Let's Build a GraphQL Server in Go, Part 1

04 January 2020 
— by Filip
#go#golang#graphql#sqlc#gqlgen#postgresql
Photo by Joel Filipe

Introduction

This is the first in a series of posts covering the process of building a simple yet full featured GraphQL server in Go. In this post we will use gqlgen and sqlc to build a working GraphQL server backed by a PostgreSQL database, and capable of performing basic CRUD operations. Subsequent posts will discuss:

I assume a basic familiarity with GraphQL, PostgreSQL and Go. While I will not explain the syntax, I will talk through the logic of particular pieces of code and my design decisions.

Before we get started, here’s the GitHub repository with the code for this series of posts. You will find the code corresponding to this post under the part1 tag.

We will be building a GraphQL back-end server for an imaginary literary agency website. Here’s an overview of the data types we will be working with:

Agent objects, representing the agency’s agents:

type Agent {
  id: ID!
  name: String!
  email: String!
  authors: [Author!]!
}

Agents have a name and an email (both of which are required). One agent represents many authors.

Author objects, representing the agency’s authors:

type Author {
  id: ID!
  name: String!
  website: String
  agent: Agent!
  books: [Book!]!
}

Authors have a required name and an optional website. Each author must have a single agent and they can have many books.

Book objects, representing books written by the agency’s authors:

type Book {
  id: ID!
  title: String!
  description: String!
  cover: String!
  authors: [Author!]!
}

A book has a title, a description and a cover (all required) and it can have multiple authors.

We have a one-to-many relationship between agents and authors (each author is represented by a single agent, but an agent represents many authors) and a many-to-many relationship between authors and books (a book can have multiple authors and an author can have multiple books). The schema also implies an indirect many-to-many relationship between agents and books (a book written by multiple authors can, in principle, have more than one agent responsible for it, and an agent is typically responsible for many books).

PostgreSQL and sqlc configuration

Let’s initialize a new Go project:

> mkdir gqlgen-sqlc-example
> cd gqlgen-sqlc-example
> go mod init github.com/[username]/gqlgen-sqlc-example

Let’s also install the two primary dependencies of the project:

> go get github.com/lib/pq
> go get github.com/99designs/gqlgen

The pq dependency is a Go PostgreSQL driver. gqlgen is the library/tool we will use to generate our server from the GraphQL schema that we will write in a moment. We also have to install sqlc, a utility we will use to generate type-safe database code for our server. Right now the installation of sqlc involves downloading the binary using one of the links on the project’s GitHub page. Download the binary, add it to your $PATH, and make sure that you can run it:

> sqlc version
v0.0.1

We configure sqlc by adding a file named sqlc.json to the project’s root directory.

> touch sqlc.json

And here the settings we will be using:

{
  "version": "1",
  "packages": [
    {
      "path": "pg",
      "queries": "./queries.sql",
      "schema": "./schema.sql"
    }
  ]
}

This configuration instructs sqlc to place the generated code in the pg folder, to read the information about the SQL queries from the ./queries.sql file, and the information about the database schema from the ./schema.sql file. The code organization in this project follows the pattern described by Ben Johnson in his Standard Package Layout article. The idea is to create a sub-package for each dependency of a project: in this case we’re creating a pg package to hold all our PostgreSQL-related code. If you’ve not read Ben Johnson’s article yet, I highly recommend it.

Let’s create the files for our database schema and queries:

> touch schema.sql queries.sql

The schema.sql file will hold the schema of our database and it should have the following contents:

CREATE TABLE IF NOT EXISTS agents (
    id BIGSERIAL PRIMARY KEY,
    name TEXT NOT NULL,
    email TEXT NOT NULL
);

CREATE TABLE IF NOT EXISTS authors (
    id BIGSERIAL PRIMARY KEY,
    name TEXT NOT NULL,
    website TEXT,
    agent_id BIGINT NOT NULL,
    FOREIGN KEY (agent_id) REFERENCES agents(id) ON DELETE RESTRICT
);

CREATE TABLE IF NOT EXISTS books (
    id BIGSERIAL PRIMARY KEY,
    title TEXT NOT NULL,
    description TEXT NOT NULL,
    cover TEXT NOT NULL
);

CREATE TABLE IF NOT EXISTS book_authors (
    id BIGSERIAL PRIMARY KEY,
    book_id BIGINT NOT NULL,
    author_id BIGINT NOT NULL,
    FOREIGN KEY (book_id) REFERENCES books(id) ON DELETE CASCADE,
    FOREIGN KEY (author_id) REFERENCES authors(id) ON DELETE CASCADE,
    UNIQUE (book_id,author_id)
);

The definition of the schema matches the definition of the GraphQL types discussed earlier:

  • the agents table contains non-nullable columns for storing name and email values for each agent.
  • the authors table has a nullable column for the website and non-nullable columns for the name and agent_id values for each author. The agent_id value is a foreign key reference to the id column in the agents table (it creates a one-to-many relationship between agents and authors).
  • the books table has non-nullable columns for the title, description and cover values of each book.
  • book_authors is an associative table between the books and authors tables. It stores relationships between books and authors in the form of unique author and book id combinations.

Make sure that you have PostgreSQL installed and running on your system. With the schema defined, we can create the database and initialize it (the commands below will work on an OS X system with PostgreSQL installed using brew; no guarantees regarding other configurations):

> createdb gqlgen_sqlc_example_db
> psql -d gqlgen_sqlc_example_db -a -f schema.sql

We need queries to perform the CRUD operations on the objects defined in the schema. We will keep them in the queries.sql file, which should look as follows:

-- name: GetAgent :one
SELECT * FROM agents
WHERE id = $1;

-- name: ListAgents :many
SELECT * FROM agents
ORDER BY name;

-- name: CreateAgent :one
INSERT INTO agents (name, email)
VALUES ($1, $2)
RETURNING *;

-- name: UpdateAgent :one
UPDATE agents
SET name = $2, email = $3
WHERE id = $1
RETURNING *;

-- name: DeleteAgent :one
DELETE FROM agents
WHERE id = $1
RETURNING *;

-- name: GetAuthor :one
SELECT * FROM authors
WHERE id = $1;

-- name: ListAuthors :many
SELECT * FROM authors
ORDER BY name;

-- name: CreateAuthor :one
INSERT INTO authors (name, website, agent_id)
VALUES ($1, $2, $3)
RETURNING *;

-- name: UpdateAuthor :one
UPDATE authors
SET name = $2, website = $3, agent_id = $4
WHERE id = $1
RETURNING *;

-- name: DeleteAuthor :one
DELETE FROM authors
WHERE id = $1
RETURNING *;

-- name: GetBook :one
SELECT * FROM books
WHERE id = $1;

-- name: ListBooks :many
SELECT * FROM books
ORDER BY title;

-- name: CreateBook :one
INSERT INTO books (title, description, cover)
VALUES ($1, $2, $3)
RETURNING *;

-- name: UpdateBook :one
UPDATE books
SET title = $2, description = $3, cover = $4
WHERE id = $1
RETURNING *;

-- name: DeleteBook :one
DELETE FROM books
WHERE id = $1
RETURNING *;

-- name: SetBookAuthor :exec
INSERT INTO book_authors (book_id, author_id)
VALUES ($1, $2);

-- name: UnsetBookAuthors :exec
DELETE FROM book_authors
WHERE book_id = $1;

For each type of objects we are working with, we are creating: a query to fetch a single item by its ID, a query to list all items of the given type, and queries to create, modify and delete an item. In case of the book_authors table we also have a query to set an author for a book, and a query to delete all author associations for a book. The comments above each query are required by sqlc; they inform the generator what the name of the Go method should be, and whether the query returns a single row, multiple rows or no values.

The pg package

Run the sqlc generate command in the root of the project to see the magic happen! ✨

> sqlc generate

Well, that might have been underwhelming, because the command works almost instantaneously and produces no output. Still, you should now have a newly created pg directory and three new files inside it:

  • db.go contains the DBTX interface which defines the functionality shared by *sql.DB and *sql.Tx types from database/sql and required by the *Queries type. In practice this structure makes it possible to run the generated queries as standalone database operations or as operations scoped to a transaction.
  • models.go contains object structs representing types derived from the database schema. We will instruct gqlgen to use these structs as the building blocks for the GraphQL resolvers — more about that later.
  • queries.sql.go holds the generated methods of the *Queries type, or the queries we have defined earlier in the queries.sql file.

While it would be possible to import and use the *Queries type directly in our GraphQL resolvers, taking this approach would make testing the resolver code difficult later on. The resolvers would end up coupled with the database code and we would most likely have no choice but rely on integration tests in order to test them. We will opt for a different approach and create a custom Repository interface to serve as, well, and interface to the sqlc-generated code. The rest of our application will only communicate with the database through that interface, which means we will be able to use the mock version of the Repository in our tests.

Let’s create a file to hold the new code:

> touch pg/pg.go

Here’s the preliminary definition of the Repository interface:

package pg

import (
	"context"

	_ "github.com/lib/pq" // required
)

// Repository is the application's data layer functionality.
type Repository interface {
	// agent queries
	CreateAgent(ctx context.Context, arg CreateAgentParams) (Agent, error)
	DeleteAgent(ctx context.Context, id int64) (Agent, error)
	GetAgent(ctx context.Context, id int64) (Agent, error)
	ListAgents(ctx context.Context) ([]Agent, error)
	UpdateAgent(ctx context.Context, arg UpdateAgentParams) (Agent, error)

	// author queries
	CreateAuthor(ctx context.Context, arg CreateAuthorParams) (Author, error)
	DeleteAuthor(ctx context.Context, id int64) (Author, error)
	GetAuthor(ctx context.Context, id int64) (Author, error)
	ListAuthors(ctx context.Context) ([]Author, error)
	UpdateAuthor(ctx context.Context, arg UpdateAuthorParams) (Author, error)

	// book queries
	CreateBook(ctx context.Context, bookArg CreateBookParams, authorIDs []int64) (*Book, error)
	UpdateBook(ctx context.Context, bookArg UpdateBookParams, authorIDs []int64) (*Book, error)
	DeleteBook(ctx context.Context, id int64) (Book, error)
	GetBook(ctx context.Context, id int64) (Book, error)
	ListBooks(ctx context.Context) ([]Book, error)
}

The Repository interface combines is a subset of query methods generated for us by sqlc along with a couple of custom methods. It only exposes a subset of the queries because some of the queries we have created were never meant to be used as stand-alone operations so the rest of our application neither has to nor should be able to access them directly.

You’ll notice that two methods of the Repository interface - CreateBook and UpdateBook - have signatures that differ from those of their namesakes from the queries.sql.go file. The generated CreateBook and UpdateBook methods are only concerned with making changes to the books table, which means they don’t know anything about the authors of a given book. The complete process of creating or updating a book must include creating or updating the associations between the book and its authors and as such it will have to take the form of a sequence of database operations wrapped in a transaction. We will need to create custom implementations for these methods, in other words.

The implementation of the Repository interface will take form of an unexported struct holding an embedded instance of *Queries and a pointer to the database connection:

type repoSvc struct {
	*Queries
	db *sql.DB
}

Embedding *Queries in the repoSvc struct means that it automatically implements those methods of the Repository interface that were derived from the *Queries struct in the first place. This means we only need to create custom implementations of the CreateBook and UpdateBook methods. Since both of these methods will involve database transactions let’s start by creating a method to help with managing them:

func (r *repoSvc) withTx(ctx context.Context, txFn func(*Queries) error) error {
	tx, err := r.db.BeginTx(ctx, nil)
	if err != nil {
		return err
	}
	q := New(tx)
	err = txFn(q)
	if err != nil {
		if rbErr := tx.Rollback(); rbErr != nil {
			err = fmt.Errorf("tx failed: %v, unable to rollback: %v", err, rbErr)
		}
	} else {
		err = tx.Commit()
	}
	return err
}

The withTx method takes the current context ctx and a transaction function txFn as arguments. It first initializes a transaction (tx), then instantiates *Queries using that transaction, runs the txFn function with the transaction-scoped instance of *Queries as an argument, and finally performs transaction rollback or commit based on the return value of the txFn function.

Now we are ready to create the missing method implementations. Let’s start with the CreateBook method:

func (r *repoSvc) CreateBook(ctx context.Context, bookArg CreateBookParams, authorIDs []int64) (*Book, error) {
	book := new(Book)
	err := r.withTx(ctx, func(q *Queries) error {
		res, err := q.CreateBook(ctx, bookArg)
		if err != nil {
			return err
		}
		for _, authorID := range authorIDs {
			if err := q.SetBookAuthor(ctx, SetBookAuthorParams{
				BookID:   res.ID,
				AuthorID: authorID,
			}); err != nil {
				return err
			}
		}
		book = &res
		return nil
	})
	return book, err
}

We start by initializing a new variable of *Book type as a placeholder for the eventual return value of the main function. Next we run the withTx method, defining the txFn function inline (like a callback function in JavaScript). The transaction function will be able to access the book variable as a closure, so we will be able to store the result of the transaction even though the txFn function only returns an error value. Using closures is one way to get around the fact that Go doesn’t have generics.

The txFn function performs a sequence of queries and returns early in case of an error. It runs the CreateBook query first which creates a new row in the books table and returns a struct representing the newly-created book. The function continues by iterating over the agentIDs slice to create the book-author associations in the book_authors table using the SetBookAuthor query and the ID of the book created in the previous step. If all succeed the pointer to res is stored in the book variable we have initialized earlier in the body of the parent CreateBook method.

The UpdateBook method is only slightly more complicated:

func (r *repoSvc) UpdateBook(ctx context.Context, bookArg UpdateBookParams, authorIDs []int64) (*Book, error) {
	book := new(Book)
	err := r.withTx(ctx, func(q *Queries) error {
		res, err := q.UpdateBook(ctx, bookArg)
		if err != nil {
			return err
		}
		if err = q.UnsetBookAuthors(ctx, res.ID); err != nil {
			return err
		}
		for _, authorID := range authorIDs {
			if err := q.SetBookAuthor(ctx, SetBookAuthorParams{
				BookID:   res.ID,
				AuthorID: authorID,
			}); err != nil {
				return err
			}
		}
		book = &res
		return nil
	})
	return book, err
}

The pattern is analogous to the CreateBook implementation, except in this case, we update an existing row in the books table instead of creating one, and before we start creating the book-author associations we first remove the prior associations using the UnsetBookAuthors query.

We’re almost done, but we still need a way to initialize our implementation of the Repository interface from other packages. Since the repoSvc struct is unexported we will need an exported constructor function:

// NewRepository returns an implementation of the Repository interface.
func NewRepository(db *sql.DB) Repository {
	return &repoSvc{
		Queries: New(db),
		db:      db,
	}
}

The last addition to the pg/pg.go file is a simple function to open a database connection. We will need it later for the main function of our server:

// Open opens a database specified by the data source name.
// Format: host=foo port=5432 user=bar password=baz dbname=qux sslmode=disable"
func Open(dataSourceName string) (*sql.DB, error) {
	return sql.Open("postgres", dataSourceName)
}

GraphQL schema and gqlgen configuration

It’s finally time to create the schema for our GraphQL server:

> touch schema.graphql

Here are the contents of this file:

type Agent {
  id: ID!
  name: String!
  email: String!
  authors: [Author!]!
}

type Author {
  id: ID!
  name: String!
  website: String
  agent: Agent!
  books: [Book!]!
}

type Book {
  id: ID!
  title: String!
  description: String!
  cover: String!
  authors: [Author!]!
}

type Query {
  agent(id: ID!): Agent
  agents: [Agent!]!
  author(id: ID!): Author
  authors: [Author!]!
  book(id: ID!): Book
  books: [Book!]!
}

type Mutation {
  createAgent(data: AgentInput!): Agent!
  updateAgent(id: ID!, data: AgentInput!): Agent!
  deleteAgent(id: ID!): Agent!
  createAuthor(data: AuthorInput!): Author!
  updateAuthor(id: ID!, data: AuthorInput!): Author!
  deleteAuthor(id: ID!): Author!
  createBook(data: BookInput!): Book!
  updateBook(id: ID!, data: BookInput!): Book!
  deleteBook(id: ID!): Book!
}

input AgentInput {
  name: String!
  email: String!
}

input AuthorInput {
  name: String!
  website: String
  agent_id: ID!
}

input BookInput {
  title: String!
  description: String!
  cover: String!
  authorIDs: [ID!]!
}

The GraphQL schema reflects the database schema: we have agents, authors, and books, along with the relationships between them as described previously. The GraphQL schema also defines queries (ways to access the data stored on our server) and mutations (methods for modifying the stored data), and Input types used by the mutations.

gqlgen is a “schema-first” GraphQL library/toolkit for Go. Similarly to sqlc, it works by generating much of the code required to build a server for a given a GraphQL schema. I recommend the introductory post about gqlgen by Adam Scarr outlining different approaches to building GraphQL servers, and explaining where the schema-first approach used by gqlgen sits in the matrix of possible approaches. For an alternative take you could also read a post outlining the shortcomings of the schema-first approach by Nikolas Burk, one of the devs working on the Prisma project. For what it’s worth, I’ve tried both approaches and I’m personally a fan on the approach used by gqlgen.

Like sqlc, gqlgen needs to be configured, so let’s create the configuration file:

> touch gqlgen.yml

Here’s the configuration we will use for our project:

# gqlgen.yml
# Refer to https://gqlgen.com/config/ for detailed documentation.

schema: schema.graphql
exec:
  filename: gqlgen/exec.go
model:
  filename: gqlgen/model.go
resolver:
  filename: gqlgen/resolvers.go
  type: Resolver

# use models generated by sqlc when possible
# REMEMBER TO CUSTOMIZE THE PATH BELOW TO REFERENCE YOUR PROJECT REPOSITORY
autobind:
  - github.com/[username]/gqlgen-sqlc-example/pg

# this will allow us to use int64 IDs.
models:
  ID:
    model: github.com/99designs/gqlgen/graphql.Int64

# list return values will be slices not slices of pointers
# for better compatibility with sqlc
omit_slice_element_pointers: true

Here’s the brief explanation of the meaning of the various settings:

  • schema - the path to the GraphQL schema for our project;
  • exec - the path to the generated GraphQL execution runtime (we will never make any changes to this file);
  • model - the path the models generated by gqlgen (we will never make any changes to this file);
  • resolver - the path to the file with the generated stubs of the resolver methods we will be required to implement by hand. Since this file will have to be customized it will never be overwritten on subsequent runs of gqlgen, though you can always generate a fresh copy by deleting the customized file first.
  • autobind - this directs gqlgen to use models defined by another package instead of generating them. In this case we are telling gqlgen to use the models generated by sqlc and stored in our pg package. This will make the resolvers use the Agent, Author and Book types generated by sqlc which will make the interoperation between our server and the database much easier. Please make sure that the value of this setting references your own project repository.
  • models: ID: model - the GraphQL spec assumes that IDs are of String type so this is also the default assumption made by gqlgen. We are using a PostgreSQL database as our backend, so it makes more sense to use Int values instead. This setting instructs gqlgen to use Int64 as the type of the ID fields.
  • omit_slice_element_pointers - resolvers methods generated by gqlgen output slices of pointers as list results (for example []*Author) by default. This setting changes the default behavior to output slices of values instead (for example []Author). We do this for compatibility with sqlc, which uses slices of values not pointers as result values of the queries it generates.

Generate all the things!

We are ready to generate our server. We have previously installed gqlgen as the dependency for our project so running the tool is as simple as:

> gqlgen

Running the command will result in three new files being created in the gqlgen folder. The most interesting file, from our perspective, is resolvers.go, since it contains the stubs of the resolvers we still need to implement. Whenever gqlgen can independently decide how to resolve a field defined in the schema, it will create its resolver automatically. We only have to create resolvers for the fields which are somehow ambiguous, typically because they represent a non-obvious interaction between the resolver and the data repository.

Let’s take a closer look at the resolvers.go code related to the Agent type:

type agentResolver struct{ *Resolver }

func (r *agentResolver) Authors(ctx context.Context, obj *pg.Agent) ([]pg.Author, error) {
	panic("not implemented")
}

gqlgen was able to automatically determine how to resolve the ID, name and email fields of the Agent type, but it wasn’t able to figure out what to do about the authors field and this is why the Authors method appears in the resolvers.go file. This makes sense, because given our configuration of gqlgen, it maps the Agent type from the GraphQL schema to the corresponding model from the database, namely:

type Agent struct {
	ID    int64
	Name  string
	Email string
}

The database representation of the Agent type doesn’t have a field for authors so gqlgen leaves it up to us to decide how to resolve it given the information available to the agentResolver struct and passed to the resolver method as arguments. In this case it will involve running a database query that selects Author objects based on the ID of the Agent. We will have a look at the actual implementation in a moment.

I like to start customizing the resolvers file by doing a little bit of clean-up (like adding the missing comments for the exported types/methods, etc.) In this case I have also added the pg.Repository interface as a field on the Resolver type. This is how the individual resolver methods will be able to access the data stored in our database:

// Resolver connects individual resolvers with the datalayer.
type Resolver struct {
	Repository pg.Repository
}

Our task now is to implement the missing resolver methods. We’ll focus on a few methods first so that we can do the initial test-run of our server and check our progress so far.

Running the server for the first time

The next step is to quickly implement the functionality needed to be able to create and list Agent objects, so that we can do something useful when we run the server for the first time. We’ll beed to implement the following methods:

  1. agentResolver.Authors, required since the agentResolver needs to know how to resolve the Authors field,
  2. mutationResolver.CreateAgent so that we can create Agent objects, and
  3. queryResolver.Agents so that we can list the objects we have created.

agentResolver.Authors implementation

This field is supposed to return a slice of Author objects for a given Agent. Our database schema defines the relationship between agents and authors as a one-to-many relationship via a foreign key reference in the authors table. We will therefore need to create a new query to select authors based on the ID of the agent (we can access this value as obj.ID inside the resolver). Let’s add the following to the queries.sql file:

-- name: ListAuthorsByAgentID :many
SELECT authors.* FROM authors, agents
WHERE agents.id = authors.agent_id AND authors.agent_id = $1;

And re-generate the sqlc code:

> sqlc generate

We can check the changes made to the generated using the git diff [filename] command (assuming the previous version of the file was committed earlier).

We have a new query but in order to make it available to our resolvers we also need to add the new ListAuthorsByAgentID method to the pg.Repository interface:

type Repository interface {
	// author queries
	// (...)
	ListAuthorsByAgentID(ctx context.Context, agentID int64) ([]Author, error)
}

Now we have everything we need to implement the Authors method for the agentResolver:

func (r *agentResolver) Authors(ctx context.Context, obj *pg.Agent) ([]pg.Author, error) {
	return r.Repository.ListAuthorsByAgentID(ctx, obj.ID)
}

Well, there’s one important caveat. This is a naïve implementation of the method and in a future post I will discuss the limitations of this approach and how it can be improved. In a nutshell, this implementation suffers from the N+1 query problem when a query asks for a list of agents and the authors they represent, and it will have to be implemented using a “dataloader”. While this implementation is not optimal, it works, and we will keep it for the time being.

mutationResolver.CreateAgent implementation

We have previously defined a query for creating Agent objects, so in order to be able to implement the CreateAgent method we just have to connect the database code with the resolver:

func (r *mutationResolver) CreateAgent(ctx context.Context, data AgentInput) (*pg.Agent, error) {
	agent, err := r.Repository.CreateAgent(ctx, pg.CreateAgentParams{
		Name:  data.Name,
		Email: data.Email,
	})
	if err != nil {
		return nil, err
	}
	return &agent, nil
}

queryResolver.Agents implementation

We already have a query to list Agent objects, so the implementation of the Agents method is a one-liner:

func (r *queryResolver) Agents(ctx context.Context) ([]pg.Agent, error) {
	return r.Repository.ListAgents(ctx)
}

Creating the GraphQL endpoint handlers

In order to be able to run our server we will need to define a couple of handlers. Let’s create a new file in the gqlgen sub-package directory:

> touch gqlgen/gqlgen.go

We follow a pattern similar to our approach in the pg package. This new file will hold our custom code related to the gqlgen dependency so that we can keep the entire code that depends on gqlgen in a single sub-package of our application:

package gqlgen

import (
	"net/http"

	"github.com/99designs/gqlgen/handler"
	"github.com/[username]/gqlgen-sqlc-example/pg" // update the username
)

// NewHandler returns a new graphql endpoint handler.
func NewHandler(repo pg.Repository) http.Handler {
	return handler.GraphQL(NewExecutableSchema(Config{
		Resolvers: &Resolver{
			Repository: repo,
		},
	}))
}

// NewPlaygroundHandler returns a new GraphQL Playground handler.
func NewPlaygroundHandler(endpoint string) http.Handler {
	return handler.Playground("GraphQL Playground", endpoint)
}

To run our application we will have to build a simple Go server exposing two endpoints. The code above defines the handlers for these endpoints:

  • the NewHandler function returns the main GraphQL server handler which will receive the GraphQL queries and send the responses to these queries,
  • the NewPlaygroundHandler will serve the GraphQL Playground application on a selected endpoint as an admin/debugging interface for our server.

Creating the executable to run our server

We now have all the pieces we need to run the server, we just need to wire them together in our server’s main function. I follow a convention of placing individual executable files in separate subdirectories of the cmd package:

> mkdir -p cmd/gqlgen-sqlc-example
> touch cmd/gqlgen-sqlc-example/main.go

And here are the contents of the cmd/gqlgen-sqlc-example/main.go file:

package main

import (
	"fmt"
	"net/http"
	"os"

	"github.com/[username]/gqlgen-sqlc-example/gqlgen" // update the username
	"github.com/[username]/gqlgen-sqlc-example/pg"     // update the username
)

func main() {
	// initialize the db
	db, err := pg.Open("dbname=gqlgen_sqlc_example_db sslmode=disable")
	if err != nil {
		panic(err)
	}
	defer db.Close()

	// initialize the repository
	repo := pg.NewRepository(db)

	// configure the server
	mux := http.NewServeMux()
	mux.Handle("/", gqlgen.NewPlaygroundHandler("/query"))
	mux.Handle("/query", gqlgen.NewHandler(repo))

	// run the server
	port := ":8080"
	fmt.Fprintf(os.Stdout, "🚀 Server ready at http://localhost%s\n", port)
	fmt.Fprintln(os.Stderr, http.ListenAndServe(port, mux))
}

This is a very basic version of the main function for our server, and we might refactor it in a future post into something more customizable, but a quick-and-dirty solution will be sufficient for now. The logic of the main function is straight-forward:

  1. We initialize the database connection using the database connection string corresponding to the database we have created previously. We use the Open function from our pg package to establish the connection.
  2. We instantiate the pg.Repository as repo using the database connection.
  3. We use Go’s standard library to create a simple server with two routes:

    • The root route (/) where we will be able to access GraphQL Playground.
    • The /query route which will actually execute and respond to GraphQL queries.
  4. We run the server! 🎉

Let’s confirm that everything works:

> go run cmd/gqlgen-sqlc-example/main.go
🚀 Server ready at http://localhost:8080

Go ahead and open http://localhost:8080 in your browser. You should see the GraphQL Playground interface where you can run queries and mutations. We can’t query anything yet, since our database contains no data so let’s create an agent:

mutation {
  createAgent(data: { name: "Virginia Kidd", email: "vk@themilfordmethod.com" }) {
    id
    name
    email
  }
}

You should see the result of the mutation, a JSON representation of object you have just created, in the right pane of the Playground. We can now also run a query to list all agents:

query {
  agents {
    id
    name
    email
    authors {
      id
    }
  }
}

This query should produce the following result:

{
  "data": {
    "agents": [
      {
        "id": 1,
        "name": "Virginia Kidd",
        "email": "vk@themilfordmethod.com",
        "authors": []
      }
    ]
  }
}

Our server works, but we have just about exhausted what it can do at the moment. Running other queries will make our server panic, since the majority of the resolver methods still await implementation.

Remaining resolver implementations

Now that we know that we’re on the right track we can get back to creating the remaining resolver method implementation. In this post I will only include the code for the methods that warrant additional explanation or showcase a unique problem. The goal is to replace all instances of panic("not implemented") in the gqlgen/resolvers.go file with working implementations of each method. This will typically involve calling the correct method of the pg.Repository interface and returning the values. The complete implementation is available in the project’s GitHub repository.

authorResolver.Website implementation

We need to implement the method for the Website resolver manually because the sqlc-generated Author model uses sql.NullString to represent an optional string value, while gqlgen uses a pointer (*string). These are just two different approaches of dealing with nullable values in Go. Our job, in either case, is to render the sql.NullString value returned by our database query as a *string:

func (r *authorResolver) Website(ctx context.Context, obj *pg.Author) (*string, error) {
	var w string
	if obj.Website.Valid {
		w = obj.Website.String
		return &w, nil
	}
	return nil, nil
}

authorResolver.Agent implementation

The relationship between the Agent and the Author objects is a one-to-many relationship established by means of a foreign key field (agent_id) in our database’s authors table. In other words, our resolver needs to fetch an Agent object using the ID value, stored in the agent_id field of the Author object. We have previously defined a query to fetch an agent by their ID so we can use it in our implementation:

func (r *authorResolver) Agent(ctx context.Context, obj *pg.Author) (*pg.Agent, error) {
	agent, err := r.Repository.GetAgent(ctx, obj.AgentID)
	if err != nil {
		return nil, err
	}
	return &agent, nil
}

This solution works, but is not ideal since it will result in the N+1 query problem when resolving a query that asks for many authors along with their agents. We will improve on the above implementation in an upcoming part of this series about dataloaders.

authorResolver.Books implementation

We will need to do a bit more work to retrieve a list of books for a given author. From the perspective of our database the relationship between authors and books is a many-to-many relationship facilitated by means of the book_authors join table. In order to fetch books for a given author we need to add a new query to the queries.sql file:

-- name: ListBooksByAuthorID :many
SELECT books.* FROM books, book_authors
WHERE books.id = book_authors.book_id AND book_authors.author_id = $1;

And re-run the sqlc generate command:

> sqlc generate

If you need to confirm the changes made to the pg/queries.sql.go file you can run git diff pg/queries.sql.go command. We also need to add the newly created query method to the pg.Repository interface:

type Repository interface {
	// book queries
	// (...)
	ListBooksByAuthorID(ctx context.Context, authorID int64) ([]Book, error)
}

Now that we have the ability to query the books table by the ID of an author, creating a basic implementation of the Books method is simple:

func (r *authorResolver) Books(ctx context.Context, obj *pg.Author) ([]pg.Book, error) {
	return r.Repository.ListBooksByAuthorID(ctx, obj.ID)
}

Again, this is a naïve implementation that suffers from the N+1 queries problem, but we will improve on it in another post in this series.

bookResolver.Authors implementation

The Authors method of the bookResolver represents a very similar challenge to the previous resolver we have implemented. Here’s the query you will need to fetch authors using a book’s ID:

-- name: ListAuthorsByBookID :many
SELECT authors.* FROM authors, book_authors
WHERE authors.id = book_authors.author_id AND book_authors.book_id = $1;

From this point you just follow the procedure described in authorResolver.Books method implementation above - add the query to the queries.sql file, run sqlc generate, update the pg.Repository interface to include the newly created query method and finally use the new query in the resolver.

queryResolver methods

The queryResolver methods are just a simple mappings of the database query results to the expected return values of the resolvers. In many cases the resolver method implementations will be one-liners similar to the previously completed implementation of the Agents method of this resolver. Things are just slightly more tricky in case of the queries that return a single object, since the sqlc generated queries return a value while the gqlgen resolvers expects to return a pointer to this value. For example, the Agent method can be implemented as follows:

func (r *queryResolver) Agent(ctx context.Context, id int64) (*pg.Agent, error) {
	agent, err := r.Repository.GetAgent(ctx, id)
	if err != nil {
		return nil, err
	}
	return &agent, nil
}

I’ll leave it up to you to complete the implementations of the remaining methods of the queryResolver.

mutationResolver.UpdateAgent method

The implementation here should be analogous to the approach used for the CreateAgent method previously, except in this case the UpdateAgentParams object expects to receive the ID of the updated object in addition to the values for each of the fields so that the database query knows which row in the table to update with the new values. I’ll leave it up to you to complete the implementation of this method.

mutationResolver.DeleteAgent method

The implementation of this method should be straight-forward as well, it’s just a matter of calling the DeleteAgent method of the Repository interface and returning a pointer to the Agent value returned by the query.

mutationResolver CreateAuthor, UpdateAuthor and DeleteAuthor methods

The CreateAuthor, UpdateAuthor and DeleteAuthor method implementations are similar to their equivalents for the Agent type. The only significant difference is that we have to deal with the fact that the Website field on the Author type is nullable. This value will be passed to the resolver as a pointer to a string (*string) but our database expects it in the form of an sql.NullString value. For this reason we need a helper function to convert between these two types. Because an implementation of this method requires the sql package as the dependency my preference would be to place this helper method in the pg package with the rest of the database-related code. Add the following to the bottom of the pg/pg.go file:

// StringPtrToNullString converts *string to sql.NullString.
func StringPtrToNullString(s *string) sql.NullString {
	if s != nil {
		return sql.NullString{String: *s, Valid: true}
	}
	return sql.NullString{}
}

Once we have this helper method we can implement the CreateAuthor resolver method (back in the gqlgen/resolvers.go file) as follows:

func (r *mutationResolver) CreateAuthor(ctx context.Context, data AuthorInput) (*pg.Author, error) {
	author, err := r.Repository.CreateAuthor(ctx, pg.CreateAuthorParams{
		Name:    data.Name,
		Website: pg.StringPtrToNullString(data.Website),
		AgentID: data.AgentID,
	})
	if err != nil {
		return nil, err
	}
	return &author, nil
}

I’ll leave it up to you to complete the implementations of the remaining *Author mutationResolver methods.

mutationResolver CreateBook, UpdateBook and DeleteBook methods

We’ve done the bulk of the work required to create and update books previously in our implementation of the Repository interface. We therefore just need to connect the previously created methods to the respective resolvers. Here’s the code for the CreateBook resolver:

func (r *mutationResolver) CreateBook(ctx context.Context, data BookInput) (*pg.Book, error) {
	return r.Repository.CreateBook(ctx, pg.CreateBookParams{
		Title:       data.Title,
		Description: data.Description,
		Cover:       data.Cover,
	}, data.AuthorIDs)
}

I’ll leave it up to you to create the remaining two methods. One thing to keep in mind in the context of the DeleteBook method is that deleting a book will automatically cascade to the relevant rows of the book_authors table because of how we’ve defined the schema for the book_authors table:

CREATE TABLE IF NOT EXISTS book_authors (
    -- (...)
    FOREIGN KEY (book_id) REFERENCES books(id) ON DELETE CASCADE,
    FOREIGN KEY (author_id) REFERENCES authors(id) ON DELETE CASCADE,
    -- (...)
);

That’s it, we’re done with the resolver implementations! 🎉🎉🎉

Wrapping up and what’s next?

We now have an operational GraphQL server. You can run it and play with creating, changing, and listing the data using the GraphQL Playground:

> go run cmd/gqlgen-sqlc-example/main.go

The server runs and works, but it’s not production-ready yet. We don’t have any tests to make sure that everything works as it should. Some of our resolvers are implemented naïvely, resulting in suboptimal performance in the case of more complex queries. We can’t prevent random users from being able to access all the data and make changes to our database. Our server is also difficult to configure, since parameters such as database name or server port are currently only configurable by changing the code of the main.go file. In short, there’s still quite a bit of work ahead of us.

That said, we’ve established a good foundation for our continued work on this project. We have a solid implementation of the data persistence layer that’s contained in a separate module and easy to make changes to. Altering the GraphQL schema is also simple - we just update the schema file, run the gqlgen command, and - if required - add implementations of the new resolvers. Because of the way we have structured the code, it will also be easy to test our code (I’ll discuss strategies for testing the server in a future post). Finally, because we’re using Go, our code is portable and simple to deploy.

Thanks for your attention. You made it all the way to the end of the tutorial! You can follow me on Twitter - that is the best way to hear when I post new content to the blog.

Useful resources

  1. The GitHub repository with the code of this tutorial
  2. Official GraphQL docs
  3. Official gqlgen docs
  4. gqlgen GitHub repository
  5. sqlc GitHub repository
  6. Introducing gqlgen: a GraphQL Server Generator for Go by Adam Scarr
  7. The Problems of “Schema-First” GraphQL Server Development by Nikolas Burk
  8. Standard Package Layout by Ben Johnson
  9. Introducing sqlc by Kyle Conroy