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OCaml type-safe query builder with syntax tree extension
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README.md

Sequoia

Sequoia is a type-safe query builder for OCaml. It uses the OCaml type system to ensure only fields from tables used as data sources for the query (i.e. tables referred to in FROM or JOIN statements) can be used. It only allows joins using fields previously declared to reference each other. Finally, it prevents you from using expressions with incompatible types

The queries are composable and the library is extensible, currently providing drivers for MySQL/MariaDB and SQLite.

Example usage

Table definition

Tables are defined via OCaml modules, each of its fields corresponding to a value:

open Sequoia_mysql

module User = struct
  include (val Mysql.table "user")
  let id = Field.int "id"
  let name = Field.string "name"
end

module Publisher = struct
  include (val Mysql.table "publisher")
  let id = Field.int "id"
  let name = Field.string "name"
end

module Book = struct
  include (val Mysql.table "book")
  let id = Field.int "id"
  let owner = Field.foreign_key "owner_id" ~references:User.id
  let publisher = Field.foreign_key "publisher_id" ~references:Publisher.id
  let title = Field.string "title"
  let author = Field.string "author"
end

module BookUser = struct
  include (val Mysql.table "book_user")
  let book = Field.foreign_key "book_id" ~references:Book.id
  let user = Field.foreign_key "user_id" ~references:User.id
end

SELECT queries

A SELECT query can be created like this:

let query, params =
	Mysql.(Expr.(Select.(Expr.(Vector.(OrderBy.Expr.(Vector.(
    from BookUser.table
      |> left_join (that BookUser.user There)
      |> left_join (that BookUser.book (Skip There))
      |> left_join (that Book.publisher (Skip There))
      |> select
           [ field User.name There
           ; field Book.title (Skip (Skip There))
           ; field Publisher.name (Skip There)
           ]
      |> where (field User.name There = field Book.author (Skip (Skip There)))
      |> order_by
           [ asc (field User.name There)
           ; desc (field Book.title (Skip (Skip There)))
           ]
      |> limit 10
      |> seal
)))))))

The epic sequence of local module opens makes the query cleaner. The following modules are opened: Mysql, Mysql.Expr (MySQL expressions that work on every query), Mysql.Select (functions for SELECT query creation), Mysql.Select.Expr (MySQL expressions allowed only in SELECT queries), Mysql.Select.Expr.Vector (vectors of such expressions), OrderBy.Expr (ORDER BY expressions are attached to ASC or DESC specifications) and OrderBy.Expr.Vector (vectors of ORDER BY expressions).

The seal function marks the end of the query and returns two values: a string representation of the query, with markers for parameters according to the prepared statement syntax of the driver, and the list of query parameters itself.

The expression above will then generate the following query (though not with such nice indentation, and a bit more parenthesis-happy):

SELECT
  user.name, book.title publisher.name
FROM
  book_user
LEFT JOIN
  user ON user.id = book_user.user_id
LEFT JOIN
  book ON book.id = book_user.book_id
LEFT JOIN
  publisher ON publisher.id = book.publisher_id
WHERE
  user.name = book.author
ORDER BY
  user.name ASC, book.title DESC
LIMIT ?

and the parameter list will be [Param.Int 10].

The Skip/There stuff

You have probably noticed the odd There, Skip There and Skip (Skip There) values in the query expression above. These are used to ensure that only fields from previously referenced tables can be used, and are henceforth called "referrer arguments".

You can think of then as walking on a linked list of tables until you find the table you're referring to. So, for example, the expression Skip (Skip There) would be used to refer to the third table in that list.

To know how to refer to a table in this scheme, it is necessary to understand how the table list is built. The process works as follows for the above example.

  1. A call to the from function creates a singleton list. In the example above, this would be a list containing the book_user table: [book_user].

  2. A join statement in SQL (in the example above, the left_join function) adds a new data source to the query. Following the example, a join is performed with the user table via the book_user.user_id reference. To be able to refer to the book_user table, we must walk the list above until we find it, and since it's the only element of the list, it's already There. Table user is added to the list, which now looks like [user; book_user].

  3. A second join is made, this time with the book table, in an way analogous to the description above. Only now the book_user table is no longer the first element of the list, and to find it we must skip the user table, resulting in Skip There. A new insertion is always made immediately before the referred table in the list, so it now looks like this: [user; book; book_user].

  4. Yet another join, this time with the publisher table via the foreign key book.publisher_id. Since book is now second table in the list, we once again have Skip There. The final list looks like [user; publisher; book; books_user].

The select function marks the end of the list construction, so from this point onwards fields can be referenced according to it:

  • To refer to a field in user, use There;
  • To refer to a field in publisher, use Skip There;
  • To refer to a field in book, use Skip (Skip There);
  • To refer to a field in book_user, use Skip (Skip (Skip There)).

Note that the use of a linked list to explain the construction of the referrer arguments is just a didactic device. The actual implementation uses the OCaml type system to ensure query correctness, and there are no type-level lists in OCaml, so function types are used instead.

The syntax extension

According to extensive research with two developers, usage of the Skip/There stuff in the real world "would not that bad". However, it would be nice to have them generated automatically, if only to make the queries look cleaner.

Therefore, Sequoia includes a PPX syntax extension to do exactly that. If you decide to use it, simply append %sql to the module and let keywords used to define tables and query expressions, respectively.

The example above, with the sintax extension, would look like this:

open Sequoia_mysql

module%sql User = struct
  include (val Mysql.table "user")
  let id = Field.int "id"
  let name = Field.string "name"
end

module%sql Publisher = struct
  include (val Mysql.table "publisher")
  let id = Field.int "id"
  let name = Field.string "name"
end

module%sql Book = struct
  include (val Mysql.table "book")
  let id = Field.int "id"
  let owner = Field.foreign_key "owner_id" ~references:User.id
  let publisher = Field.foreign_key "publisher_id" ~references:Publisher.id
  let title = Field.string "title"
  let author = Field.string "author"
end

module%sql BookUser = struct
  include (val Mysql.table "book_user")
  let book = Field.foreign_key "book_id" ~references:Book.id
  let user = Field.foreign_key "user_id" ~references:User.id
end

let%sql query, params =
  Mysql.(Expr.(Select.(Expr.(Vector.(OrderBy.Expr.(Vector.(
    from BookUser.table
      |> left_join (that BookUser.user)
      |> left_join (that BookUser.book)
      |> left_join (that Book.publisher)
      |> select
           [ field User.name
           ; field Book.title
           ; field Publisher.name
           ]
      |> where (field User.name = field Book.author)
      |> order_by
           [ asc (field User.name)
           ; desc (field Book.title)
           ]
      |> limit 10
      |> seal
  )))))))

Please note that the syntax extension only works when writing the query in the style above, using the |> operator, that is, with partial evaluation. This is because it detects the locations where the referrer arguments must be inserted by looking for single-argument field calls.

In the future it might be extended to be more comprehensive.

On JOINs

You have probably noticed the use of that in the join expressions above. It is used to create a join with the table that is referenced by the given foreign key. For example, left_join (that BookUser.user) creates a join with the User table, because the BookUser.user foreign key references a field from User, namely User.id. Similarly, Sequoia also offers this for joins with the table that contains the foreign key.

This behavior of requiring primary and foreign key pairs is by design, because it allows for some extra validation on whether fields used in the join condition actually do refer to the same thing.

This is based on my SQL usage, where the need for arbitrary expressions in join conditionas has not appeared. I could be persuaded that it is important though.

INSERT and REPLACE queries

Below is an example of an INSERT query. Currently only literal values are supported for insertion.

let query, params = Mysql.(Lit.(Vector.(Insert.(Vector.(
  insert
    ~into:User.table
    ~fields:[User.id; User.name]
    ~values:[
      [int 1; string "Joe"];
      [int 2; string "Mary"];
    ]
  |> seal
)))))

The query ensures that the fields vector has the same length as each of the vectors in values, and that their respective elements match. There is no check for missing non-NULL fields, though this could be added in the future.

REPLACE queries follow the same structure, but for those, open the Replace module instead of Insert and call the replace function instead of insert.

UPDATE queries

let query, params = Mysql.(Expr.(Update.(Vector.(Expr.(Vector.(
  update Book.table
    ~set:
      [ Book.title,  string "King Sequoia"
      ; Book.author, string "William C. Tweed"
      ]
  |> where (field Book.title =% string "seq%") (* (=%) is the LIKE operator *)
  |> seal
))))))

DELETE queries

let query, params = Mysql.(Expr.(Delete.(Expr.(
  delete
    ~from:Book.table
    ~where:(field Book.title <>% string "%sequoia%") (* (<>%) is the NOT LIKE operator *)
  |> seal
))))

Issues and limitations

  • No arbitrary expressions on joins;
  • All table definitions must be in the same file;
  • Queries can be defined in separate files but this is implemented in a hackish way (Marshal dump files in /tmp);
  • INSERT queries don't forbid absent non-NULL fields;
  • No ocamldoc for drivers (yet).

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Gabriel Scherer for the type-system wizardry that makes this library possible.

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