewsRow, Cover)>(connection) // To this point we get the result as a tuple. 
        .expect("Error loading news") // Another panic waiting to happen!
        .iter()
        .map(|result| News::from(&result.0, &result.1))
        .collect()
}

Note: When doing a join, diesel returns the result as a tuple. This works great if your struct and your schema have the same fields in the same order. It it quick trickier to do it otherwise.

In the diesel documentation the snippets often indicates use schema::cover::dsl::*;, which I don’t like very much as it very easily creates conflicts in the names of my variables. It becomes even more confusing whene joinning tables (both are likely to have an id column).

In the snippet above I had to use two structs: NewsRow and News. The reason is that Diesel does not resolve associations in the structs like an ORM like Hibernate (Java) would do. Maybe that’s for the better as a lot of the weird stuff with Hibernate happen when handling associations.

I took me quite a while to wrap my head around all of that. I hope this will be useful to someone. I still feel I am just scratching the surface. Once the I have no Idea what I’m doing step is over, it is quite enjoyable to use as like many things in rust: if it compile it is likely to work.