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Generating Ent Schemas from Existing SQL Databases

Β· 9 min read

A few months ago the Ent project announced the Schema Import Initiative, its goal is to help support many use cases for generating Ent schemas from external resources. Today, I'm happy to share a project I’ve been working on: entimport - an importent (pun intended) command line tool designed to create Ent schemas from existing SQL databases. This is a feature that has been requested by the community for some time, so I hope many people find it useful. It can help ease the transition of an existing setup from another language or ORM to Ent. It can also help with use cases where you would like to access the same data from different platforms (such as to automatically sync between them).
The first version supports both MySQL and PostgreSQL databases, with some limitations described below. Support for other relational databases such as SQLite is in the works.

Getting Started

To give you an idea of how entimport works, I want to share a quick example of end to end usage with a MySQL database. On a high-level, this is what we’re going to do:

  1. Create a Database and Schema - we want to show how entimport can generate an Ent schema for an existing database. We will first create a database, then define some tables in it that we can import into Ent.
  2. Initialize an Ent Project - we will use the Ent CLI to create the needed directory structure and an Ent schema generation script.
  3. Install entimport
  4. Run entimport against our demo database - next, we will import the database schema that we’ve created into our Ent project.
  5. Explain how to use Ent with our generated schemas.

Let's get started.

Create a Database

We’re going to start by creating a database. The way I prefer to do it is to use a Docker container. We will use a docker-compose which will automatically pass all needed parameters to the MySQL container.

Start the project in a new directory called entimport-example. Create a file named docker-compose.yaml and paste the following content inside:

version: "3.7"


platform: linux/amd64
image: mysql
test: mysqladmin ping -ppass
- "3306:3306"

This file contains the service configuration for a MySQL docker container. Run it with the following command:

docker-compose up -d

Next, we will create a simple schema. For this example we will use a relation between two entities:

  • User
  • Car

Connect to the database using MySQL shell, you can do it with the following command:

Make sure you run it from the root project directory

docker-compose exec mysql8 mysql --database=entimport -ppass
create table users
id bigint auto_increment primary key,
age bigint not null,
name varchar(255) not null,
last_name varchar(255) null comment 'surname'

create table cars
id bigint auto_increment primary key,
model varchar(255) not null,
color varchar(255) not null,
engine_size mediumint not null,
user_id bigint null,
constraint cars_owners foreign key (user_id) references users (id) on delete set null

Let's validate that we've created the tables mentioned above, in your MySQL shell, run:

show tables;
| Tables_in_entimport |
| cars |
| users |

We should see two tables: users & cars

Initialize Ent Project

Now that we've created our database, and a baseline schema to demonstrate our example, we need to create a Go project with Ent. In this phase I will explain how to do it. Since eventually we would like to use our imported schema, we need to create the Ent directory structure.

Initialize a new Go project inside a directory called entimport-example

go mod init entimport-example

Run Ent Init:

go run -mod=mod init 

The project should look like this:

β”œβ”€β”€ docker-compose.yaml
β”œβ”€β”€ ent
β”‚ β”œβ”€β”€ generate.go
β”‚ └── schema
└── go.mod

Install entimport

OK, now the fun begins! We are finally ready to install entimport and see it in action.
Let’s start by running entimport:

go run -mod=mod -h

entimport will be downloaded and the command will print:

Usage of entimport:
-dialect string
database dialect (default "mysql")
-dsn string
data source name (connection information)
-schema-path string
output path for ent schema (default "./ent/schema")
-tables value
comma-separated list of tables to inspect (all if empty)

Run entimport

We are now ready to import our MySQL schema to Ent!

We will do it with the following command:

This command will import all tables in our schema, you can also limit to specific tables using -tables flag.

go run -dialect mysql -dsn "root:pass@tcp(localhost:3306)/entimport"

Like many unix tools, entimport doesn't print anything on a successful run. To verify that it ran properly, we will check the file system, and more specifically ent/schema directory.

β”œβ”€β”€ docker-compose.yaml
β”œβ”€β”€ ent
β”‚ β”œβ”€β”€ generate.go
β”‚ └── schema
β”‚ β”œβ”€β”€ car.go
β”‚ └── user.go
β”œβ”€β”€ go.mod
└── go.sum

Let’s see what this gives us - remember that we had two schemas: the users schema and the cars schema with a one to many relationship. Let’s see how entimport performed.

type User struct {

func (User) Fields() []ent.Field {
return []ent.Field{field.Int("id"), field.Int("age"), field.String("name"), field.String("last_name").Optional().Comment("surname")}
func (User) Edges() []ent.Edge {
return []ent.Edge{edge.To("cars", Car.Type)}
func (User) Annotations() []schema.Annotation {
return nil
type Car struct {

func (Car) Fields() []ent.Field {
return []ent.Field{field.Int("id"), field.String("model"), field.String("color"), field.Int32("engine_size"), field.Int("user_id").Optional()}
func (Car) Edges() []ent.Edge {
return []ent.Edge{edge.From("user", User.Type).Ref("cars").Unique().Field("user_id")}
func (Car) Annotations() []schema.Annotation {
return nil

entimport successfully created entities and their relation!

So far looks good, now let’s actually try them out. First we must generate the Ent schema. We do it because Ent is a schema first ORM that generates Go code for interacting with different databases.

To run the Ent code generation:

go generate ./ent

Let's see our ent directory:

β”œβ”€β”€ ent
β”‚ β”œβ”€β”€ car
β”‚ β”‚ β”œβ”€β”€ car.go
β”‚ β”‚ └── where.go
β”‚ β”œβ”€β”€ schema
β”‚ β”‚ β”œβ”€β”€ car.go
β”‚ β”‚ └── user.go
β”‚ β”œβ”€β”€ user
β”‚ β”‚ β”œβ”€β”€ user.go
β”‚ β”‚ └── where.go

Ent Example

Let’s run a quick example to verify that our schema works:

Create a file named example.go in the root of the project, with the following content:

This part of the example can be found here

package main

import (


_ ""

func main() {
client, err := ent.Open(dialect.MySQL, "root:pass@tcp(localhost:3306)/entimport?parseTime=True")
if err != nil {
log.Fatalf("failed opening connection to mysql: %v", err)
defer client.Close()
ctx := context.Background()
example(ctx, client)

Let's try to add a user, write the following code at the end of the file:

func example(ctx context.Context, client *ent.Client) {
// Create a User.
zeev := client.User.
fmt.Println("User created:", zeev)

Then run:

go run example.go

This should output:

# User created: User(id=1, age=33, name=Zeev, last_name=Manilovich)

Let's check with the database if the user was really added

FROM users
WHERE name = 'Zeev';

|id|age|name|last_name |
|1 |33 |Zeev|Manilovich|

Great! now let's play a little more with Ent and add some relations, add the following code at the end of the example() func:

make sure you add "entimport-example/ent/user" to the import() declaration

// Create Car.
vw := client.Car.
fmt.Println("First car created:", vw)

// Update the user - add the car relation.

// Query all cars that belong to the user.
cars := zeev.QueryCars().AllX(ctx)
fmt.Println("User cars:", cars)

// Create a second Car.
delorean := client.Car.
fmt.Println("Second car created:", delorean)

// Update the user - add another car relation.

// Traverse the sub-graph.
cars = delorean.
fmt.Println("User cars:", cars)

This part of the example can be found here

Now do: go run example.go.
After Running the code above, the database should hold a user with 2 cars in a O2M relation.

FROM users;

|id|age|name|last_name |
|1 |33 |Zeev|Manilovich|

FROM cars;

|id|model |color |engine_size|user_id|
|1 |volkswagen|blue |1400 |1 |
|2 |delorean |silver|9999 |1 |

Syncing DB changes

Since we want to keep the database in sync, we want entimport to be able to change the schema after the database was changed. Let's see how it works.

Run the following SQL code to add a phone column with a unique index to the users table:

alter table users
add phone varchar(255) null;

create unique index users_phone_uindex
on users (phone);

The table should look like this:

describe users;
| Field | Type | Null | Key | Default | Extra |
| id | bigint | NO | PRI | NULL | auto_increment |
| age | bigint | NO | | NULL | |
| name | varchar(255) | NO | | NULL | |
| last_name | varchar(255) | YES | | NULL | |
| phone | varchar(255) | YES | UNI | NULL | |

Now let's run entimport again to get the latest schema from our database:

go run -mod=mod -dialect mysql -dsn "root:pass@tcp(localhost:3306)/entimport"

We can see that the user.go file was changed:

func (User) Fields() []ent.Field {
return []ent.Field{field.Int("id"), ..., field.String("phone").Optional().Unique()}

Now we can run go generate ./ent again and use the new schema to add a phone to the User entity.

Future Plans

As mentioned above this initial version supports MySQL and PostgreSQL databases.
It also supports all types of SQL relations. I have plans to further upgrade the tool and add features such as missing PostgreSQL fields, default values, and more.

Wrapping Up

In this post, I presented entimport, a tool that was anticipated and requested many times by the Ent community. I showed an example of how to use it with Ent. This tool is another addition to Ent schema import tools, which are designed to make the integration of ent even easier. For discussion and support, open an issue. The full example can be found in here. I hope you found this blog post useful!

For more Ent news and updates: