Farrago Extensibility

One of the innovative aspects of the Farrago architecture is its approach to extensibility. Of course, features such as user-defined types and routines are hardly novel, and earlier DBMS projects have taken extensibility quite far already by applying it to features such as indexing and access methods. In this document, we'll explain how Farrago radically redefines what it means for a DBMS platform to be extensible. By way of illustration, here's a plain, boring DBMS which hasn't been extended in any way:

The Gist

Farrago provides system-level extensibility instead of just feature-level extensibility.

What does this mean? A platform with feature-level extensibility defines a fixed set of extensible features, and for each one defines service-provider interfaces and mechanisms for plugging in custom implementations. Here's our friend again after his feet and one of his eyes have been customized independently:

Examples of extensible features in existing DBMS projects include

But what if the platform doesn't have the feature you want in the first place? For example, important capabilities like sequences, materialized views, triggers, XML, or federated queries may not be available in your favorite DBMS yet. Or perhaps you have invented something new and equally powerful, and are trying to figure out how to bolt it on.

Without system-level extensibility, your options are limited:

  1. If your platform of choice is open-source, fork it and patch in your new feature. Every time the platform is upgraded, you'll have to merge the changes and deal with conflicts if you want to keep up with it. If your innovation is good, you may be able to get it accepted as a contribution so that other developers will share the maintenance burden, but impediments such as project politics or license conflicts may prevent you.
  2. Attempt to shoehorn your feature in by abusing one or more of the existing extension interfaces. This may work for simple features, but the result is unlikely to be very attractive to users.
  3. Drop the notion of reusing a generic DBMS platform altogether and start building your own from scratch. Don't laugh; it's been done too many times already.
Farrago aims to change all of that, and its architecture has been planned out with this goal in mind, leading to exciting new possibilities for every part of the system to be involved in extensibility, and for entirely new features to be incorporated:

How do we do it? There are a few keys to the approach:

Use Cases

Here are just a few examples of the variety of system-level extensions the Farrago framework should be able to support:

Reality Check

The pitch above may sound like a lot of pie in the sky. And in truth, there are limitations on any extensible architecture. Some of them are due to blind spots; it's impossible to foresee every possible direction in which the system might be stretched. Others are due to practical constraints; we may know that a component needs to be involved in extensibility, but we haven't yet gotten the time to do it right, or we haven't come up with enough use-cases to feel confident that the extensibility design will be generic enough. Still others are simply out of scope; for example, you may be able to cobble together a distributed system out of multiple nodes running Farrago, and the loosely-coupled design may assist you in this, but the architecture does not address distributed-system issues, so the promise of extensibility isn't going to be very relevant.

So, even using Farrago as a platform, you may at times still be faced with some of the unpleasant choices enumerated earlier in this document. However, you may be able to contribute extensibility enhancements to the platform and use them to satisfy your requirement, without the need for any ongoing patch/merge maintenance. And because of the system-level extensibility design goal, others are more likely to assist you with such an enhancement (assuming you take a sufficiently generic approach instead of just slipping in a special-case hack).

The success of the Eclipse project, an IDE "for anything and nothing in particular," provides hope that it's possible to do something similar for data management services.

In case it's not clear, taking advantage of system-level extensibility requires skilled developers with an understanding of UML modeling and server-side Java. For end-users and less-sophisticated developers, feature-level extensibility is more appropriate.


Extended functionality is added to Farrago by installing plugins, which are packaged as jars (with accompanying shared libraries for plugins which contain C++ components). Plugins are typically installed via DDL commands, and in most cases installation does not require restart of the JVM running Farrago (exceptions are noted below). This list provides an overview of the currently supported plugin categories:

Toy Example: Random Number Generator

The rest of this document walks through a specific example in detail to give a deeper sense of how system-level extensibility works. The source code for this example is available under dev/farrago/examples/rng, and can be compiled and built to test the extensibility mechanisms involved. (If you have a Farrago developer build, run ant createPlugin from that directory.) It also serves as a good clonable starting-point for creating your own extension.

The premise is that we'd like to be able to add a random-number generator object to the system. It should be a first-class object like a traditional sequence generator, and should have persistent state to guarantee that the pseudo-random sequence won't repeat for as long as possible. Here's some sample SQL for how we want to be able to define and use a random-number generator:

-- define a new random number generator;
-- persist its state in a file named rng1.dat,
-- and give it an explicit seed so that the sequence is deterministic
create rng rng1 external 'rng1.dat' seed 999;

-- use a generated random number as a primary key for a new department;
-- generate the integer without any bound on the bits used to minimize
-- chance of a key collision
insert into depts(deptno,name)
values (next_random_int(unbounded from rng1), 'Lost and Found');

-- for each employee, generate a random number from 0 to 6 representing
-- the employee's day off
select name, next_random_int(ceiling 7 from rng1) as day_off
from emps;
To accomplish this, we'll need a plugin which can serve as a catalog model extension (to add the definition of a random-number generator) and a session personality (to add the DDL support for creating/dropping rng's, and to add the query support for referencing them).

NOTE: this example plugin is not designed for production use; it does not have proper concurrency control and transaction semantics, and its file-system persistence mechanism is neither high performance nor fault tolerant. Instead, the implementation is intended to be kept simple for instructional purposes.

Example Continued: Extending the Catalog Model

For this first step, it's necessary to use a UML modeling tool to create a definition of the model extension and export it as XMI. What's more, we need a way to reference the standard catalog model so that we can specify how the extension model relates to it. Here's how it looks in Poseidon:

Our new UML class (RandomNumberGenerator) is a subclass of the generic CWM class ModelElement. Having ModelElement as a superclass means that a RandomNumberGenerator has a name, can be contained by a schema, and can have dependency relationships with other objects. We've defined two additional attributes for it: serializedFile is the file-system location where the persistent state is stored, and initialSeed is the (optional) seed defined when the RNG is created (if missing, the current time will be used).

For such a simple model extension, usage of UML may appear to be overkill, and one could argue that a lighter-weight modeling infrastructure such as XSD or POJO reflection would be more appropriate. However, most real system-level extensions are expected to involve many classes with complex hierarchies and associations--a domain in which UML is the best fit. In addition, the rest of the system is JMI-based, and we want model extensions to work exactly like the rest of the model.

Once the extension model has been defined in UML, it can be translated into JMI packages and corresponding XMI deployment descriptor. To do this, the build script invokes the plugin.buildModel target inherited from the framework script dev/farrago/plugin/buildPlugin.xml. The JMI interfaces are generated under dev/farrago/examples/rng/catalog/java. The XMI deployment descriptor is generated as dev/farrago/examples/rng/catalog/xmi/RngPluginModelExport.xmi.

Example Continued: Defining Extended Model Behavior

Next, we need to add custom DDL handling. This is the job of class net.sf.farrago.rng.FarragoRngDdlHandler. It supplies a number of handler routines: To tell Farrago what to do with our model plugin when it is loaded, we need to implement extension interface net.sf.farrago.session.FarragoSessionModelExtensionFactory. This is done by class net.sf.farrago.rng.FarragoRngPluginFactory, which takes care of returning DDL handlers when requested (and also other model aspects such as localization, which is not covered here).

At this point, we have everything we need to build and install a model plugin jar, and the installation would create new system tables capable of storing metadata about RNG's. However, doing so wouldn't be very useful yet, because even though we've told the system what an RNG is and how to react when someone wants to create one or drop one, we haven't yet extended the DDL parser to actually support the custom CREATE/DROP statements. (Theoretically, parser-generation could be model-driven as well, but most system-level extensions require custom syntax.) For that, we need a session personality plugin.

Example Continued: Extending The DDL Parser

Like everything else in the framework, the Farrago parsers are defined to be extended. JavaCC doesn't support this out of the box, but we have devised our own extensibility mechanisms on top of it. In particular, we use textual concatenation of the .jj grammar source files, and we design those grammar files to be reusable. Currently, only one extension parser can be active in a session at a time (unlike with models, we don't yet have a mechanism for combining multiple extension parsers.)

Here's a snippet of the RNG example DDL parser (dev/farrago/examples/rng/src/net/sf/farrago/rng/RngParser.jj):

CwmModelElement ExtensionModelSchemaObjDefinition() :
    RngRandomNumberGenerator rng;
    SqlIdentifier qualifiedName;
    String externalLocation;
    long seed;
            rng = getRngModelPackage().getRngschema()
    qualifiedName = CompoundIdentifier3()
                rng, qualifiedName);
    <EXTERNAL> externalLocation = QuotedString()
    [ <SEED> seed = UnsignedValue() { rng.setInitialSeed(new Long(seed)); } ]
        return rng;

CwmModelElement ExtensionModelDrop() :
    SqlIdentifier qualifiedName;
    RngRandomNumberGenerator rng;
    <RNG> qualifiedName = CompoundIdentifier3()
            rng = (RngRandomNumberGenerator)
            return rng;

| < RNG: "RNG" >
| < SEED: "SEED" >
The ExtensionModelSchemaObjDefinition and ExtensionModelDrop grammar productions are defined as no-ops in the standard parser; here we override them to accept our custom RNG syntax and specify how to store the object definition in the catalog (for later processing by FarragoRngDdlHandler). In addition, JavaCC allows us to define new tokens as needed.

All that's left is to make sure that FarragoRngPluginFactory implements extension interface net.sf.farrago.session.FarragoSessionPersonalityFactory and supplies Farrago with our customized parser instead of the default.

Example Continued: Testing the Plugin

At this point, we have everything we need to be able to instantiate RNG's, but we still can't access them from queries. For the impatient reader, let's use a quick-and-dirty approach: we'll create a user-defined function to do the job. (Later, we'll explain how to extend the query parser so that we don't need to rely on this UDF.)

Class class net.sf.farrago.rng.FarragoRngUDR contains static method rng_next_int which can be used for this purpose. It takes the name of the RNG and the desired ceiling and produces an integer. It works by performing a catalog lookup to get the location of the serialization file for the RNG, and then accesses that file to instantiate the RNG, generate the next number, and then persist the modified state.

The ant createPlugin task takes care of building the plugin (dev/farrago/examples/rng/plugin/FarragoRng.jar). Installing a model plugin performs some heavy-duty surgery on the repository, and should only be performed from a single-user instance of Farrago, so we'll use sqllineEngine for this purpose:

0: jdbc:farrago:> set schema 'sys_boot.sys_boot';
No rows affected (4.869 seconds)
0: jdbc:farrago:>
0: jdbc:farrago:> create jar rngplugin
. . . . . . . . > library 'file:${FARRAGO_HOME}/examples/rng/plugin/FarragoRng.jar'
. . . . . . . . > options(0);
No rows affected (0.197 seconds)
0: jdbc:farrago:>
0: jdbc:farrago:> alter system add catalog jar rngplugin;
No rows affected (7.887 seconds)
0: jdbc:farrago:> Closing: net.sf.farrago.jdbc.engine.FarragoJdbcEngineConnection

(After the ALTER SYSTEM ADD CATALOG JAR statement completes, the system is in an unusable state and must be shut down immediately; the next restart will complete the installation process as part of catalog boot.)

Now, let's give our newly installed plugin a whirl:

0: jdbc:farrago:> create schema rngtest;
No rows affected (0.21 seconds)
0: jdbc:farrago:> set schema 'rngtest';
No rows affected (2.223 seconds)
0: jdbc:farrago:> set path 'rngtest';
No rows affected (0.022 seconds)
0: jdbc:farrago:> alter session implementation set jar sys_boot.sys_boot.rngplugin;
No rows affected (0.049 seconds)
0: jdbc:farrago:> create rng rng1 external '${FARRAGO_HOME}/testgen/rng1.dat' seed 999;
No rows affected (0.446 seconds)
0: jdbc:farrago:> create function rng_next_int(
. . . . . . . . >     rng_name varchar(512),
. . . . . . . . >     n int)
. . . . . . . . > returns int
. . . . . . . . > language java
. . . . . . . . > reads sql data
. . . . . . . . > external name
. . . . . . . . > 'sys_boot.sys_boot.rngplugin:net.sf.farrago.rng.FarragoRngUDR.rng_next_int';
No rows affected (0.444 seconds)
0: jdbc:farrago:> select name,rng_next_int('rng1',7) as day_off
. . . . . . . . > from sales.emps;
|  NAME  | DAY_OFF  |
| Fred   | 1        |
| Eric   | 6        |
| Wilma  | 5        |
| John   | 1        |
4 rows selected (0.081 seconds)
Note that we had to explicitly activate the session personality via ALTER SESSION IMPLEMENTATION SET JAR. Normally, either a system-level extension would include a session manager implementation which does this automatically, or the correct default personality would be associated with each user profile (this association is not yet implemented).

Example Continued: Extending the Query Parser

The UDF above did the job, but it has a few drawbacks: We can do better, but it involves digging into the Farrago query processing system. So if you've already had enough low-level internals for your taste, you can stop reading now. Otherwise, let's take a look at the parser change for our custom query syntax:

SqlNode ExtendedBuiltinFunctionCall() :
    SqlIdentifier id;
    long longCeiling;
    int ceiling = -1;
    RngRandomNumberGenerator rng;
             <CEILING> longCeiling = UnsignedValue()
                 ceiling = (int) longCeiling;
             | <UNBOUNDED>
         id = CompoundIdentifier3()
            rng = (RngRandomNumberGenerator)
                new SqlNode [] {
ExtendedBuiltinFunctionCall is another parser extension point. Our custom production and accompanying Java code constructs a SqlNode instance representing the NEXT_RANDOM_INT call.

But what is that reference to FarragoRngOperatorTable? Our plugin defines an extension to the standard table of SQL operators provided by Farrago. For each custom expression such as NEXT_RANDOM_INT, we define a corresponding operator (FarragoRngNextRandomIntOperator in this case) with custom behavior for validating instances of the expression (and other details, such as how to unparse expression instances back into SQL text). The validation code also calls back into Farrago to record the dependency of the query on the RNG.

Besides validation, we also need to tell Farrago how to generate executable code to implement the expression as part of a query plan. This logic is encapsulated in FarragoRngImplementorTable, which generates Java code for a call to an optimized version of the UDF defined previously. This optimized version (rng_next_int_internal) takes the persistence file location as a parameter so that it can skip the catalog lookup (which instead is done only once during query validation).

Finally, FarragoRngPluginFactory takes care of making sure that our custom validation and code generation behavior gets supplied to Farrago by implementing the correct session personality interfaces. Putting it all together:

0: jdbc:farrago:> set schema 'rngtest';
No rows affected (0.018 seconds)
0: jdbc:farrago:>
0: jdbc:farrago:> create view emp_days_off as
. . . . . . . . > select name,next_random_int(ceiling 7 from rng1) as day_off
. . . . . . . . > from sales.emps;
No rows affected (1.28 seconds)
0: jdbc:farrago:>
0: jdbc:farrago:> select * from emp_days_off;
|  NAME  | DAY_OFF  |
| Fred   | 0        |
| Eric   | 6        |
| Wilma  | 3        |
| John   | 2        |
4 rows selected (3.976 seconds)
0: jdbc:farrago:>
0: jdbc:farrago:> drop rng rng1 restrict;
Error: Dropping random number generator "RNGTEST"."RNG1" requires CASCADE because other objects still reference it (state=,code=0)
0: jdbc:farrago:>
0: jdbc:farrago:> drop view emp_days_off;
No rows affected (0.277 seconds)
0: jdbc:farrago:>
0: jdbc:farrago:> drop rng rng1 restrict;
No rows affected (0.052 seconds)
Note that the first drop attempt failed due to the dependency of EMP_DAYS_OFF on RNG1. The custom drop logic in FarragoRngDdlHandler does not do anything special to enforce the RESTRICT option; instead, the uncustomized DDL validator knows how to enforce that automatically because dependencies are a generic part of the catalog model, and our model extension is now part of the catalog model. Likewise, the statement DROP SCHEMA RNGTEST CASCADE will know that it is supposed to drop the contained object RNG1, automatically invoking its custom RNG drop logic as well.

Example Completed: Extending Metadata Views

Earlier, this document claimed that model-driven architecture meant that extension models propagate through the system automatically. We've already seen one example with DROP RESTRICT. Now let's see what it means in the context of metadata views. When the model was extended during plugin installation, internal system views were auto-created for each UML class in the extension model (contained by corresponding internal schemas for each UML package in the extension model). To expose these, all that's necessary is to create a virtual SQL/MED catalog:

0: jdbc:farrago:> create server sys_rng
. . . . . . . . > foreign data wrapper sys_mdr
. . . . . . . . > options(root_package_name 'RNGModel');
No rows affected (0.114 seconds)
0: jdbc:farrago:>
0: jdbc:farrago:> select * from sys_rng."RNGSchema"."RandomNumberGenerator";
| name  | visibility  |      namespace      |          serializedFile           | initialSeed  |        mofId        |      mofClassName      |
| RNG1  | vk_public   | j:0000000000001DE1  | ${FARRAGO_HOME}/testgen/rng1.dat  | 999          | j:0000000000001DE6  | RandomNumberGenerator  |
1 row selected (0.802 seconds)
To get a view with information more meaningful to an end-user, we can join to one of the internal views used to define standard JDBC metadata:

0: jdbc:farrago:> create view rng_list as
. . . . . . . . >     select
. . . . . . . . >         s.object_catalog as rng_catalog,
. . . . . . . . >         s.object_schema as rng_schema,
. . . . . . . . >         r."name" as rng_name,
. . . . . . . . >         r."serializedFile" as serialized_file,
. . . . . . . . >         r."initialSeed" as initial_seed
. . . . . . . . >     from
. . . . . . . . >         sys_boot.jdbc_metadata.schemas_view_internal s
. . . . . . . . >     inner join
. . . . . . . . >         sys_rng."RNGSchema"."RandomNumberGenerator" r
. . . . . . . . >     on
. . . . . . . . >         s."mofId" = r."namespace"
. . . . . . . . > ;
No rows affected (0.504 seconds)
0: jdbc:farrago:>
0: jdbc:farrago:> select * from rng_list;
| LOCALDB      | RNGTEST     | RNG1      | ${FARRAGO_HOME}/testgen/rng1.dat  | 999           |
1 row selected (3.363 seconds)
A real system-level extension can include a script for adding such cleaned views to the catalog as part of plugin installation (not yet implemented: SQL/J jar deployment descriptors).


If you've made it this far, you should now have a good notion of what's possible with Farrago's system-level extensibility; perhaps you even have an idea for developing your own extension. If so, we'd love to hear from you at the farrago-developers mailing list.
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