Embedded Resources

Embedded resources function very similarly to embedded schemas in Ecto. The primary difference is the same as the primary difference between Ecto schemas and Ash resources: the full lifecycle of the resource is managed by its configuration. For example, you can add validations, calculations, and even authorization policies to an embedded resource. Here is an example of a simple embedded resource:

defmodule MyApp.Profile do
  use Ash.Resource,
    data_layer: :embedded # Use the atom `:embedded` as the data layer.

  attributes do
    attribute :first_name, :string
    attribute :last_name, :string
  end
end

Embedded resources cannot have relationships or aggregates.

Adding embedded resource attributes

Embedded resources simply define an Ash.Type under the hood, meaning you can use them anywhere you would use an Ash type.

defmodule MyApp.User do
  use Ash.Resource, ...

  attributes do
    ...

    attribute :profile, MyApp.Profile
    attribute :profiles, {:array, MyApp.Profile} # You can also have an array of embeds
  end
end

Editing embedded attributes

If you manually supply instances of the embedded structs, the structs you provide are used with no validation. For example:

Ash.Changeset.new(user, %{profile: %MyApp.Profile{first_name: "first_name", last_name: "last_name}})

However, you can also treat embedded resources like regular resources that can be "created", "updated", and "destroyed". To do this, provide maps as the input, instead of structs. In the example above, if you just wanted to change the first_name, you'd provide:

Ash.Changeset.new(user, %{profile: %{first_name: "first_name"}})

This will call the primary update action on the resource. This allows you to define an action on the embed, and add validations to it. For example, you might have something like this:

defmodule MyApp.Profile do
  use Ash.Resource,
    data_layer: :embedded # Use the atom `:embedded` as the data layer.

  attributes do
    attribute :first_name, :string
    attribute :last_name, :string
  end

  validations do
    validate present([:first_name, :last_name], at_least: 1)
  end
end

Calculations

Calculations can be added to embedded resources. When you use an embedded resource, you declare what calculations to load via a constraint. For example:

defmodule MyApp.Profile do
  use Ash.Resource,
    data_layer: :embedded # Use the atom `:embedded` as the data layer.

  attributes do
    attribute :first_name, :string
    attribute :last_name, :string
  end

  calculations do
    calculate :full_name, :string, concat([:first_name, :last_name], " ")
  end
end

defmodule MyApp.User do
  use Ash.Resource,
    ...

  attributes do
    attribute :profile, MyApp.Profile do
      constraints [load: [:full_name]]
    end
  end
end

Determining what action(s) will be called:

Remember: default actions are already implemented for a resource, with no need to add them. They are called :create, :update, :destroy, and :read. You can use those without defining them. You only need to define them if you wish to override their configuration.

Single Embeds

  • If the current value is nil - a create with the provided values
  • If the current value is not nil - an update with the provided values
  • If the current value is not nil and the new value is nil - a destroy with the original value

Array Embeds

All values in the original array are destroyed, and all maps in the new array are used to create new records.

Adding a primary key

Adding a primary key to your embedded resources is especially useful when managing lists of data. Specifically, it allows you to consider changes to elements with matching primary key values as updates.

For example:

defmodule MyApp.Tag do
  use Ash.Resource,
    data_layer: :embedded

  attributes do
    uuid_primary_key :id
    attribute :name, :string
    attribute :counter, :integer
  end

  validations do
    validate {Increasing, field: :counter}, on: :update
  end
end

Now, you can accept input meant to update individual list items. The entire list must still be provided, but any items with a matching id will be considered an update instead of a destroy + create.

Determining what action(s) will be called with a primary key:

Single Embeds with primary keys

  • If the current value is nil - a create with the provided values
  • If the current value is not nil and the primary keys match - an update with the provided values
  • If the current value is not nil and the primary keys don't match - a destroy of the original value and a create of the new value
  • If the current value is not nil and the new value is nil - a destroy with the original value

Array Embeds with primary keys

  • Any values in the original list with no primary key matching in the new list are destroyed.
  • Any values in the new list with no primary key matching in the original list are created.
  • Any values with a primary key match in the original list and the new list are updated

Filtering and Sorting

Currently embedded resources cannot be filtered on or sorted. However, this will be supported eventually.

Usage in Extensions

The AshJsonApi extension simply exposes these attributes as maps. However, the AshGraphql extension allows you to specify a type (but not queries/mutations) for an embedded resource. If you do, instead of being treated as a :json type it will get its own named input object type and field type.