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Object Relational Mapping

When working with databases, the question of whether to use Structured Query Language (SQL) or Object Relational Mapping (ORM) comes up frequently. Because developers need to maintain the chain of trust between various systems and services ORM is often the best option, relying less on the developer’s knowledge of SQL. 

When building web applications developers can reap great benefits from utilizing development environments that have native support for the platforms, libraries, and tools they need. Application development in these environments is often streamlined by automated code completion, speeding up development and improving the syntactical correctness of the code.  In the industry, developers are often drawn to development environments that support Nestjs and Prisma natively since it provides higher levels of compatibility and reduce errors resulting from simple developer mistakes.

Introducing the concept of Object-Relational Mapping.

ORM is technique developers utilize which allows them to retrieve and modify data from data storage using the object-oriented programming paradigm. ORM has an affinity for dealing with objects and is available for any programming language that a developer might use, like Python, for example.

The mapper generates referenceable programming objects that virtually map all the data tables in your data store. Then the developer would then utilize these programming objects to interact with the data. The main approach is to try and alleviate the developer from the task of designing and developing complex SQL queries and stored procedures, to access the data.

While projects that utilize a smaller collection of objects might not benefit from an installed ORM library, larger and more complex projects will benefit greatly from the availability of such libraries. 

In the scenario where developers are building a small project, installing an ORM library would not provide many benefits over ad hoc SQL query creation. Using SQL statements to drive your application, in this case, would be sufficient. An ORM, however, becomes quite beneficial for medium to large-scale projects where source data from hundreds of data stores need to be accessed. Here, a framework that allows developers to utilize and maintain the application’s data layer consistently is a requirement.

So, what are the benefits of utilizing ORM?

ORMs have the capability of creating SQL queries that are syntactically correct and optimized for efficient data retrieval and modification. Eliminating the need for developers to build, deploy and debug any SQL used by their application.

This, in turn, improves the CI/CD process for developers making code easier to maintain and reuse. Giving developers improved creative freedom to manipulate data, without the technical and time overhead.

Boilerplate code refers to snippets of code that need to be utilized repeatedly with little or no change. This implies that developers must write many lines of code to perform even the simplest tasks. Utilizing ORM provides the developer with standardized interfaces which effectively reduce boilerplate, code vastly reducing the time to market applications.

ORMs provide database abstraction which facilitates easier database switching. And finally, it could guard against SQL injection attacks by autonomously filtering incoming requests.

What sets Prisma apart from other ORMs?

Prisma is a next-generation ORM used to access data on Nest.js applications. Prisma seamlessly integrates with NestJS' modular architecture whether the development team is building REST or GraphQL APIs. What makes Prisma unique, though, is that it does not require complex object models, instead, it maps the application's data structures, such as tables and columns, through a schema file.

One of the tools provided by Prisma is called Prisma Migrate. Migrate utilizes the schema file to generate a migration file for SQL to generate type definitions. Keeping the Prisma schema file in line with the source database schema.

Prisma can be used in plain JavaScript, but includes TypeScript, providing a level of type safety that exceeds the guarantees of other ORMs in the TypeScript ecosystem.

In Conclusion

SQL and ORM may be used by different developers at different times. Either option is correct. However, one may not be the best option in every scenario. Keeping this in mind, developers should consider project scope, organizational needs, and capabilities before deciding on a method.

The Prisma open-source ORM provides many benefits above other ORMs in the industry and is therefore one of the leading options in the industry.