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Data Providers

Servoy's "Data Providers" are the atomic units of the data binding layer. A Data Provider holds an individual data value which may be bound to both User Interface elements, as well as back-end resources. Thus, Data Providers are the link between the user experience and the raw data. 

Types of Data Providers

There are several types of Data Providers, each with different data bindings and uses:

  • Columns
  • Calculations
  • Aggregations
  • Global Variables
  • Form Variables

Once established, a data provider can be bound to user interface elements at design-time. At run-time, the elements come alive with data which is contextual to the application state and the Data Provider's back-end bindings. The most obvious example is a text field which is bound to a column in the database table. However, any of the types of Data Providers can be bound to any UI components, including fields, labels, buttons, tooltips, etc.


Database Columns are the most common type of Data Provider in Servoy. When a named server connection is established, the entire database structure - all tables and their columns - is read. Columns become available vehicles for data binding. Additional metadata properties are used to further describe how each column is treated in the application.

These properties include:

Column Name

This is the name that is returned by the JDBC Driver. The name will always be displayed as lower case. The column name is also used as the Data Provider ID when working with foundsets and records.

Data Type

While relation databases support many different data types, Servoy will generalize the data type of a column into one of five general types. In this way, Servoy can support a wide range of database vendors. The five generalized data types include the following:

  1. Text: Any alpha-numeric characters (i.e. char, varchar, memo, CLOB, etc.)
  2. Integer: Whole numbers (i.e. bit, short, long, bigint, etc.)
  3. Number: Decimal numbers (i.e. float, double, etc)
  4. Datetime: Temporal values (i.e. date, datetime, timestamp, etc.)
  5. Media: Binary data (i.e. BLOB)
Column Length

For certain data types, databases must enforce the amount of storage allocated to single column for a single record. Data types which accommodate variable length entries, such as text, decimal numbers and binary data will have a length property. Servoy will infer and display this property in the column definition.

Row Identifiers

Servoy is designed to work with regular database tables as well as SQL Views. Regular database tables will have a primary key, consisting of one or more columns, who's value uniquely identifies a record in the table. Servoy will infer the primary key from the database table. However, in the case of SQL Views, which don't have a built-in primary key, the developer must specify which column(s) can be considered the unique row identifier.

Null Values Allowed

Relational database tables may enforce non-null constraints on certain columns, typically for primary key and other essential columns. Servoy will infer from any such constraints from database table and reflect

Column Meta Data

Column definitions include several metadata properties, which store information that is used both in development and at runtime.


The Title property of a column is simply the human-readable name for a column. When a field is placed on a form with the Place with labels option, the label's text property will be initialized to the title property for the column to reach the field is bound. For multilingual applications, it is ideal to populate a column's title property with an i18n message key, thus allowing field labels to default to message key, which is translated at runtime.

Default Format

The Default Format property of a column will enforce the formatting that is used when the column is bound to a field element. The field element's format property will assume the default format of the column unless it is overridden in the element.

Foreign Type

This is a simple metadata property to indicate that a column is a foreign key to another table in the same database. One can set the Foreign Type property to the target table. This provides metadata so developers will know that a column is used as a foreign key. Servoy will use this information when new relations are created between the tables and auto-fill the keys. This property is also used by the mergeRecords method of the databaseManager API to update any affected related records, such that they'll reference a new key. 

Exclude Flag

Enabling a column's Excluded Flag will completely exclude a column from the Servoy runtime environment. This means that Servoy will exclude this column for every query that it issues. This option is ideal to enforce that certain columns are never available in a Servoy application.


Servoy supports the use of Universally Unique Identifiers (UUID). A UUID is a 16-byte number which can be (practically) guaranteed to be unique across computing environments, making it ideal to use for sequences in scenarios where traditional numeric sequences are not adequate, for example when syncing data which is generated offline. It is generally not feasible to store UUIDs as numeric data types because the number is so large. Rather UUIDs are most easily stored as 36-character strings. When using a text column to store UUIDs, one should mark the column's UUID flag. Thus, Servoy will provide programmatic access to this column in the form of a built-in UUID data type, which allows both string and byte representation.


A column's description property is a simple container for additional metadata, such as programmer notes about the column's purpose, etc.

Auto-Enter Definitions

Servoy provides several ways in which a column may be automatically populated when a record is created. Some of the auto-enter options are also applicable when an existing record is updated. 

System Values

Indicates that the value is deferred to the database at the time of insert. The value is populated and controlled by the database and it will not be overwritten from Servoy.

Creation User UID

The UID parameter that was supplied at the time of login, entered at the time of record creation.

Modification User UID

The UID parameter that was supplied at the time of [login||Link to login method in reference guide], reentered each time the record is modified.

Creation Datetime

The current date and time on the client, entered at the time of record creation.

Creation Server Datetime

The current date and time on the application server, entered at the time of record creation.

Modification Datetime

The current date and time on the client, reentered each time the record is modified.

Modification Server Datetime

The current date and time on the application server, reentered each time the record is modified.

Custom Value

A custom value is simply a literal value (i.e. 'Blue', 1.5) which may be used as a default. This option is only available for Integer, Number and Text data types.

Database Default

This indicates that the value is deferred to the database at the time of insert. However, unlike Database-Managed system values, this value can be modified from Servoy after the record is inserted.

Lookup Value

Lookup Values provide the option to auto-enter a value that is contextual to the record being inserted. Options include any of the record's data providers, any data providers from foundsets related to the record, as well as an global relations or variables.


Sequences may be used to auto-increment a column's value. This is ideal for populating primary key columns, which must be unique.

Servoy Sequence

This is a sequence which is defined in the application tier and managed by Servoy. The sequence will generate integer values using a given next value and step value.

i.e a step value of 1 will yield sequential values of 1,2,3,4...

A step value of 2 will yield 1,3,5,7...

In deployment, Servoy Sequences are stored in the repository database and there are options to recalculate the sequence's next value from existing data.

Database Sequence

Servoy will call a named sequence in the database to populate the value. The column will be populated and available prior to inserting the record

Database Identity

The sequential values are managed and populated by the database. The column is not populated until after the record is inserted

UUID Generation

Servoy will automatically populate a text column with a textual representation of a UUID. Be sure that the column's UUID Flag is also enabled.


A Calculation is very much like a database column, except that its value, rather than being stored, is dynamically computed each time it is requested. This is achieved by creating a JavaScript function which is bound to a database table. The function takes no arguments and returns a value, which like a real database column, is declared to be one of the five general data types. The scope of the JavaScript function is an individual record object. Therefore any of the record's other data providers, and related foundsets are immediately available, as well as global variables and globally related foundsets.

A calculation is declared at the solution level, and is available throughout the solution in which it is declared, as well as any modules containing it. To support this, there is one JavaScript file per table, per solution, which holds calculation functions. For example, the database tables 'orders' may have a corresponding file 'orders_calculations.js' in any solution. And this file could contain many individual calculation functions.

Just like real database columns, calculations may be placed as fields on forms, used in data labels, and requested programmatically.


Calculations may be called often. Therefore, developers should use discretion when implementing their JavaScript function. Most in-memory operations are very fast. However, actions which result in SQL queries or file operations may be slower and less predictable. For example, a calculation may be shown in a scrolling table-view form, in which case it may be called hundreds of times. 


An aggregation is a data provider which represents a database column that is aggregated over a set of records. At design-time aggregations have the following properties:

  • Name - The name by which the aggregation will be available as a data provider throughout the solution in which it is declared, as well as any modules containing it.
  • Type - There are five types of aggregations:
    • Count - The number of records in an entire foundset containing a non-null value for a column
    • Sum - The sum of all the values for numeric column in an entire foundset
    • Minimum - The smallest value for a numeric column in an entire foundset
    • Maximum - The largest value for a numeric column in an entire foundset
    • Average - The average value for a numeric column in an entire foundset
  • Column - The column containing values that are aggregated

At runtime, aggregations are computed in the context of a foundset. The value is derived from a SQL query, which takes the form of a SQL Aggregate Function and appends the WHERE clause used by the foundset's query.


Variables are Data Providers which, unlike columns, calculations aggregations do not bind to any persistent, back-end data source. Instead, variables store data in-memory for the duration of the client session only. However, variables may bind to UI components the same as any other data provider.

Data Types

While variables can actually contain any JavaScript object or literal value, they must initially belong to one of the following data types:

  • Text
  • Integer
  • Numeric
  • Data/Time
  • Media

Notice that these are the same as the generalized data types for column-based Data Providers. 


Variables can belong to one of two scopes:

  • Global
  • Form

Other than programming scope, the only difference between the two is that globals can be used as keys in relations.

Relations, at design-time model associations between two tables by joining on key data providers. At runtime, a relation becomes a context-sensitive programming reference to related data. Thus, relations are simple, but powerful mechanisms to display, edit and search for data from any context. They can be used, not only to model simple database relations, but also to create sophisticated filters and searches.

Design-Time Properties of Relations
Relations have several design-time properties that dictate how related foundsets will behave at runtime.

Source Table
Can be any database table or view from any named server connection.

At runtime, a related foundset will exist in the context of a single record from the source table. For example, the relation customer_to_orders, will become available in the context of any record in a foundset which is based on the customers table.

Destination Table
Can be any database table or view from any named server connection and is not limited to the same database as the destination table.

At runtime, a related foundset will contain records from the destination table

The destination table can exist in a separate database from the source table. This is a powerful feature, but it is worth noting that a related foundset, who's relation is defined across two databases will not be available when the source foundset is in find mode. This is because a related find requires a SQL JOIN, which cannot be issued across databases for all vendors.

Relation Items
The nature of the relation between the source and destination tables is defined by one or more Relation Items. Relation Items are expressions, each consisting of a pair of key data providers (one from each table) and a single operator.

Source Data Provider Operator Destination Data Provider
The Relation Items will be used to constrain the records that are loaded in the related foundset, such that records are loaded only when all of the expressions evaluate to be true.

Example: This example creates a relation between the customers and the orders table. A related foundset will only load orders records with a customerid equal to the customerid in the context of the source customer record.

Source (customers table) Operator Destination (orders table)
customerid = customerid
Data Providers
One data provider from each table will serve as an operand in the key-pair expression. Therefore, both data providers must share the same data type. Columns, calculations and global variables may all be used as the source data provider. However, only columns may be used for the destination data provider.

Source Data Provider - Available Types

Global Variables
Destination Data Provider - Available Types

Columns Only

Related foundsets are loaded in the context of a single source table record, which is already known. Therefore, any global variables, as well as the source record's calculations can be evaluated and used as a key. However, only columns from the destination table can be used as the dynamic data providers cannot be evaluated on behalf of destination records before they are loaded.

Each key pair expression is evaluated using a single operator. Certain operators are only applicable to certain data types. Below is a list of all available operators and the data types for which they are applicable.

Operator Description Data Types
= Equals Text, Integer, Number, Datetime
> Greater Than Text, Integer, Number, Datetime
< Less Than Text, Integer, Number, Datetime
>= Greater Than or Equal To Text, Integer, Number, Datetime
<= Less Than or Equal To Text, Integer, Number, Datetime
!= NOT Equal To Text, Integer, Number, Datetime
like SQL Like use with '%' wildcards Text
not like SQL Not Like use with '%' wildcards
#= Case-Insensitive Equals Text
#!= Case-Insensitive NOT Equal To
#like Case-Insensitive SQL Like
#not like Case-Insensitive SQL NOT Like
^||= Null OR Equals Text, Integer, Number, Datetime
Null OR Greater Than
Text, Integer, Number, Datetime
Null OR Less Than
Text, Integer, Number, Datetime
Null OR Greater Than or Equal To
Text, Integer, Number, Datetime
Null OR Less Than or Equal To
Text, Integer, Number, Datetime
Null OR NOT Equal
Text, Integer, Number, Datetime
Null OR SQL Like
^||not like
Null OR SQL NOT Like
Null OR Case-Insensitive Equals
Null OR Case-Insensitive NOT Equals
Null OR Case-Insensitive SQL Like
^||#not like
Null OR Case-Insensitive SQL NOT Like

Text-Based Expressions

Expressions which contain the SQL Like or SQL NOT Like operators should be used in conjunction with values that contain wildcards (%). like New% // Starts with: i.e. New York, New Orleans like %Villa% // Contains: i.e. Villa Nova, La Villa Linda like %s // Ends with: i.e. Athens, Los Angeles

Join Type
A relation can specify one of two SQL Join Types. A SQL join used when a find or a sort is performed using related criteria and thus, the join type will affect behavior in these situations.

Inner Join

SQL Inner Join does not return any rows for parent records which have no related records. Therefore, if a sort or a find is performed when a related data provider is used for criterion, the related foundset may have records omitted due parents with no child records.

Left Outer Join

SQL Left Outer Join will return always return a row for the parent record even if there are no related records. Therefore, if a sort or a find is performed when a related data provider is used for a criterion, the related foundset will include all matching records, regardless of the presence of related records.

Example: Assume that the user chooses to sort a customer list containing 50 records. The sort is based on the account manager's last name, which is in the employees table. However, 3 of the customers don't have an employee listed to manage the account.

foundset.sort('customers_to_employees.last_name asc');
foundset.getSize(); // returns 50 if the customers_to_employees relation specifies left outer join, 47 if the relation specifies inner join.
Initial Sort
Foundsets, including related foundsets, have a sort property. By default, any foundset is sorted by the primary key(s) of the table upon which it is based. Relations have an Initial Sort property, which overrides the default sort, such that any related foundset is initialized to use the sorting definition defined by the relation object. For more information see foundset sorting.

Referential Integrity Constraints
Relations have three options that support referential integrity in the data model. These options control both the actions that are permissible, as well as cascading actions in the data model.

Allow creation of related records

This option is enabled by default and it specifies that records can be created within a related foundset. Moreover, when records are created in a related foundset, the key columns in the new record may be automatically filled with the corresponding values from the source record.

Example: Assume a relation, customers_to_orders defined by a single key expression, customers.customerid = orders.customerid

customerid; // 123, the customer's id
customers_to_orders.newRecord();// create the new record
customers_to_orders.customerid; // 123, the order record's foreign key is auto-filled
Key columns will be auto-filled for expressions using the following operators:* =

If this option is disabled, then records cannot be created in a related foundset. If attempted a ServoyException is raised with the error code, NO_RELATED_CREATE_ACCESS.
Allow parent delete when having related record

This option is enabled by default. When disabled, it will prevent the deleting of a record from the source table if the related foundset contains one or more records. If the delete fails, a ServoyException is raised with the error code, NO_PARENT_DELETE_WITH_RELATED_RECORDS.

Example: Assume the relation customers_to_orders has disabled this option. An attempt to delete a customer record will fail, if that customer has one or more orders.

Delete related records

This option specifies that records in a related foundset can be deleted. Moreover, it also enforces a cascading delete, such that when a source record is deleted, all records in the related foundset will also be deleted, eliminating the possibility of orphaned records.

Example: Assume the relation customers_to_orders has enabled this option. The deleting of the customer record will cause all related order records to be deleted.

Special Relations
Dynamic Relation
In addition to database columns, calculations and global variables may be used as keys for the source table. This provides a means to implement dynamic data filters without writing any code or SQL. A related foundset is refreshed whenever the value of a source key changes. Thus, by using variables and calculations as keys, developers can articulate nuanced views of data that are contextual not only to the source record, but also the changing state of the application.

Example: Assume that one wants to filter a customer's orders by date in different ways, i.e. today, this month, last month, this year, last year, etc. One could define the following relation from customers to orders.

Source Operator Destination
customerid = customerid
globals.orderFilterStart <= orderdate
globals.orderFilterEnd >= orderdate
By simply changing the value of the global variables (either programmatically or through the GUI), the related foundset for a customer's orders is updated instantly.

Global Relation
Global relations are simply relations that use only global variables for source data providers. The key difference between global relations and regular table relations is that the related foundset exists in a global context, having no source record as a context. The obvious benefit is that the globally related foundset will be available ubiquitously, instead of being limited to the context of records based on a source table.

Example: Assume that a customer service rep should have a dashboard of all of their orders that are due today. This view could be accomplished using a global relation on the orders table, which could be used anywhere in the application, such as a form in tabpanel to show a dashboard view.

Source Operator Destination
globals.currentUserID = sales_rep_id = orderdate
Self Relation
Relations may have the same source and destination table. This is called a Self Relation and has a variety of applications, such as showing data which is hierarchical in nature, or simply showing other records in the same table, which have similar attributes.

Example: When looking at a particular order record, the user may like to see a portal containing a list of all of the other orders made by the same customer as the current order. This could be expressed using a Self Relation, orders_to_orders_by_customer, containing two relation items. The first specifies the same customer, the next ensures that the current order is omitted from the foundset.

Source Operator Destination
customerid = customerid
orderid != orderid
Example: An employees table is organized such to reflect a companies chain of command. When looking at an employee record, a user should be able to easily see the employee's boss, as well as the people that the employee is managing.

employees_to_employees_manager: The current employee's boss

Source Operator Destination
manager_id = employee_id
employees_to_employees_managing: The employees managed by the current employee.

Source Operator Destination
employee_id = manager_id
Container Relation
Container relations are a type of Self Relation used to reference the source record's foundset. To create a container relation, the following must be true:

Source table and destination table are the same
There are no relations items
A container relation is applicable when a parent form must contain a child form in a TabPanel and the child form is based on the same table and should show the same foundset as the parent. Use of a container relation will ensure that the parent's foundset is shared with the child.

Example: There are three forms based on the customers table: customerMain, customerList, customerDetail. The customerMain form contains the other two forms in a single, unrelated TabPanel, such that the user can easily toggle between list and detail view. The approach will work so long as the customerMain form is also using an unrelated foundset. However, if the customerMain form loads a related foundset (i.e. it is shown through a relation), then the two child forms will still be unrelated and therefore out of sync. The solution is to create a container relation for the customers table and show the 2 child forms through this relation. This guarantees that they will always share the same foundset.

If the child forms are not shown through a relation, the approach may still work in many cases, because unrelated forms of the same table will share a single foundset. This is discussed in more detail in the section covering foundsets.

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