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Hibernate – Enable and Implement First and Second Level Cache

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If you’re a Java developer, you’ve probably heard of Hibernate. It’s a free, open-source ORM framework that lets you map your Java objects to tables in a relational database. Basically, it makes database programming a breeze since you don’t have to worry about writing SQL queries – you can just work directly with Java objects. In contrast, caching is a method of improving the performance of an application by storing commonly used data in memory, thereby eliminating the need for the application to repeatedly query the database for that data.

Hibernate offers caching capabilities to enhance the performance of the applications that utilize it. The first-level cache is localized to a single session and helps to reduce database queries by caching retrieved data. The second-level cache is shared across sessions and enables data to be cached across multiple requests. Hibernate’s caching capabilities can be tailored to the requirements of an individual application. By leveraging caching capabilities, developers can optimize application performance and minimize database load, resulting in quicker response times and improved scalability.

Why Caching is So Important for Improving Application Performance?

Caching is a great way to speed up your apps by cutting down on the number of costly tasks you have to do, like going to a database or using a remote service. It lets you store data that you use a lot, so it’s always close by when you need it, which can help your app run better in a bunch of ways.

  1. Reduced Latency: Caching reduces the latency involved in accessing data, which is the time it takes for the application to retrieve data from a database or a remote service. With caching, frequently accessed data can be retrieved from memory, which is much faster than accessing it from a database or remote service.
  2. Increased Throughput: Caching also helps to increase the throughput of an application. By reducing the number of times an application needs to access a database or remote service, it can handle more requests within the same amount of time, resulting in increased throughput.
  3.  Improved Scalability: Caching also helps to improve the scalability of an application. When an application is designed to use caching, it can handle more users or requests without requiring additional hardware or resources.
  4. Reduced Resource Utilization: Caching reduces the resource utilization of an application by reducing the number of times it needs to access a database or remote service. This can result in lower hardware and infrastructure costs.

What is a first-level cache and how does it work?

  • Hibernate’s session cache is also referred to as the first-level cache. The session cache is a cache within a database session’s scope.
  • Whenever Hibernate retrieves an entity from the database, it stores a copy of that entity in the first-level cache associated with the current session. If the application requests the same entity again within the same session, Hibernate can simply retrieve it from the first-level cache instead of querying the database again.
  • This caching mechanism can significantly improve the performance of Hibernate applications because it reduces the number of database queries that need to be executed. In addition, since the first-level cache is associated with a single session, it ensures that changes made to entities within one session are not visible to other sessions until they are committed to the database.
  • The first-level cache in Hibernate is implemented using an internal HashMap that maps the entity identifier to the corresponding entity instance. When Hibernate needs to retrieve an entity, it first checks the first-level cache to see if the entity is already present. If it is, Hibernate returns the cached entity instance instead of querying the database. If the entity is not present in the first-level cache, Hibernate queries the database and stores the retrieved entity in the first-level cache before returning it to the application.
  • It’s worth noting that the first-level cache is not configurable, and it is always enabled by default in Hibernate. However, you can control how entities are cached and retrieved by configuring the second-level cache, which is a shared cache that can be used across multiple sessions.

Advantages of First-Level Cache

  1. Performance: The primary advantage of the first-level cache is its ability to improve application performance by reducing the number of database queries that need to be executed. By caching entities within a session, Hibernate can avoid querying the database repeatedly for the same data.
  2. Consistency: The first-level cache ensures consistency within a session by ensuring that any changes made to entities are visible only within the same session. This means that if an application modifies an entity within a session, other sessions will not see those changes until they are committed to the database.
  3. Automatic: The first-level cache is built into Hibernate and is automatically managed by the framework. There is no need for developers to write any additional code to use the first-level cache.

Disadvantages of First-Level Cache

  1. Memory Consumption: Since the first-level cache stores entities within a session, it can consume a significant amount of memory, especially for applications that handle large amounts of data. This can lead to increased memory usage and reduced application performance.
  2. Stale Data: The first-level cache can lead to stale data if an application modifies an entity within a session, and then queries the same entity from the database within the same session. Since the first-level cache only caches data for the current session, it will not reflect any changes made to the same entity by other sessions or applications.
  3. Limited Scope: The first-level cache has a limited scope, and its benefits are restricted to a single session. It cannot be used across multiple sessions, and it is not effective in reducing database queries in scenarios where the same data is accessed across multiple sessions or transactions.

Configuration steps for enabling first-level cache

Assuming you are referring to Hibernate’s first-level cache, here are the configuration steps to enable it:

Ensure that the Hibernate framework is properly set up and configured in your application. In the Hibernate configuration file (hibernate.cfg.xml), add the following property:


<property name="hibernate.cache.use_query_cache">true</property>

In your code, enable the first level cache for a specific session by calling the setCacheable(true)method on the Query object before executing the query.


Query query = session.createQuery("FROM Person WHERE name = :name");
query.setParameter("name", "John");
List<Person> results = query.list();

You can also configure the first-level cache for a specific entity by adding the @Cacheable annotation to the entity class.


public class Person {

What is a second-level cache and how does it work?

  • Second-level cache, or L2 cache, is a piece of memory that sits between the main memory and the CPU. It’s mainly used to store data and instructions that can help speed up your computer.
  • Second-level cache, on the other hand, is designed to be smaller and faster than the main cache. It is usually built on top of high-speed memory chips called SRAM, which stands for Static Random Access Memory.
  • When the CPU needs access to data or instructions that aren’t in the second-level cache, it looks for the first in the main memory. If it finds the data or instructions in the main memory, it loads them into the cache so the CPU can access them quickly. If it doesn’t find the data or instructions, it loads them from the hard drive or other storage device and loads them into the main memory and into the cache.
  • The second-level cache works on the principle of temporal and spatial locality. Temporal locality refers to the fact that data and instructions that have been recently accessed are likely to be accessed again in the near future. Spatial locality refers to the fact that data and instructions that are located close to each other in memory are likely to be accessed together. The second-level cache takes advantage of these principles by storing recently accessed and frequently used data and instructions, as well as data and instructions that are located close to each other in memory.

Advantages of Second-Level Cache

  1. Improved performance: Second-level cache can improve the performance of a computer system by reducing the average access time to main memory. This is because frequently accessed data is available in the cache, which can be accessed much faster than retrieving data from the main memory.
  2. Reduced power consumption: Since data can be accessed faster from the second-level cache, the processor can spend less time waiting for data to arrive from the main memory. This can help reduce power consumption since the processor can enter into lower power states more often.
  3. Cost-effective: Compared to increasing the size of the main memory, adding a second-level cache is a cost-effective way to improve system performance. This is because the cost of adding a second-level cache is usually much lower than the cost of increasing the main memory.

Disadvantages of Second-Level Cache

  1. Limited capacity: The size of the second-level cache is limited due to physical space constraints on the processor chip. This means that it can only store a limited amount of data, which may result in reduced performance if the working set of the application exceeds the capacity of the cache.
  2. Higher latency: Accessing data from the second-level cache may still take longer than accessing data from the processor cache, which can result in higher latency for some operations.
  3. Complexity: Managing a second-level cache requires additional software and hardware support, which can add complexity to the system. This can result in increased development time and costs.

Configuration Steps for Enabling Second-level Cache

The steps for enabling second level cache can vary depending on the specific technology being used, but here are some general configuration steps that can be followed:

  1. Identify the second-level cache provider: There are several second-level cache providers available, such as Ehcache, Hazelcast, and Infinispan. Choose the one that best suits your needs and add the necessary dependencies to your project.
  2. Configure the second-level cache provider: Once you have added the dependencies, you need to configure the second-level cache provider. This can involve specifying the cache provider class and setting cache properties such as the cache size, eviction policy, and time-to-live.
  3. Configure the second-level cache region: You also need to configure the second-level cache region for each entity or collection that you want to cache. This involves adding annotations or XML configuration to your entity classes or mapping files.
  4. Enable the second-level cache in your ORM framework: You need to enable the second-level cache in your Object-Relational Mapping (ORM) framework, such as Hibernate or JPA. This involves adding configuration properties to your persistence.xml file or hibernate.cfg.xml file.
  5. Test and tune the second-level cache: After enabling the second-level cache, test your application and monitor its performance. You may need to tune the cache settings to optimize performance, such as adjusting the cache size or eviction policy.

These are the basic steps for enabling a second-level cache. However, it’s important to note that the configuration steps can vary depending on the specific technology being used, and it’s recommended to refer to the documentation of your chosen second-level cache provider and ORM framework for more detailed instructions.


In conclusion, the first-level cache and second-level cache work together to improve the overall performance of a computer system. The L1 cache provides extremely fast access times for frequently accessed data and instructions, while the L2 cache provides a larger cache with slightly slower access times. By utilizing both caches, computer systems can reduce the number of memory accesses required and improve overall system performance.

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Last Updated : 27 Mar, 2023
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