Getting started with Spring Data Envers

At some point of every company’s adult life it starts reassessing the sanity and quality of its data set. One of the ways to regain the trust is to introduce auditing and versioning of database entities, which is exactly what Hibernate Envers is for.

As far as Envers is concerned all you need to do is to sparkle a couple of annotations around

@Table(name = "users")
public class User {

The majority of interesting features are hidden behind the scenes, including creation of the revision tracking table and users_audit table as well as storing the audit records when you write the data to the database. In a certain way Envers’ unique selling proposition is to be as transparent as possible while adding audit storing capabilities. While adding auditing you’re not required to change your database schema.

The hiding complex stuff behind a facade has implications. It’s quite painful to fetch the objects back efficiently, and may require legwork in worst case scenario. On a positive side the default simple setup is quite trivial.

Project setup

Let’s start with a simple application that has a set of users and these users can send invitations. When an invitation is being sent we want to capture the name, email of the inviter and the invitation email. If the user at some point changes her name or the email we still want to be able to get the original inviter data.

We’ll need the following dependencies for our spring boot project


For some odd reason, you’ll need to add org.aspectj:aspectjweaver dependency to the project.

We’ll start with the User entity

@Table(name = "users")
public class User {
    private Long id;

    private String firstName, lastName, email;

For events we would like to be a tiny bit more flexible anticipating a huge set of different events ahead of us.

@Table(name = "events")
@Inheritance(strategy = InheritanceType.JOINED)
public abstract class Event {
    private Long id;

@Table(name = "invitation_events")
public class InvitationEvent extends Event {
    private User inviter;
    private String invitationEmail;

Envers didn’t like InheritanceType.TABLE_PER_CLASS

Now to the spring-data-envers magic. Create repositories extending RevisionRepository<E, ID, N> like following

public interface UserRepository extends
        RevisionRepository<User, Long, Integer>,
        CrudRepository<User, Long> {

public interface EventRepository extends
        RevisionRepository<Event, Long, Integer>,
        CrudRepository<User, Long> {

It’s also important to change repositoryFactoryBeanClass while enabling JPA repositories

@EnableJpaRepositories(repositoryFactoryBeanClass = EnversRevisionRepositoryFactoryBean.class)
public class Application {

You’re all set. Let’s run a simple query and see what Envers does for us:

User user = new User();

InvitationEvent event = new InvitationEvent();
Long eventId = event.getId();


At this point if we decide just to fetch the event by ID we’ll get the link to the updated user row in table users and won’t see the email the invitation email was sent from. This is where RevisionRepository comes into play. Let’s fetch the latest revision of our event and see how the inviter’s data looked like at the time the invitation was sent.

Event event = eventRepository
assert event.getInviter().getEmail().equals("old-email@tradition.test");

Behind the scene

Let’s see what goes behind the scenes. For ddl-auto set to create, create-drop or update Envers would create all the auxiliary tables on application start. For our case we will end up with the following selection

Envers database schema

Let’s see what are we asking our database to do for us when we’re after the latest revision on an event

In the first query we’re fetching all the revision IDs for the specified :event_id

    SELECT events_audit.revision_id
      FROM events_audit
CROSS JOIN revinfo
     WHERE = :event_id
       AND events_audit.revision_id = revinfo.rev
  ORDER BY events_audit.revision_id ASC

In the next step we’re fetching all the revisions for the IDs that we just fetched, which certainly seems like a not such a smart thing to do considering that we could have done it in the first query. One possible explanation is that Envers lets you extend the revinfo entities and add fields to it, therefore prepares for worst case scenario.

SELECT revinfo.rev,
  FROM revinfo
 WHERE rev IN (:revision_ids)

In the next step we’re dealing with this beauty, and whoever feels it’s not a masterpiece needs an urgent appointment with a doctor

         SELECT AS id1_1_,
                events_audit.revision_id AS revision2_1_,
                events_audit.revision_type AS revision3_1_,
                    WHEN IS NOT NULL THEN 1
                    WHEN IS NOT NULL THEN 0
                END AS clazz
           FROM events_audit
LEFT OUTER JOIN invitation_events_audit invitation_events_audit
             ON =
            AND events_audit.revision_id = invitation_events_audit.revision_id
          WHERE events_audit.revision_id = (
                SELECT MAX(ea.revision_id)
                  FROM events_audit ea
                 WHERE ea.revision_id <= ?
                   AND =
            AND events_audit.revision_type <> :revision_type
            AND = :event_id

A lot of the clutter is caused by joined table inheritance strategy.

The last query is the lazily loaded user revision which pretty much mimics the last query only in this case we don’t have to deal with inheritance hierarchies:

  FROM users_audit
 WHERE users_audit.revision_id = (
       SELECT max(ua.revision_id)
         FROM users_audit ua
        WHERE ua.revision_id <= :revision_id
          AND =
   AND user_audit.revision_type <> :revision_type
   AND = :user_id

We are looking for a revision (create or update), based on :user_id. Our target :revision_id might not have affected the user row, therefore we’re looking for max(revision_id) for this specific user, which is less than or equal to our target :revision_id.

Querying data

For querying the data you have a Criteria API which is similar to JPA Criteria API. Now let’s say we want to find all invitations that where sent from a specific email address, no matter who owns this email now and whether it’s currently used by any user in the database. The best up-to-date documentation can be found in Hibernate User Guide

In our case unfortunately a surprise is waiting for us. Innocently looking query throws UnsupportedOperationException

return AuditReaderFactory(entityManager)
        .forRevisionsOfEntity(InvitationEvent.class, true, false)
        .traverseRelation("inviter", JoinType.LEFT)

Let’s just hope that this will be addressed soon.