Ember Data is a wonderful tool, and frequently makes you feel like dealing with a REST or JSONAPI back end is super easy, and downright magical. When your API conforms to the standards laid out by REST or JSONAPI, you basically do not need any adapters or serializers, and can just define your attrs, belongsTo, and hasMany relationships, and things "just work".

However, when things do not conform, as they should, and you have to customize things, it can get a bit hairy. I recently had a particular situation that was giving me a lot of trouble, so I reached out to the Ember Data Master himself, @runspired, for help.

We had a relationship like website -> page -> pageViewStats, where each website could have multiple pages and each page would have a single pageViewStats object. However, we had an endpoint of the form /api/v3/websites/{websiteId}/pageViewStats, and this endpoint would return an array of objects of type pageViewStat.

This array would need to live on the website model as a hasMany relationship.

// models/website.js
import Model from 'ember-data/model';
import { hasMany } from 'ember-data/relationships';

export default Model.extend({
  pageViewStats: hasMany('pageViewStat', {
    async: true
  })
});  

Then, however, since we did not have a url that conformed to REST standards, we had to do some magic to add this relationship into links, which we did in the website serializer. This technique was learned from a blog post by David Tang.

// serializers/website.js
import DS from 'ember-data';

export default DS.RESTSerializer.extend({
  normalizeFindAllResponse(store, type, payload) {
    payload.websites.forEach((website) => {
      website.links = {
        pageViewStats: `/api/v3/websites/${website.id}/pageViewStats`
      };
    });

    return this._super(...arguments);
  },

  normalizeFindRecordResponse(store, type, payload) {
    payload.website.links = {
      pageViewStats: `/api/v3/websites/${website.id}/pageViewStats`
    };

    return this._super(...arguments);
  }
});

This correctly setup our hasMany relationship so if all we needed was that, we would be done, but we did not actually consume the website.pageViewStats array directly, rather we needed a belongsTo relationship on a third model, page, which would map to an entry in our hasMany array where page.id === pageViewStats.id. Since we were not using the values from the hasMany directly, and never called get on them, we had to make sure they were loaded in the model hook.

model(params) {
  return this.store.findRecord('website', params.id)
    .then(website => {
      return website.hasMany('pageViewStats').load().then(() => {
        return website;
      });
    });
},

With our data successfully loaded into the model and the hasMany triggered, we could then be sure the data was available, and ready to map to our belongsTo relationship. We would need to define a belongsTo in the page model and the inverse to it in the pageViewStat model.

// models/page.js
import Model from 'ember-data/model';
import { belongsTo } from 'ember-data/relationships';

export default Model.extend({
  pageViewStats: belongsTo('pageViewStat', { async: false })
});
//models/page-view-stat.js
import Model from 'ember-data/model';
import { belongsTo } from 'ember-data/relationships';

export default Model.extend({
  page: belongsTo('page', { async: false })
});

Finally, we had to setup a relationship in the pageViewStat serializer, by looping through the hasMany records, and setting the page relationship on each of them.

// serializers/page-view-stat.js
import DS from 'ember-data';

export default DS.JSONSerializer.extend({
  normalizeResponse(store, ModelClass, rawPayload, id, requestType) {
    let normalized = this._super(store, ModelClass, rawPayload, id, requestType);

    if (requestType === 'findHasMany') {
      normalized.data.forEach(resource => {
        let r = resource.relationships = resource.relationships || {};

        r.page = { data: { type: 'page', id: resource.id } };
      });
    }

    return normalized;
  }
});

This allowed us to have one aggregated data set sent down from one API call, which populated the hasMany, and also allowed us to access the specific pageViewStat records associated with each page record by just checking page.pageViewStats, which accomplished our ultimate goal of displaying a table of page records, and listing the pageViewStat values for each. Keep in mind our endpoints were not correctly REST or JSONAPI formatted, and neither of these relationships existed from our API, so we manually forced them in.

Hopefully this helps someone struggling, as I did, with how to setup relationships for something that is not related at all from the back end!