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Tutorial: How to set up Exposed ORM with Flyway Database Migration

Almost every application needs to store data in a database. In this tutorial, we will set up a database connection in Kotlin using Exposed as an ORM and Flyway for database migrations.

Goal of this Tutorial

In this tutorial, we will have a look how to implement a connection to an SQL database in a Kotlin application. We will have a look at the following topics:

  • Handling database creation and migrations with Flyway
  • Generating Exposed table definitions using a Gradle plugin
  • Using Exposed as an ORM to abstract the database connection

The code for this tutorial is available on GitHub: https://github.com/bettercoding-dev/kotlin-exposed .


First, we start by creating a new Kotlin application. I will use the IntelliJ wizard to do this. You can also check out the starter branch from this tutorial’s GitHub repository: https://github.com/bettercoding-dev/kotlin-exposed/tree/starter .

If we run the application using ./gradlew run, we should see the following output:

Hello World! Program arguments:
Code language: JavaScript (javascript)

Database Setup and Migrations with Flyway

When using an SQL database, we need to define our tables using DDL (data definition language), e.g. CREATE TABLE. Working on environments like development, staging and production requires us to keep the structure of our database the same on every environment.

This means, when adding a new table, the table needs to be added on each environment. Updating the database structure is also called database migration (migrating one structure to another).

One tool that helps us to keep our database structure up-to-date is Flyway. It allows us to specify .sql-Files containing the database structure, which then Flyway executes in correct order to perform the database operations.

We will use Postgres as our database server in this example. You can run it using docker-compose and this file:

version: '3.1' services: db: image: postgres:alpine environment: POSTGRES_DB: testDB POSTGRES_USER: test POSTGRES_PASSWORD: testpassword ports: - "5432:5432"
Code language: YAML (yaml)

Adding the dependencies

First, we start by adding the dependencies to Flyway and Postgres to our build.gradle.kts file. We add the following block to the file:

dependencies { implementation("org.flywaydb:flyway-core:8.0.1") implementation("org.postgresql:postgresql:42.2.24") implementation("com.zaxxer:HikariCP:5.0.0") }
Code language: Gradle (gradle)

We also added HikariCP to our dependencies. This library helps us to create performant connections to the database.

Adding a database configuration

Next, we need to create a file called db.properties in the project’s root directory. This file contains all the information about how to connect to our local database.

The content of db.properties should look like this:

jdbcUrl=jdbc:postgresql://localhost:5432/testDB dataSource.driverClass=org.postgresql.Driver dataSource.driver=postgresql dataSource.database=testDB dataSource.user=test dataSource.password=testpassword
Code language: Properties (properties)

Next, we go to our main.kt file and add an initDatabase() function and call it in the main function:

fun initDatabase(){ val hikariConfig = HikariConfig("db.properties") val dataSource = HikariDataSource(hikariConfig) val flyway = Flyway.configure().dataSource(dataSource).load() flyway.migrate() } fun main() { initDatabase() }
Code language: Kotlin (kotlin)
  • Line 2: We create a HikariConfig that reads the properties from the db.properties file that we have created earlier.
  • Line 3: With the HikariConfig we create a HikariDataSource.
  • Line 5: The dataSource can then be used to create a new Flyway instance.
  • Line 6: flyway.migrate() tells Flyway to start the database migration process.

When we now run the application, we should see something like this in the log:

Oct 17, 2021 4:45:56 PM org.flywaydb.core.internal.license.VersionPrinter printVersionOnly INFO: Flyway Community Edition 8.0.1 by Redgate Oct 17, 2021 4:45:56 PM org.flywaydb.core.internal.database.base.BaseDatabaseType createDatabase INFO: Database: jdbc:h2:./data/exposed_migrations (H2 1.4) Oct 17, 2021 4:45:56 PM org.flywaydb.core.internal.command.DbValidate validate INFO: Successfully validated 0 migrations (execution time 00:00.060s) Oct 17, 2021 4:45:56 PM org.flywaydb.core.internal.command.DbValidate validate WARNING: No migrations found. Are your locations set up correctly? Oct 17, 2021 4:45:56 PM org.flywaydb.core.internal.schemahistory.JdbcTableSchemaHistory create INFO: Creating Schema History table "PUBLIC"."flyway_schema_history" ... Oct 17, 2021 4:45:56 PM org.flywaydb.core.internal.command.DbMigrate migrateGroup INFO: Current version of schema "PUBLIC": << Empty Schema >> Oct 17, 2021 4:45:56 PM org.flywaydb.core.internal.command.DbMigrate logSummary INFO: Schema "PUBLIC" is up to date. No migration necessary. Process finished with exit code 0
Code language: PHP (php)

When we have a look at our database, we see that a flyway_schema_history table has been created. In this table, Flyway keeps track of which migration files have been executed.

Next, we create a new directory structure db/migration in our resources folder. Within migration add a file called V1__create_users_table.sql and add the following content:

Code language: SQL (Structured Query Language) (sql)

Now, if we run our application again, we should see something like this:

INFO: Successfully applied 1 migration to schema "PUBLIC", now at version v1 (execution time 00:00.058s)
Code language: JavaScript (javascript)

Also, when we look at our database, a table called users has been created.

For more information on how Flyway works, have a look at the Flyway documentation: https://flywaydb.org/documentation/ .

Exposed ORM with Code Generation

Now, that we have a database in place and have Flyway taking care of the migrations, let’s have a look at accessing the data from the database. We will use Exposed to achieve this.

Exposed is an ORM (object-relational-mapper) by JetBrains, that abstracts the way we access the database. In other words, it takes care of different SQL dialects and lets us write database queries in plain Kotlin.

For Exposed to be able to map the database tables, it is necessary to also model the tables in Kotlin. Luckily, there is a Gradle plugin available that generates these definitions for us.

Setting up code generation

The first thing necessary is that we make some changes in our build.gradle.kts file.

First, we add the following line to the plugins block in the file:

id("com.jetbrains.exposed.gradle.plugin") version "0.2.1"
Code language: Gradle (gradle)

Now a Gradle task generateExposedCode is available. Before we can run it, there are some more things to configure.

We need to add a database configuration, so the generator knows for which database the files should be generated. The configuration for our example looks like this:

exposedCodeGeneratorConfig { val dbProperties = loadProperties("${projectDir}/db.properties") configFilename = "exposedConf.yml" user = dbProperties["dataSource.user"].toString() password = dbProperties["dataSource.password"].toString() databaseName = dbProperties["dataSource.database"].toString() databaseDriver = dbProperties["dataSource.driver"].toString() }
Code language: Gradle (gradle)

Place this snippet in your build.gradle.kts file as well. Note that we have referenced a file called exposedConf.yml here. This file is used for some code-generation-specific settings. Create the file and add this content:

generateSingleFile: false packageName: dev.bettercoding.generated
Code language: YAML (yaml)

We tell the generator that every table should be put in a separate file. Also, we can specify a package name for our generated classes.

Next, we also add these lines to the build.gradle.kts file:

sourceSets.main { java.srcDirs("build/tables") } tasks.generateExposedCode { dependsOn("clean") }
Code language: Gradle (gradle)

The generated files are put to the build/tables directory. To be able to use the generated classes in our code, we need to add this directory to our source directories. This is done with the first block.

The generateExposedCode task does not overwrite existing classes. But this is what we want when updating table information. With the second block, we tell Gradle to clean the build folder before generating the Exposed code.

Now, when we run ./gradlew generateExposedCode, we see that there are 2 new files under build/tables.

Unfortunately, there is a small bug in the current version of code generation. The Public.flywaySchemaHistory.kt file contains a compile error. Since we do not need this file anyway, we will just delete it. (I assume this bug will be fixed in future version and I will update this part here accordingly)

Working with Exposed

Before we can use the newly generated classes, we need to add Exposed to our dependencies. Add these two lines to the dependencies block in your build.gradle.kts file:

implementation("org.jetbrains.exposed:exposed-core:0.35.2") implementation("org.jetbrains.exposed:exposed-jdbc:0.35.2")
Code language: Gradle (gradle)

Now, in our Main.kt file, update the initDatabase function to look like this:

fun initDatabase(){ val hikariConfig = HikariConfig("db.properties") val dataSource = HikariDataSource(hikariConfig) val flyway = Flyway.configure().dataSource(dataSource).load() flyway.migrate() Database.connect(dataSource) }
Code language: Kotlin (kotlin)

The last line is all that is necessary to set up the database connection for Exposed. Luckily, we already have a dataSource available that we can reuse now.

Now let’s insert and read a user to the database to test our implementation. Exposed transactions are executed using a transaction block.

fun main() { initDatabase() transaction { Users.deleteAll() Users.insert { it[name] = "Stefan" it[age] = 30 } Users.selectAll().forEach { println(it[Users.name]) } } }
Code language: Kotlin (kotlin)
  • Line 4: The transaction block defines the area where we can run database operations
  • Line 5: Delete all users
  • Lines 7-10: Insert a new user
  • Lines 12-14: Print all names from the users in the database

We did it! Now, we should see Stefan printed to our standard output.

For all you can do with Exposed, have a look at the official repository at GitHub: https://github.com/JetBrains/Exposed .


In this tutorial, we set up a database connection in Kotlin using Flyway for database migrations and Exposed as our ORM library. For generating the table definitions in Exposed we used a Gradle plugin to do this job for us.

With this configuration, you have a good basis for building a production-ready application.


Jarrico says:

I was following your steps and got this error
> Cannot query the value of task ‘:trading-service-data:generateExposedCode’ property ‘databaseDriver’ because it has no value available.

Any clue?

Stefan says:

Make sure you have dataSource.driver=postgresql specified in your db.properties file and databaseDriver = dbProperties["dataSource.driver"].toString() in exposedCodeGeneratorConfig.

Entrealist says:

Hi Stefan,
Thx for the detailed explanation. Everything works seamlessly!
Pretty similar to Django migration flow at first glance. Have a fabulous holiday!

Stefan says:

Thank you. Love to hear that 🙂

Mateu says:

The path db/migrations did not worked for me. It was db/migration

Stefan says:

Thank you. Updated it in the text.

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