Fwd: Protocol extensions for federated querying

Hi everyone,

Accidentally sent this to the sparql-dev list. Forwarded to the
correct place now with apologies....

This meets the commitment I made for ACTION-124.

So far, all the comments I've seen on federated queries have been
about the suggested query syntax. To date I'm in agreement with what
I've seen proposed.

I am also interested in extending the protocol to support federation a
little better. At the moment, all queries are done as a simple request
via a GET or a POST. In the case of POST, the endpoint alone is
provided in the URL, and the query appears in the body.

I'd like to see a form of POST that includes a SPARQL variable binding
result in the body (a la http://www.w3.org/TR/rdf-sparql-XMLres/). In
this way the receiving query engine can work with prebindings that are
provided to it, allowing it to reduce the result that is to be
streamed back to the calling engine.

To give an example, I'll reference the two datasets found in 8.3 of
the SPARQL Query Language document:

If we make the presumption that the named graph
http://example.org/foaf/aliceFoaf can be found at
http://sparql.org/sparql/, then I might want to issue the following
query to get the names of people whose nicknames are in the bobFoaf

SELECT ?nick ?name
FROM <http://example.org/foaf/bobFoaf>
 ?p1 foaf:nick ?nick .
 ?p1 foaf:mbox ?mbox
 SERVICE <http://sparql.org/sparql/> {
   SELECT ?mbox ?name
   FROM <http://example.org/foaf/aliceFoaf>
   WHERE { ?p2 foaf:mbox ?mbox . ?p2 foaf:name ?name }

The part of the query in the SERVICE block would usually return the following:
<?xml version="1.0"?>
<sparql xmlns="http://www.w3.org/2005/sparql-results#">
   <variable name="mbox"/>
   <variable name="name"/>
     <binding name="mbox"><uri>mailto:alice@work.example</uri></binding>
     <binding name="name"><literal>Alice</literal></binding>
     <binding name="mbox"><uri>mailto:bob@work.example</uri></binding>
     <binding name="name"><literal>Bob</literal></binding>

Note that this is information for both Bob and Alice. This can then be
joined to the remainder of the query, which reduces the results to
just Bob.

However, a query engine may instead want to evaluate Bob first. This
may be desirable if some COUNT queries have already been issued, and
the query engine knows that the results of the SERVICE block will
return a large number of results, while the local data would bind
?mbox to only a few values. In that case, the local binding of ?mbox
could be sent along with the query (?p1 and ?nick are not necessary
for the remote service). This could be accomplished using a POST that
has the query in the URL, and the bindings in the body.

POST /sparql/?query=SELECT+%3Fmbox+%3Fname+FROM+%3Chttp%3A%2F%2Fexample.org%2Ffoaf%2FaliceFoaf%3E+WHERE+%7B+%3Fp2+foaf%3Ambox+%3Fmbox+.+%3Fp2+foaf%3Aname+%3Fname+%7D
Content-Length: xxxxxx
Content-Type: multipart/form-data; boundary=ZpwZZc62ZXXjf0InvlrBjTWNrJSp--FL
Host: sparql.org
Connection: Keep-Alive
User-Agent: example

Content-Disposition: form-data; name="query-prebinding"
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=UTF-8
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 8bit

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<sparql xmlns="http://www.w3.org/2005/sparql-results#">
   <variable name="mbox"/>
     <binding name="mbox"><uri>mailto:bob@work.example</uri></binding>


With this pre-binding, the remote query engine is able to reduce it's
results to just the one for Bob, thereby cutting the returned size
down by nearly half.

One potential issue is for very long queries that also want to be
placed into the body of a POST. In that case we could simply define
the names of each section (in the example above I've used a name of

What do others think? Does this proposal have merit?

Paul Gearon

Received on Wednesday, 21 October 2009 12:35:08 UTC