DbUnit – Test and populate database with DbUnit, Hibernate and Spring

In enterprise Java applications development we need to test applications with unit tests. Usually, running a test one time can change database data. This can block running the test a second time because of integrity constraints. There are many solutions to solve this problem like:

  • Running SQL script.
  • Restoring a database.
  • Creating and populating a database with test data.
Photo credit: Marta

I think there isn’t a better solution, but some of them are more appropriate for some kind of projects.

Creating a script for initializing database is good solution for project using a big database and which need a large range of data to run significant test, because creating or restoring a database can take a lot of time and machine resources. But it can be complicated to create the script because we need to respect data dependency and to have someone in a team who has good SQL knowledge.

Restoring a data base is a good solution for a project with a stable database schema. A frequent database changes costs a lot of time. At every change, we need to restore a database, to make changes and to create a new backup before running application tests

Creating and populating a database is used for testing applications with small database and for new application developments (Development from scratch). This can be done by creating SQL scripts and running them before executing tests. There is more elegant solution to create and populate database which are based on an ORM like Hibernate and a database testing framework like DbUnit.

DbUnit is a JUnit extension (also usable with Ant) targeted at database-driven projects that, among other things, puts your database into a known state between test runs. This is an excellent way to avoid the myriad of problems that can occur when one test case corrupts the database and causes subsequent tests to fail or exacerbate the damage. [DbUnit web site]

In this post I will present one way of creating, populating and testing a Java application by using Hibernate JPA, Spring and DbUnit.

1 – Creating a Hibernate JPA Project with Spring

In this article I use the same project created in the article Using Hibernate JPA in Spring. You can browse the project in this link or you can checkout the project code from Google code SVN repository from this URL https://project4example1.googlecode.com/svn/trunk. After you check out the project into your IDE, the project will be structured as shown in the picture.

To add DbUnit in your project, you need to add “dbUnit.jar” to the project library. If you are using Maven you need to add DbUnit dependency in your pom.xml as shown in the code source bellow.


2 – Populate the database with DbUnit

The code source bellow presents the content of the FlatXmlDataSet.xml used in this project. The structure of the file is easy to understand; Each XML element corresponds to a table row. Each XML element name corresponds to a table name. The XML attributes correspond to table columns.

<!DOCTYPE dataset SYSTEM "src/test/resources/my-dataset.dtd">
	<customer customer_id="1" tax_id="2" name="name1" adresse="adresse1"
		city="Paris" state="Paris" zip="75001" phone="0606060606" />
	<customer customer_id="2" tax_id="3" name="name2" adresse="adresse2"
		city="Paris" state="Paris" zip="75002" phone="0606060607" />
	<customer customer_id="3" tax_id="4" name="name3" adresse="adresse3"
		city="Paris" state="Paris" zip="75003" phone="0606060608" />

	<customer_order order_id="1" customer_id="1"
		date_placed="2008-01-01" date_promised="2008-02-02" terms="terms"
		status="done" />
	<customer_order order_id="2" customer_id="2"
		date_placed="2009-02-02" date_promised="2009-04-20" terms="terms"
		status="done" />
	<customer_order order_id="3" customer_id="2"
		date_placed="2010-03-03" date_promised="2010-05-24" terms="terms"
		status="done" />
	<customer_order order_id="4" customer_id="3"
		date_placed="2008-04-04" date_promised="2008-07-05" terms="terms"
		status="done" />

To control data format you can add DTD file. This file is optional if you don’t want to use a DTD file you have to replace the first line of your flat XML dataset by <?xml version='1.0' encoding='UTF-8'?>.

<!ELEMENT dataset (

<!ELEMENT customer EMPTY>
<!ATTLIST customer
	customer_id  CDATA #REQUIRED
	phone  CDATA #REQUIRED   

<!ELEMENT customer_order EMPTY>
<!ATTLIST customer_order
	customer_id CDATA #REQUIRED
	date_placed CDATA #REQUIRED
	date_promised CDATA #REQUIRED

The code source bellow presents a jUnit test used to test a DAO. Before test execution, the database will be created by Hibernate and it will be populated by DbUnit with XML dataset. In the “setup” method CLEAN_INSERT operation is executed; it deletes all rows in tables and insert data from the data set.

package com.mycompany.test.dao;

import java.io.InputStream;
import java.sql.Connection;
import java.util.Collection;

import junit.framework.TestCase;

import org.dbunit.database.DatabaseConnection;
import org.dbunit.database.IDatabaseConnection;
import org.dbunit.dataset.IDataSet;
import org.dbunit.dataset.xml.FlatXmlDataSet;
import org.dbunit.operation.DatabaseOperation;
import org.hibernate.SessionFactory;
import org.springframework.context.ApplicationContext;
import org.springframework.context.support.ClassPathXmlApplicationContext;
import org.springframework.orm.hibernate3.SessionFactoryUtils;

import com.mycompany.dao.ICustomerDao;
import com.mycompany.entity.Customer;

public class CustomerDaoTest extends TestCase {

	private static final String[] LOCATIONS = { "application-context.xml" };
	private static final String FLAT_XML_DATASET = "FlatXmlDataSet.xml";
	private ApplicationContext context;
	private ICustomerDao iCustomerDao;

	protected void setUp() throws Exception {
		context = new ClassPathXmlApplicationContext(LOCATIONS);
		iCustomerDao = (ICustomerDao) context.getBean("customerDao");
		DatabaseOperation.CLEAN_INSERT.execute(getConnection(), getDataSet());


	public void testGetAllCustomers() {
		Collection<Customer> listCustomers = iCustomerDao.getAll();
	public void testSaveCustomer() {
		Collection<Customer> listCustomers1 = iCustomerDao.getAll();
		Customer customer = new Customer(1, "name","adresse", "city", "state", "123", "0606060606", null);
		Collection<Customer> listCustomers2 = iCustomerDao.getAll();
		assertEquals(listCustomers2.size() - listCustomers1.size(), 1);

	private IDataSet getDataSet() throws Exception {
		InputStream inputStream = this.getClass().getClassLoader().getResourceAsStream(FLAT_XML_DATASET);
		IDataSet dataset = new FlatXmlDataSet(inputStream);
		return dataset;

	private IDatabaseConnection getConnection() throws Exception {
		SessionFactory sessionFactory = (SessionFactory) context.getBean("sessionFactory");
		Connection jdbcConnection = SessionFactoryUtils.getDataSource(sessionFactory).getConnection();
		IDatabaseConnection connection = new DatabaseConnection(jdbcConnection);
		return connection;

To test java applications we need to know data at initial state to predict data evolution and to make JUnit assertion. DbUnit gives a smart solution to populate a database. DbUnit is dedicated for applications tests, but I think it could be useful in others contexts like application deployment when we need to fill reference data.

4 thoughts on “DbUnit – Test and populate database with DbUnit, Hibernate and Spring

  1. This was SO helpful, thank you!!
    Especially the DataSet and DatabaseConnection Part in last Java-Section, that helped me configuring it right🙂

  2. I’m haven problems in the second step:

    First of all I would like to contextualize my JPA schema:
    1. I created JPA persistance without using Spring following this blog:
    2. Now, I would like to use DBUnit to integrate testing functionalities as your blog explains, but I don’t find the FlatXmlDataSet.xml file. The only *.xml file I have, besides the pom.xml, is the persistence.xml file.

    I am new working with these technologies and I was wondering if anyone could help me. Here is my proyect explorer:

    Thank you very much in advance

  3. I’m having trouble with DB sequences. The FlatXmlDataSetBuilder seems to ignore the DB sequence, despite annotations on my Entity. How can I force the FlatXmlDataSetBuilder to use sequences when inserting the XML-data into the database?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s