SQL for JSON Rationalization Part 4: Projection – General Functionality

After the demo in the last blog (Part 3) it is time to discuss some of the assumptions and the projection functionality in more detail – here and in the next blog.

Assumptions: Array Start Index, JSON Literals and JSON Value Equality

The JSON standard does not define the starting index of the first array element. The assumption made here is that the first index is 0 (zero).

The JSON standard requires the literals “null”, “true” and “false” to be lower case. However, the assumption made here is that all lower as well as upper case combinations work, e.g., “True”, for convenience.

Another aspect the JSON standard does not define is equality on JSON values. There are many ways to define when two JSON values are equal. Here equality is defined on the string representation of the JSON values that contain no white space and where the property names in JSON objects are sorted alphabetically.

Definitions: Full and Partial Path

A full path is a sequence of property names as well as array indexes from the root of a JSON document all the way to one of its leaves. The elements of a path are separated by “.”. For example, “c.[3].e” is a full path from the root “c” to the leaf “e” in one of the demo documents of the previous blog. A path must start with a property name and cannot start with an array index. A path cannot be empty and the minimum path consists of a single property name.

Using “.” as separator is a random choice, but made by many systems. Having array indexes enclosed in “[” and “]” is customary also. Denoting an array index as separate path element (aka, enclosed in “.”) is also a convenient choice.

Given a JSON object, a full path might exist within it or not. Given a JSON object and a path, using the path as an access structure identifies a value only if the full path exists in the JSON document. If the path does not exist within the JSON document then no value is identified; especially not the JSON literal “null”.

A partial path is a sequence of property names and array indexes starting at the root, but not necessarily ending at a leaf, but at an intermediary property or array index. This supports “reaching into” a JSON document and identifying a JSON value that is between the root and a leaf.

Like in case of full paths, given a JSON object, a partial path might or might not exist within it. A partial path only identifies a JSON value if the partial path exists within a JSON object. In this case it identifies a composite JSON value.

If a JSON document has only scalar properties, then the root properties are the leaf properties at the same time. Paths in this context are full paths and partial paths cannot exist.

Projection

Unlike in the relational model, in context of the JSON model the result of a query can be returned as a relational table, or as a set of JSON documents. The choice is made by the query author.

The projection in a select statement contains one or more (full or partial) paths. If the paths are enclosed by a “{“ and “}” then JSON documents are returned, otherwise a table  (the asterisk projection is discussed below).

For example, the query from the previous blog

select a, b.c, d.[3].e from tinycoll

returns a table with three columns.

Semantically, each path in the projection will be a separate column. Each document from the collection “tinycoll” is taken and a corresponding row is added to the table. For each path of the projection that is found in the document the value is added to the row. If a path does not exist, no value is added in the column corresponding to the path. Therefore, a row can have values in every column, in some columns, or in no column, depending if the paths exist in the document.

As in relational SQL, the order of the paths matters as the corresponding columns will be created in that order.

The column names are created from the paths by replacing “.” in the path representation with “_” as many relational systems do not support “.” as column names.

The query

select {a, b.c, d.[3].e} from tinycoll

returns a set of JSON documents.

Semantically, each document from the collection “tinycoll” is taken and an empty result document is created for it. Each of the paths from the projection are followed within the document from the collection. If a value is found, the path with the corresponding value is added to the result document. It is possible that the document from the collection contains all, some, or none of the paths from the projection. Therefore, the result document might contain all, some, or none of the paths (empty document).

The order of the paths in the projection does not matter as JSON documents are created and order of properties / paths is not defined for JSON objects.

As a note, according to the construction principle of the result JSON documents, the paths in the projection of the select statement and the paths in the result JSON documents are exactly the same (if they exist). No translation is necessary from the viewpoint of the client between the paths in the query and the paths in the result documents.

Asterisk Projection

The asterisk projection is supported. The query

select {*} from tinycoll

returns all documents stored in the collection “tinycoll” as they are without any modification.

The query

select * from tinycoll

Returns a table that has any many columns as there are full and partial paths into all documents of the collection “tinycoll”.

Semantically, each document from the collection “tinycoll” is taken and a row is created for it. For each full as well as partial path in the document the value is retrieved and put into the corresponding column of the row. There is a column for each possible path and the set of columns can be predetermined or dynamically added to the result table as needed. As before, the column names are the path with the “.” replaced by “_”.

Summary

This was a first closer look into the details of projection in context of JSON SQL and the next blog will continue the project discussion. The key take away is that JSON SQL can return JSON documents as well as tables based on a well-defined execution semantics centered around JSON paths.

Go [ JSON | Relational ] SQL!

Disclaimer

The views expressed on this blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Oracle.

 

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