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Datomic: Your Call Will Be Answered In The Order It Was Received

The Star Family

Mother Sun likes to have its planets close by at all times. Some closer than others, but that’s how life goes: someone grows up and becomes a star, others take their places next to that someone.

This narrative is about such a family, a Solar System family, where planets live at a certain distance from the Sun. The schema is simple, “solar/planet” with a “solar/distance”:

(def schema
  [{:db/id #db/id[:db.part/db]
    :db/ident :solar/planet
    :db/valueType :db.type/string
    :db/cardinality :db.cardinality/one
    :db.install/_attribute :db.part/db}
   {:db/id #db/id[:db.part/db]
    :db/ident :solar/distance
    :db/valueType :db.type/long
    :db/cardinality :db.cardinality/one
    :db.install/_attribute :db.part/db}])

Here is the data from almighty wikipedia:

(def data
  [{:db/id #db/id[:db.part/user]
    :solar/planet "Mercury"
    :solar/distance 57909175}
   {:db/id #db/id[:db.part/user]
    :solar/planet "Venus"
    :solar/distance 108208930}
   {:db/id #db/id[:db.part/user]
    :solar/planet "Earth"
    :solar/distance 149597890}
   {:db/id #db/id[:db.part/user]
    :solar/planet "Mars"
    :solar/distance 227936640}
   {:db/id #db/id[:db.part/user]
    :solar/planet "Jupiter"
    :solar/distance 778412010}
   {:db/id #db/id[:db.part/user]
    :solar/planet "Saturn"
    :solar/distance 1426725400}
   {:db/id #db/id[:db.part/user]
    :solar/planet "Uranus"
    :solar/distance 2870972200}
   {:db/id #db/id[:db.part/user]
    :solar/planet "Neptune"
    :solar/distance 4498252900}])

Creating a schema and importing the data:

(d/transact *conn* schema)
(d/transact *conn* data)


Great, so now we have all that knowledge in Datomic. Let’s check it out:

(d/q '[:find ?p ?d :in $ 
       :where [?e :solar/planet ?p]
              [?e :solar/distance ?d]] (db *conn*))
#{["Venus" 108208930] ["Earth" 149597890] ["Saturn" 1426725400] ["Uranus" 2870972200] 
  ["Jupiter" 778412010] ["Mercury" 57909175] ["Neptune" 4498252900] ["Mars" 227936640]}

Looks right, but.. out of order? Yea, that is strange, since we “imported” the data in a vector, e.g. with an order in mind. Let’s focus on the planets themselves:

(d/q '[:find ?p :in $ 
       :where [?e :solar/planet ?p]] (db *conn*))
#{["Saturn"] ["Venus"] ["Jupiter"] ["Mercury"] ["Earth"] ["Mars"] ["Neptune"] ["Uranus"]}

Again out of order, this time in a “different” out of order.

Popping The Hood

One thing to notice above is that the result, that gets returned from a query, is a set, and a set has no (specific) order. So given the result and its type, Datomic did not do anything wrong, it just returned a set of planets: exactly what we asked for.

However, since all the facts were asserted in order, Datomic must have remembered them in order, right? Well let’s check. Every fact that gets asserted, gets assigned an entity id. Hence instead of looking at planet names, let’s look at corresponding entity ids:

(d/q '[:find ?e :in $
       :where [?e :solar/planet ?p]] (db *conn*))
#{[17592186045418] [17592186045420] [17592186045419] [17592186045422] [17592186045421] 
  [17592186045424] [17592186045423] [17592186045425]}

Better. Now we see that Datomic in fact has entity ids that we can easily sort:

(d/q '[:find (sort ?e) :in $ 
       :where [?e :solar/planet ?p]] (db *conn*))
[[(17592186045418 17592186045419 17592186045420 17592186045421 17592186045422 17592186045423 
   17592186045424 17592186045425)]]

And even convert these ids back to planet names, it’s all data after all:

(->> (d/q '[:find (sort ?e) :in $ 
            :where [?e :solar/planet ?p]] (db *conn*))
     (map (comp :solar/planet #(d/entity (db *conn*) %))))
("Mercury" "Venus" "Earth" "Mars" "Jupiter" "Saturn" "Uranus" "Neptune")

Very nice. But can we do better? Yes we can.

Now I Know The Trick

The problem with the solution above, it does two lookups: first to get the entity id, second to lookup data for this entity id. But we can do better. The query to get an entity id already “works with” a planet name, and “knows” about it. So why not use both of them right away:

(d/q '[:find ?p ?e :in $ 
       :where [?e :solar/planet ?p]] (db *conn*))
#{["Mars" 17592186045421] ["Saturn" 17592186045423] ["Neptune" 17592186045425] 
  ["Uranus" 17592186045424] ["Earth" 17592186045420] ["Mercury" 17592186045418] 
  ["Venus" 17592186045419] ["Jupiter" 17592186045422]}

Same query, just a little more data back. And Clojure loves data, now its trivial to get them in order with just Clojure:

(->> (d/q '[:find ?p ?e :in $ 
           :where [?e :solar/planet ?p]] (db *conn*))
     (sort-by second)
     (map first))
("Mercury" "Venus" "Earth" "Mars" "Jupiter" "Saturn" "Uranus" "Neptune")

That’s more like it. Of course we can use our knowledge about the data, and sort planets by the distance:

(->> (d/q '[:find ?p ?d :in $ 
            :where [?e :solar/planet ?p]
                   [?e :solar/distance ?d]] (db *conn*))
     (sort-by second)
     (map first))
("Mercury" "Venus" "Earth" "Mars" "Jupiter" "Saturn" "Uranus" "Neptune")

Not all data comes with such a direct ranking (as distance) of course, but whatever comes in Datomic’s way is definitely processed in the order it was received.

Sent from Earth