Enterprise Java

Using Query Hints in Spring Data JPA

Spring Data JPA offers a tool for fine-tuning database interactions: Query Hints. These hints are subtle suggestions to the underlying persistence provider, influencing its decision-making during query execution. By strategically leveraging query hints, we can optimize database operations and enhance the overall responsiveness of your application. In this article, we’ll explore query hints, understand their functionality, and learn how to apply them effectively in Spring Data JPA.

1. Understanding Query Hints

Query hints are set as additional parameters when creating a query, guiding the underlying JPA provider on how to handle the query execution. These hints can optimize query performance, define the query execution plan, or influence caching strategies. Query hints can be manifested in various ways, including:

  • Optimizing Read-Only Queries: Hints can instruct the database to treat the query as read-only, potentially improving performance.
  • Enabling Cache Utilization: We can leverage hints to encourage the persistence provider to utilize cached data, reducing database load.
  • Customizing Fetching Behavior: Hints allow us to control how many entities are fetched at once, optimizing memory usage.
  • Debugging and Troubleshooting: Certain hints enable us to embed comments directly into the generated SQL, aiding in debugging complex queries.

1.1 Types of Query Hints

  • JPA Standard Query Hints: These are provided by the JPA specification and can be used with any JPA implementation. Examples include hints for query timeout (javax.persistence.query.timeout) or fetch size (javax.persistence.query.fetchSize).
  • Provider-Specific Query Hints: Each JPA provider (like Hibernate, and EclipseLink) offers its own set of query hints. These hints are more specific and tailored to the behaviour of the provider. For example, Hibernate provides hints for query caching (org.hibernate.cacheable) or fetching strategies (org.hibernate.fetchSize).

2. Applying Query Hints in Spring Data JPA

Spring Data JPA simplifies the usage of query hints by allowing us to apply hints through the @QueryHint annotation or by using the @Query annotation directly. Below, are several mechanisms for incorporating query hints into our code using Spring Data JPA:

2.1 Using @QueryHint Annotation

The @QueryHints annotation can be used in combination with the @QueryHint annotation to apply specific hints to a repository method. The @QueryHints Annotation annotation allows us to specify an array of @QueryHint annotations directly on our repository methods. Here’s an example demonstrating how to limit the number of fetched entities:

public interface BookRepository extends JpaRepository<Book, Long> {

    @QueryHints(value = {
        @QueryHint(name = "org.hibernate.fetchSize", value = "20")})
    List<Book> findBookByTitle(String title);


2.2 Programmatic Configuration

In addition to applying query hints directly within repository methods, we can configure and apply query hints programmatically in Spring Data JPA. This approach is useful when we need more dynamic control over query hints based on runtime conditions or when dealing with complex query scenarios.

The javax.persistence.EntityManager interface allows us to create queries and apply query hints programmatically. Here’s how we can configure query hints dynamically:

public class BookEntityRepository {
    private EntityManager entityManager;

    public List<Book> findPopularBooks() {
        String jpql = "SELECT b FROM Book b WHERE b.title > :threshold";

        Query query = entityManager.createQuery(jpql);
        query.setParameter("threshold", 1000);

        // Apply query hints programmatically
        query.setHint("org.hibernate.readOnly", true);
        query.setHint("javax.persistence.cache.storeMode", "REFRESH");

        return query.getResultList();

In this example:

  • We inject the EntityManager using @PersistenceContext.
  • We create a JPQL query to find products with sales exceeding a specified threshold.
  • We set query parameters using query.setParameter(...).
  • We apply query hints programmatically using query.setHint(...). Here, we set the org.hibernate.readOnly hint to true and the javax.persistence.cache.storeMode hint to REFRESH.

2.3 Using Query Hints in Named Queries

We can also apply query hints directly within named queries defined in entity classes like this:

@Table(name = "book")
    name = "findBookByTitle",
    query = "SELECT b FROM Book b WHERE b.title = :title",
    hints = @QueryHint(name = "javax.persistence.query.timeout", value = "5000")
public class Book {

// Entity mapping code


In this example, the named query findBookByTitle in the Book entity class applies a query hint for query timeout (javax.persistence.query.timeout), ensuring the query completes within a specified time limit.

We can invoke the named query findBookByTitle, defined within our entity class using the EntityManager‘s createNamedQuery() method like the example shown below:

    public Book findBookByTitle(String title) {
        try {
            // Invoke the named query with query hint
            Query query = entityManager.createNamedQuery("findBookByTitle")
                    .setParameter("title", title);

            // Execute the query and return the result
            return (Book) query.getSingleResult();
        } catch (NoResultException e) {
            return null; // Handle if no user is found

3. Common Use Case Scenarios

3.1 Caching Query Results

The org.hibernate.cacheable query hint allows you to cache the results of a query, improving performance by avoiding repeated execution of the same query.

Code Example:

        @QueryHint(name = "org.hibernate.cacheable", value = "true")
    List<Book> findAllCachedBooks();

3.2 Optimizing Query Execution Plans

The org.hibernate.readOnly query hint specifies that the query results should be treated as read-only, optimizing the query execution plan and potentially improving performance.

Code Example:

        @QueryHint(name = "org.hibernate.readOnly", value = "true")
    List<Book> findReadOnlyBooks(double amountThreshold);

3.3 Query Timeout Management

The javax.persistence.query.timeout query hint allows you to specify the timeout (in milliseconds) for query execution. This hint ensures that the query completes within the specified time frame.

Code Example:

        @QueryHint(name = "javax.persistence.query.timeout", value = "5000") // 5 seconds
    List<Book> findAllBooksWithQueryTimeout();

3.4 Custom SQL Comment

The org.hibernate.comment query hint allows you to append a custom comment to the generated SQL query, aiding in debugging and query tracing. The custom comment can be useful for identifying and tracing specific queries within database logs and monitoring tools.

Code Example:

    @Query(value = "SELECT b FROM Book b", nativeQuery = true)
        @QueryHint(name = "org.hibernate.comment", value = "My Custom Comment")
    List<Book> findAllWithCustomBooks();

3.5 Lock Timeout Management

The javax.persistence.lock.timeout query hint allows you to specify the timeout (in milliseconds) for lock acquisition during query execution. This is useful in scenarios where you want to control how long a query waits to acquire a database lock before throwing an exception.

Code Example:

        @QueryHint(name = "javax.persistence.lock.timeout", value = "5000") // 5 seconds
    List<Book> findAllBooks();

3.6 Optimizing Fetch Size

The org.hibernate.fetchSize query hint, specific to Hibernate, allows you to set the JDBC fetch size for the query result set. This hint optimizes memory usage and query performance by controlling the number of rows fetched from the database in each round trip.

Code Example:

@QueryHints(value = {
        @QueryHint(name = "org.hibernate.fetchSize", value = "20")})
   List<Book> findBookByTitle(String title);

3.7 Caching Behavior Control (Retrieve Mode)

The jakarta.persistence.cache.retrieveMode query hint specifies how JPA should retrieve entities from the cache (if enabled). This hint controls whether JPA should fetch entities from the database or directly from the cache.

Code Example:

        @QueryHint(name = "jakarta.persistence.cache.retrieveMode", value = "USE")
    List<Book> findAllBooksWithCacheRetrieveMode();

3.8 Caching Behavior Control (Store Mode)

The jakarta.persistence.cache.storeMode query hint specifies how JPA should store entities in the cache after querying or persisting them. This hint controls whether entities should be cached after retrieval or modification.

Code Example:

        @QueryHint(name = "jakarta.persistence.cache.storeMode", value = "REFRESH")
    List<Book> findAllBooksWithCacheStoreMode();

4. Conclusion

In this article, we explored the versatility of query hints in Spring Data JPA and discussed several key query hints along with their purposes and provided code examples to demonstrate their usage effectively. By leveraging these query hints we can enhance the performance and efficiency of Spring Data JPA applications

5. Download the Source Code

This was an article on using Query Hints in Spring Data JPA.

You can download the full source code of this example here: Using Query Hints in Spring Data JPA

Omozegie Aziegbe

Omos holds a Master degree in Information Engineering with Network Management from the Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen. Omos is currently a freelance web/application developer who is currently focused on developing Java enterprise applications with the Jakarta EE framework.
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