Stardog 3 is the result of more than 10,000 commits and it’s headed this way. Let’s preview the goodness.

In this long post we’ll look at notable improvements in Stardog 3, including

  • HA Cluster and performance improvements
  • improvements to Stardog’s reasoning capabilities
  • improvements to ICV, search, and some miscellaneous items

High Availability Cluster

Stardog HA Cluster beta was released in Fall, 2014; while it was usable, it wasn’t as robust as we wanted. Let’s start by saying that distributed systems of any kind are hard. And distributed semantic graph databases are even harder. But for the 3.0 release Edgar Rodriguez Diaz and Fernando Hernandez beat the Cluster into shape.

We’ve improved Cluster by using ZooKeeper more efficiently, having better stability in the system, and making it more tolerant to corner-case failures. The group membership mechanism we used in beta was based on a heartbeat component, which was replaced by ZK’s ephemeral znodes. Which gives us a better representation of the participants and their membership properties within the cluster.

We also fixed the case where Stardog nodes lose connection with the ZooKeeper ensemble because of network problems. Now Cluster can detect when Stardog nodes need to wait for an available connection, for example. Cluster state is now handled by using NodeCache and PathChildrenCache recipes from Curator, which allow us to replace most of the znode watchers we’d implemented, letting Curator manage znode information updates.

We also improved leader-follower replication mechanism for distributed transactions in Cluster. We were using blocking calls to replicate the data from the leader node to follower nodes; however, this scaled poorly. Instead we implemented a variant of two-phase commit with ZooKeeper, which uses asynchronous calls for replicating the data across nodes. When a new transaction is started, the leader will create a znode corresponding to the transaction. Then follower nodes will create equivalent znodes for their transactions; the leader will subscribe to those follower-znodes in order to detect status updates and orchestrate the transaction in a reactive manner.

With these improvements you can expect the distributed transaction throughput to be comparable to Stardog 2.x single-server write throughput; of course, there is some overhead involved in the orchestration of the distributed transaction, but for large databases it tends to be negligible.

Stardog 3 is ready for continuous operations.

Annual Subscription License Model

Since HA Cluster is ready for production now, we’re introducing a new wrinkle in the Stardog licensing model: per-node annual subscriptions, which are optimized for multi-node clusters.

Annual subscription fees include maintenance, support, and access to all releases. This is a particularly good choice for running Stardog in the cloud since it’s based on JVMs, not servers or VMs. Fees are based on the number of nodes (i.e., JVMs) you need (counting only Stardogs, not ZooKeepers) and are priced to provide real high availability (i.e., at least a 3-node cluster) for the same license fees as a single machine pre-3.0 license; annual subscription fees also have the advantage of shifting your spend from cap-ex to op-ex in most cases. A 3-node cluster is the smallest annual subscription we offer and discount curves are pretty steep starting at 9 nodes.

Get in touch to discuss licensing.

Query Performance

Stardog has always been optimized for SPARQL query evaluation performance. We continue to treat slow queries as bugs to be fixed as quickly as possible. Here are a few of the changes that improve query performance in Stardog 3.

We made hash and loop joins more memory efficient. The classic hash and (nested) loop join algorithms are memory intensive. For example, HashJoin(A, B) would typically create an in-memory hashtable for B and then look up joinable solutions while iterating over A. This is problematic if B produces a lot of bindings since they all have to sit in memory. They might even sit there long enough to be promoted to the old GC generation with all the entailed problems.

One way to address this issue, implemented in Stardog 2.x, is persistent hashtables. This addresses the memory problem but at a certain cost: persistent hashtables are slower to build and use.

Stardog 3 can take an operator and use it as a hashtable, which works best if the operator is sorted so that each look-up can be done in O(logN) time. The new implementation doesn’t incur any upfront cost and is, thus, ideal for queries with a LIMIT clause or ASK form.

We implemented new optimizations for the new hashtables. Consider a query:

Imagine that A and B are unselective and C is very selective. Stardog 2.x favors hash joins with small hash tables and would create a join tree like HashJoin(A MergeJoin(B, C)). Since C is selective, MergeJoin(B, C) may return few bindings, making the hashtable of the top hash join small. But the top hash join requires full iteration over A, which is a lot of IO.

Stardog 3 finds a better plan: HashJoin(MergeJoin(B, C), A). Now we iterate over the small number of bindings returned by MergeJoin(B, C) and for each do a O(logN) lookup directly in the index for A, which now looks like a hash table for the top hash join. This requires very little IO and memory at only a marginal cost of look-up O(logN), instead of pseudo-constant time for real hashtables.

We made in-memory hashtables more efficient. It’s still important to have fast in-memory hashtables for those case where it seems like building them leads to better plans. Stardog 3’s hashtables were rewritten to make sure no unnecessary memory is ever spent in any of the relevant data structures.

We made other query planner improvements. Stardog 3 has a new cost model for the planner to take full advantage of the new hash and loop join algorithms. We also implemented a new algorithm for algebraic rewriting, i.e., transforming the original SPARQL algebra into an equivalent one for which it is more likely that the join order optimizer will find the optimal join tree, which is particularly important for complex queries with UNION and OPTIONAL. The trick here is to figure out which BGPs can act like a key, propagate that information throughout the plan tree, determine if cardinalities can be reduced by joining with this key, and then compute chains of patterns to connect the key with the relevant scopes.

Write Performance

Stardog has till now privileged reads over writes; but that doesn’t mean we accept slow write performance. Stardog’s write speed at database creation time has been one of the best in the industry for a while; and now with Stardog 3, updates to an existing database are equally fast, which means a big speedup in the common case.

Stardog 3 is also more clever about handling updates so there are fewer configuration options to tweak. The number of threads used for parsing and processing files, the size of buffers used during processing, etc. are automatically computed and adjusted so you can add a few triples or a lot without tweaking.

Concurrency for transactions has also been improved: read queries can continue execution while a large update transaction is committed. This means you can wipe and reload a database while it is online without disrupting queries in-flight. As an added benefit, the logs will show the progress for long write transactions, just like the progress of database creation, so that you’ll know when a huge update is going to finish.

Know Equals? No Equals.

Until the Stardog 3 release we supported query-time reasoning for OWL and user-defined rules, but that didn’t include equality reasoning. So if you had owl:sameAs assertions in your database, they would not be included in reasoning results. And axioms like owl:hasKey were not be used to infer new owl:sameAs inferences. One reason for this omission is that the semantics of equality—recall: equality is reflexive, symmetric, and transitive—are difficult to implement efficiently in a query rewriting system.

Stardog 3 supports full equality reasoning, by materializing owl:sameAs inferences, and thus offers a hybrid of materialized and query-time reasoning capability. Equality inferences are automatically computed so that query rewriting can use this information in a straight-forward way. Equality inferences are automatically updated when the database contents are changed and always reflect the latest state. Stardog 3 is the first and only graph database to support all of OWL 2 and SWRL, including all of the OWL 2 profiles.

Automated Repair Plans

Stardog provides proof trees to explain why an integrity constraint is violated. Proof trees show in detail which assertions were involved in the violation and how these assertions interact with each other. You can use this information to correct errors and repair violations. If you are faced with the problem of cleaning up a messy dataset, then you might be looking at many violations that need to be fixed; but examining each proof manually and serially is cumbersome.

Stardog 3 provides automatically generated repair plans that will fix a set of violations. There are various configuration parameters users can use to change what kind of repair plans will be generated. For example, the default setting will try to minimize the total number actions (additions or removals) required to fix all the violations. So if removing a single triple could fix multiple violations, it will likely be included in the repair plan since that triple seems to contradict with many other assertions. Users can also define custom metrics for generating repair plans.

The repair plans generated by Stardog can be saved as SPARQL update operations so that they are portable and can be shared with other parties or systems easily.

Reasoning Simplified

While Stardog supports all OWL 2 profiles (EL, QL, and RL), as well as OWL 2 DL, that doesn’t mean users should have to learn all the ins-and-outs of these profiles. It’s confusing and sometimes frustrating to tease out the differences. Users told us that they like to being able to choose a reasoning level per query, but often didn’t like having to pick a particular kind of reasoning level.

In Stardog 3 reasoning levels have been radically simplified. Now you just tell Stardog, per query, whether you want reasoning or not—true or false; one or zero; yes or no. It’s that simple. Stardog will choose the most appropriate reasoning level if you request it; or it will execute your query without any reasoning if you don’t.

Making semantics simpler is good for everybody and we’re on it.

We’ve been shipping Stardog with the default Lucene analyzer. This works fine in most cases; but there are situations where you’ll want to use your own stop word list or be able to include analyzers for different languages. So in Stardog 3.0 we added the ability to override the default and specify which Lucene Analyzer will be used when indexing your RDF. Now you can use any of the bundled Lucene Analyzers, or even one of your own, when indexing in Stardog’s semantic search.

User-Defined Aggregates

SPARQL defines an extensibility mechanism for filter and bind functions. This is a convenient way for users to implement domain specific functions, identified by URIs, and use them in filter, bind, or projection expressions the same way they’d use any other function.

Unfortunately, SPARQL does not allow for user-defined aggregate functions and user-defined functions are not valid in aggregations. In Stardog 3 we’ve added this capability. Now users can specify their own aggregate functions, such as geometric mean, using the same mechanisms for custom user-defined functions. This is done without modifying SPARQL syntax; no new keywords are added. The only catch is you have to prefix your aggregate function with the token “agg:”…

Let’s note a few things. First, the PREFIX declaration for agg isn’t needed. But including it makes the query portable across SPARQL systems: since agg:stardog:gmean is a valid QName, including the prefix means that the query will parse correctly in any compliant SPARQL system. Third, Stardog 3 knows that agg is the user-defined aggregate with the QName stardog:gmean.


Thanks to everyone who worked so hard on this release. Thanks to our users and customers for helping us in numerous ways.

Watch this space for the Stardog 3.0 release announcement later in February.

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