chmod 755

Runtime Eloquent Relationship powered by Join clause

June 29, 2020

A big part of my work involves writing effective report. The special thing about the reports I write is that they’re awfully dynamic. I attribute a large portion of it to something I’ve been calling “analytics as a service”. There’s tons of analytical tools out there to help you run analytics on your business. Most of them are either over-the-moon expensive for my use case or they just don’t fit. That’s because after customers upload their data, I build reports for them based on data that I have no idea what it is or what will be used for. One customer’s data is completely different than another customer’s data. Different mappings, different dimensions, different focus point. Users use an intuitive and overly simplified UI to build complex database queries. Eloquent has been incredibly helpful in that regard. It empowers automation tests that actually hit a database, a practice viewed as bad by some developers, and it’s Query Builder provides OOP syntax for building complex database queries.

Scenario

Today I had to change an existing report to add a new field. For the sake of oversimplifying it I came up with a similar use-case that could illustrate the scenario: Imagine a payments table full of entries related to payment records. A disputes table refers to disputes opened relating payments. A payment can only have one dispute and a dispute only relates to one payment. The feature request was to add the name of the support team responsible for that dispute, relating it to a teams table.

Desired behavior

The desired behavior was to add something along the following lines to the report:

$payments->newQuery()
    ->join(...) // Joining to `disputes`
    ->... // Complex operations
    ->with('teams:id,name')
    ->paginate();

The obvious problem for me was the fact that the report starts on the Payment model and not on the Dispute model. Changing it to start from the Dispute was not an option as it would break other parts of the report.

Another possibility would be to use HasOneThrough. That would mean changing the snippet to use with('disputes.teams'), however that would completely ignore the JOIN that has been used for performance reasons. The performance degradation of such with() clause would be a relevant negative impact on the report.

Knowing all of this, I knew that I could, in theory, add a new relationship to the Payment model that would link it to the teams table directly. But that would be a completely fake and broken relationship for any case where the join is not established.

Runtime Relationship

iamgergo’s pull request to Laravel 7 makes a great addition to Query Builder’s abilities. It allows to define a relationship during runtime without having to actually change the Model class. Here’s a snippet:

$payments->newQuery()
    ->join(...) // Joining to `disputes`
    ->... // Complex operations
    ->tap(new TeamRelationship)
    ->paginate();

class TeamRelationship
{
    public function __invoke(Builder $builder)
    {
        $builder->addSelect('disputes.team_id')->with('teams:id,name');

        $builder->getModel()->resolveRelationUsing(
            'teams', 
            function (Model $model) {
                return $model->belongsTo(Team::class, 'team_id');        
            }
        );  
    }
}

Now when the execution of the Builder takes place, Eloquent will try to resolve the teams eager load relationship in the Payment model and will not find it. It will then give it another chance by looking at the relations added via runtime through the resolveRelationUsing method and will run the teams callable. That relationship will work because the Join clause brings the team_id field into the resultset, making Laravel interpret it as if there was a relationship between the resultset and the teams table.

Conclusion

A few nice things came into play while I was working on this earlier today. The pull request that added this functionality had so little code change into Laravel’s core which made it easier for Taylor to take on the maintenance burden of such feature. Credit goes to iamgergo for it. Secondly, adding a relationship to the Payment class itself would be just flat out wrong even though it would work. The problem with that approach would be that the Payment class would have wrong instruction that does not work except when joining with the Dispute model under a specific condition. Thirdly, it’s extremely easy to specify how the relationship should be handled right before the query gets resolved. This took me about 2 hours from reading the pull request until full implementation covered by tests, including the extraction to a invocable class via tap.

Hope you enjoyed the reading. If you have any questions, send them my way on Twitter.

Cheers.


Marco Aurélio Deleu

Marco Aurélio Deleu
Writing bad code for 10 years. Passionate about Laravel and AWS.

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