Efficiently mapping one-to-many many-to-many database to struct in Golang

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When dealing with a one-to-many or many-to-many SQL relationship in Golang, what is the best (efficient, recommended, "Go-like") way of mapping the rows to a struct?

Taking the example setup below I have tried to detail some approaches with Pros and Cons of each but was wondering what the community recommends.


  • Works with PostgreSQL (can be generic but not include MySQL/Oracle specific features)
  • Efficiency - No brute forcing every combination
  • No ORM - Ideally using only database/sql and jmoiron/sqlx


For sake of clarity I have removed error handling


type Tag struct {   ID int   Name string }  type Item struct {   ID int   Tags []Tag } 


CREATE TABLE item (   id                      INT GENERATED BY DEFAULT AS IDENTITY PRIMARY KEY );  CREATE TABLE tag (   id                      INT GENERATED BY DEFAULT AS IDENTITY PRIMARY KEY,   name                    VARCHAR(160),   item_id                 INT REFERENCES item(id) ); 

Approach 1 - Select all Items, then select tags per item

var items []Item sqlxdb.Select(&items, "SELECT * FROM item")  for i, item := range items {   var tags []Tag   sqlxdb.Select(&tags, "SELECT * FROM tag WHERE item_id = $1", item.ID)   items[i].Tags = tags } 


  • Simple
  • Easy to understand


  • Inefficient with the number of database queries increasing proportional with number of items

Approach 2 - Construct SQL join and loop through rows manually

var itemTags = make(map[int][]Tag)  var items = []Item{} rows, _ := sqlxdb.Queryx("SELECT i.id, t.id, t.name FROM item AS i JOIN tag AS t ON t.item_id = i.id") for rows.Next() {   var (     itemID  int     tagID   int     tagName string   )   rows.Scan(&itemID, &tagID, &tagName)   if tags, ok := itemTags[itemID]; ok {     itemTags[itemID] = append(tags, Tag{ID: tagID, Name: tagName,})   } else {     itemTags[itemID] = []Tag{Tag{ID: tagID, Name: tagName,}}   } } for itemID, tags := range itemTags {   items = append(Item{     ID: itemID,     Tags: tags,   }) } 


  • A single database call and cursor that can be looped through without eating too much memory


  • Complicated and harder to develop with multiple joins and many attributes on the struct
  • Not too performant; more memory usage and processing time vs. more network calls

Failed approach 3 - sqlx struct scanning

Despite failing I want to include this approach as I find it to be my current aim of efficiency paired with development simplicity. My hope was by explicitly setting the db tag on each struct field sqlx could do some advanced struct scanning

var items []Item sqlxdb.Select(&items, "SELECT i.id AS item_id, t.id AS tag_id, t.name AS tag_name FROM item AS i JOIN tag AS t ON t.item_id = i.id") 

Unfortunately this errors out as missing destination name tag_id in *[]Item leading me to believe the StructScan is not advanced enough to recursively loop through rows (no criticism - it is a complicated scenario)

Possible approach 4 - PostgreSQL array aggregators and GROUP BY

While I am sure this will not work I have included this untested option to see if it could be improved upon so it may work.

var items = []Item{} sqlxdb.Select(&items, "SELECT i.id as item_id, array_agg(t.*) as tags FROM item AS i JOIN tag AS t ON t.item_id = i.id GROUP BY i.id") 

When I have some time I will try and run some experiments here.


I can suggest another approach which I have used before.

You make a json of the tags in this case in the query and return it.

Pros: You have 1 call to the db, which aggregates the data, and all you have to do is parse the json into an array.

Cons: It's a bit ugly. Feel free to bash me for it.

type jointItem struct {   Item    ParsedTags string   Tags []Tag `gorm:"-"` }  var jointItems []*jointItem db.Raw(`SELECT    items.*,    (SELECT CONCAT(             '[',               GROUP_CONCAT(                   JSON_OBJECT('id', id,                              'name', name                    )              ),              ']'          )) as parsed_tags     FROM items`).Scan(&jointItems)  for _, o := range jointItems { var tempTags []Tag    if err := json.Unmarshall(o.ParsedTags, &tempTags) ; err != nil {       // do something    }   o.Tags = tempTags }  

Edit: code might behave weirdly so I find it better to use a temporary tags array when moving instead of using the same struct.


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