See also the Distributed Repositories Using Shards and Federation Setup document which provides details on setting up distributed repositories.

A database in AllegroGraph is typically implemented as a single repository, running in a single instance of AllegroGraph. This is simple to set up and operate, but problems arise when the size of data in the repository nears or exceeds the resources of the server on which it resides. Problems can also arise when the size of data fits well within the specs of the database server, but the query patterns across that data stress the system.

When the demands of data or query patterns outpace the ability of a server to keep up, there are two ways to attempt to grow your system: vertical or horizontal scaling.

With vertical scaling, you simply increase the capacity of the server on which AllegroGraph is running. Increasing CPU power or the amount of RAM in a server can work for modest size data sets, but you may soon run into the limitations of the available hardware, or the cost to purchase high end hardware may become prohibitive.

AllegroGraph provides an alternative solution called FedShard™: a cluster of database servers, and horizontal scaling through sharding. An AllegroGraph cluster is a set of AllegroGraph installations across a defined set of machines. A distributed repository is a logical database comprised of one or more repositories spread across one or more of the AllegroGraph nodes in that cluster. A distributed repository has a required partition key that is used when importing statements. When adding statements to your repository, the partition key is used to determine on which shard each statement will be placed. By carefully choosing your partition key, it is possible to distribute your data across the shards in ways that supports the query patterns of your application.

This tutorial walks you through how to define and install to a cluster, how to define a distributed repository, and how various utilities can be used to manipulate AllegroGraph clusters and distributed repositories. In addition, we discuss how SPARQL works against a distributed repository, and what types of queries can be expected to run fast--or slow--when run on them.

Cluster Definition File

To support operation over a cluster of servers, AllegroGraph requires a Cluster Definition file. It is used to identify the servers on which AllegroGraph will be managed, as well as individual repositories, distributed repositories, and replica sets over which you may wish to operate. A replica set is multi-master replication cluster which is not the subject of this tutorial so will not be further described.

The first thing to do when defining a Cluster Definition File is to declare all of the servers that are part of the AllegroGraph cluster. For this tutorial we will use the following lines to define our cluster. It consists of two lines that declare inheritable values (Port and Scheme), and a logical group called `my-servers' that consists of three servers (aghost1, aghost2 and aghost3). We save these lines to a file named agcluster.cfg.

Port 10035  
Scheme http  
group my-servers  
  server aghost1  
  server aghost2  
  server aghost3  

Based on the above configuration, we have defined a cluster of three AllegroGraph servers. A server is an AllegroGraph server (as opposed to a machine), and is uniquely identified by a hostname and port. A scheme (http or https) must be specified for each server. The scheme specifies the communication protocol to be used. Each server can be assigned a label for easy reference later in the configuration, as well as with some command-line tools. Since servers will often run on the same port (but on different machines) using the same scheme and often with the same authorization, it is possible to declare some values that will be inherited by subsequent declarations. The Port and Scheme directives here serve that purpose. The above declarations indicate that all servers in the cluster will be running on port 10035 via HTTP. As with the server nicknames, the name of group directive can be used later in the configuration to refer to all of the servers that belong to it, and can also be used with some command-line tools.

NOTE: If a Port directive is included in the agcluster.cfg file, it must match the corresponding entry in the agraph.cfg used by each AllegroGraph server. That is, agraph.cfg must also contain this line:

Port 10035  

Now that our cluster has been defined, we can define a distributed repository.

Distributed Repositories

Distributed Repositories store triples partitioned into shards across an AllegroGraph cluster as defined by the cluster definition file.

The data must be partitioned such that each query can run independently on each shard without needing to transmit data between them. For example, a health insurance company could partition its claim data on patient ID so that any given patient will have all of their triples in a single shard. In this case, queries that are about the properties of patients could be run in parallel. Note, however, that this particular partitioning strategy would not allow queries about the relationships between patients because that might require transmitting data between the shards in the repository.
Note too that some triples, such as those associating billing codes with diseases, must be replicated on each server.

To use a distributed repository, it must first be defined. Distributed repositories are a collection of shards that are grouped together into an entity we call, simply, a db. DBs, in the cluster context, are declared by adding a definition to the cluster definition file, agcluster.cfg.

When defining a DB, there are two ways to define its shards, the easy way or the complicated way.

With the easy approach, you list the servers on which shards will reside, and how many shards you want per server. AllegroGraph then automatically names the set of repositories that will comprise those shards. You can specify servers via the server directive, or groups of servers using the include directive.

In this example, we declare that the DB bigDB will have shards on the servers contained within the group my-servers and, based on the shardsPerServer directive, that there are three shards per server. Access to the servers will be authenticated with the given user (test) and password (xyzzy).

A distributed DB also has a partition key, which is either a triple part (subject, predicate, object, or graph), or a named triple attribute. Every triple added to the DB will be stored in a particular shard based on this key.

The partition key is required and cannot be changed once the DB has been created. Likewise, every triple must also contain the partition key or an error will be raised when it is added to the repository. The missing partition key error can only occur when the partition key is an attribute.

Here, we specify the partition key will be the `graph' part of each triple:

The following definition uses the easy approach.

Port 10035  
Scheme http  
group my-servers  
db bigDB  
  key part         graph  
  user             test  
  password         xyzzy  
  shardsPerServer  3  
  include          my-servers  
bindir /home/agraph/ag-7.0.0/bin 

The kb defines the knowledge base repo. It will be merged with each shard when processing queries. We will populate it below when we populate the bigDB patient database.

For more complicated declarations, you can explicitly declare individual shards using the repo directive. You can mix and match server and shardsPerServer declarations with repo directives and AllegroGraph will attempt to generate repository names that do not conflict. If it is unable to do, an error will be issued at the time the Cluster Definition File is parsed.

We've added a bindir directive to specify where we'll install AllegroGraph on each server. We decided that AllegroGraph will be installed at /home/agraph/ag-7.0.0 and so its bin directory containing the programs we'll need to run to control agraph is /home/agraph/ag-7.0.0/bin. The bindir directive is optional. You can specify that information on the install-agraph command line but if you choose to specify it there you cannot then use the agraph-control program found in the same directory as the install-agraph program to control the cluster since agraph-control needs the bindir directive to locate the installed AllegroGraph on each server.

If you do not include a bindir directive in your agcluster.cfg file you pass to install-agraph you will need to run the agraph-control program found in the installed AllegroGraph's bin directory as it will know where to find the bindir.

Thus we suggest that you include a bindir in the agcluster.cfg file as it makes it easier to use both install-agraph and agraph-control As you work on configuring your distributed repositories you'll use both programs multiple times.

Note that multiple DBs can be added to agcluster.cfg file.

The declaration of a distributed repository in agcluster.cfg does not cause the distributed repository or any of its shards to be created. The declaration simply informs the server that a certain name refers to a distributed repository defined in a certain way. Armed with this information the server will take any request regarding this repository name (such as create, open, delete, or triple-count) to refer to the distributed repository as defined in the declaration in agcluster.cfg.

The server reads the agcluster.cfg file when it starts. The install-agraph command we'll discuss below allows you to distribute a new agcluster.cfg file to all servers and then cause those servers to read the new agcluster.cfg file and update its knowledge of distributed dbs.

You should never change the definition of an existing distributed repository. Once created the structure of a distributed repository is fixed and if you change the definition after it has been created the server will no longer be able to access all parts of the repository.

Installing AllegroGraph on a Cluster

There are two ways of installing AllegroGraph:

  1. getting a distribution in tar format, extracting it and running install-agraph
  2. getting an RPM version, installing it and running configure-agraph.

In this document we will focus on method number 1. This is the easiest way to install the same version of AllegroGraph on a whole set of machines and to start and stop all servers. Also you can propagate cluster definition changes to all servers automatically.

Distributed repositories can be defined if you use the RPM method but you will need to do a number of steps manually.

The first step to installing AllegroGraph is to grab the tarball from the Franz download page and extract it. Inside the extracted directory is the installation utility install-agraph.

You'll want to keep this extracted directory around as you'll be using it to control and configure the cluster for the lifetime of your cluster.

Second, build your agcluster.cfg and agraph.cfg files and save them to disk. You'll need to specify the name of the directory where AllegroGraph will be installed. You must use the same directory name on all machines since the agraph.cfg file specifies the location of the AllegroGraph installation and the same agraph.cfg file will be used for every AllegroGraph server. Therefore you must specify a directory name that's available on all machines on which a server will be installed.

Each server must have its own installation directory. Do not use a directory on a network filesystem and have each server use the exact same directory. That configuration is not supported.

If you do not specify a pre-built agraph.cfg on the install-agraph command-line, you will be prompted with a set of questions, and a very basic agraph.cfg will be generated for you. We recommend building your own agraph.cfg as the configure-agraph script does not prompt for a number of directives which you might need, such as SSLPort or additional catalogs.

Here is a sample agraph.cfg:

# AllegroGraph configuration file  
Port 10035  
SuperUser super:xyzzy  
BaseDir /home/agraph/ag-7.0.0/  
SettingsDirectory data/settings  
LogDir log  
PidFile data/  
InstanceTimeout 604800  
 Main data/rootcatalog  
 Main data/systemcatalog  
 InstanceTimeout 10  
[License information added here] 

Third, make sure your hosts are all up and running and are configured for the following:

A typical local invocation of install-agraph looks as follows:

install-agraph --agraph-config agraph.cfg  /home/agraph/ag-7.0.0 

The destination directory /home/agraph/ag-7.0.0 is where AllegroGraph server will be installed. The specified directory must match the directory information specfied in the agraph.cfg file.

A cluster installation looks like this:

install-agraph --cluster-config ./agcluster.cfg --agraph-config ./agraph.cfg 

For clustered installations, a final destination-directory argument is optional and will only be used if there are servers defined in the agcluster.cfg file with no bindir directive associated with them. Since we include a bindir in our sample agcluster.cfg file, we don't need to include a destination-directory argument on the command-line shown above.

Various temporary files are created during the installation process. These are stored by default in /tmp on the various host machines. If /tmp does not have sufficient space, the installation will fail. The --staging-dir argument to install-agraph allows specifying a directory to use as the temporary directory. Its value must be an absolute pathname naming a directory accessible on every host in the cluster. The temporary files are removed at the end of the installation process.

The bindir directory in our agcluster.cfg file is /home/agraph/ag-7.0.0/bin. Let us select /home/agraph/ag-install-tmp/ as the staging directory. It will be created if it does not exist. Here is the modified call to install-agraph:

install-agraph --staging-dir /home/agraph/ag-install-tmp/ --cluster-config ./agcluster.cfg --agraph-config ./agraph.cfg  

As the installation runs, it will check that it has the proper access to each host (passwordless ssh and sudo, write permissions, etc). Furthermore, it will check for an existing AllegroGraph installation either based on any bindir directive associated with the server being installed to, or in the default-installation-dir (/home/agraph/ag-7.0.0). If there already exists an AllegroGraph installation the installation will be skipped on that node only.

After installation, the files specified by the --agraph-config and --cluster-config arguments are copied to lib/agraph.cfg and lib/agcluster.cfg, respectively, in the installation directory on each node. A bindir directive is added to the agcluster.cfg file if not already present. This occurs whether or not the installation is skipped. This behavior makes it easy to add new nodes to the cluster or update config files without performing a full install to all nodes. Simply update the config files and run the exact same command again.

Once the agcluster.cfg file is copied to each server the server, if it is running, is told to reload that agcluster.cfg file and update its set of distributed repository definitions.

Here is a sample run:

$ install-agraph --cluster ./agcluster.cfg --agraph-config ./agraph.cfg /disk1/ag  
Checking for passwordless ssh to all servers...ok.  
Checking for write permission on staging-dir /tmp/agtmp-7.0.0-2017-10-06-09-27-03... ok.  
Checking for write permission on installation-dir for each server... ok.  
Building plan for cluster installation...  
Checking for existing binary installations...  
Copying binaries for 3 new AllegroGraph installations.  
Copying AllegroGraph Server config file ./agraph.cfg to cluster.  
Copying AllegroGraph Cluster config file ./tmp/agraph-7.0.0/tmp_agclustera173210934071 to cluster.  
Removing staged installations from all hosts.  
Installation complete. 

The presence of agcluster.cfg in an installation enables other tools to also support operations on the cluster. If you deploy AllegroGraph to a cluster via other means, you can manually install an agcluster.cfg to gain the same extended feature set.

For manual tarball installations, agcluster.cfg should be added to the lib/ subdirectory of the installation dir.

For RPM installations the agcluster.cfg should be placed in /etc/agraph/.

Now that installation is complete, it is time to start AllegroGraph

Controlling AllegroGraph across a Cluster

The agraph-control utility is used to start and stop AllegroGraph on a single server. By adding the --cluster or --cluster-config argument, it will also work against the entire cluster.

The agraph-control program is found in the extracted tarball directory, the same directory as install-agraph and it's convenient to use it from there since you can switch between running install-agraph and agraph-control easily. If you use agraph-control in this directory you'll need to pass the --cluster-config argument specifying an agcluster.cfg file with a bindir directive (this is the same agcluster.cfg file given to install-agraph).

The agraph-control program is copied (if not already present) to the AllegroGraph installation directory on each server by install-agraph. If you use agraph-control in the AllegroGraph installation directory you need only specify --cluster and agraph-control will be able to find the agcluster.cfg file and then figure out from the 'bindir' value what is needed to start and stop AllegroGraph.

If agraph-control is not able to find the agcluster.cfg file, specify its location with the --cluster-config argument.

Similarly, agraph-control in the AllegroGraph installation directory can usually find the server's agraph.cfg file (needed to operate on a single server rather than all servers in a cluster). The --config argument can be used to specify the location of that file if agraph-control cannot find it.

In the examples below, we assume agraph-control can find, as needed, the agcluster.cfg file and the agraph.cfg file and so the examples do not use the --cluster-config or --cluster arguments.

To start AllegroGraph on all nodes:

$ agraph-control --cluster start  
Checking for passwordless ssh to all hosts...ok.  
Cluster definition has 3 hosts  
Issuing `start' command to all nodes... Done. 

The start command checks to see if AllegroGraph is already running, and if it is, does not try to start it again. This allows the start command to work properly on clusters where some nodes are running, but multiple stopped/crashed/new nodes now need to be started.

To stop AllegroGraph on only the local node:

$ agraph-control stop  
Stopping agraph (26547): ....  Stopped 

The status argument to agraph-control reports on the status of servers in the cluster:

$ agraph-control --cluster status  
Checking for passwordless ssh to all servers...ok.  
2 servers are UP: aghost2 aghost3  
1 server is DOWN: aghost1 

Now we stop the rest of the AllegroGraph nodes.

$ agraph-control --cluster stop  
Checking for passwordless ssh to all servers...ok.  
Issuing `stop' command to all nodes... Done. 

Now the status should show everything is shut down:

$ agraph-control --cluster status  
Checking for passwordless ssh to all servers...ok.  
All servers are DOWN. 

Creating the Shards of a Distributed Repository

Now that the distributed repository has been defined, and AllegroGraph started, the next step is to create the shards that comprise the DB.

Every server that's mentioned in the agcluster.cfg file has been started and each has read in the agcluster.cfg file. All servers thus know the definition of all of the distributed repositories defined in the agcluster.cfg file.

Given our agcluster.cfg file above all of the following will name the distributed repository bigDB: 

You can use the more concise server spec syntax and here are three more ways to name bigDB 

If you want to do anything with the distributed repository (such as create, delete, augment or query) you must choose one of the servers. Each server is able to handle distributing the needed operation to all of the shards.

The agtool create-db command can be used to create repositories on the local node, or across an entire cluster. Its interface is as follows:

Usage: agtool create-db [ --cluster-config AGCLUSTER.CFG-FILENAME ]  
                        [ --supersede ]  [ --quiet ] [--reload]  
                        [ -v|--verbose ] [ --password PASSWORD ]  
                        [ -u|--user USER ]  
                        [ --host HOST ]  
create-db will create one or more repositories depending on the  
value of the DBNAME argument.  The --cluster-config argument  
is only used when creating replica sets and is not used  
to create a distributed repository.  Only the *agcluster.cfg*  
read by the AllegroGraph server is used to define a  
distributed repository.  
  --cluster-config AGCLUSTER.CFG-FILENAME    Specifies the agcluster.cfg file.  
                                             This is only used when creating  
                                             a replica set.  
  --supersede                                If there is an existing repository,  
                                             delete it first  
  --reload                                   Direct the AllegroGraph server to  
                                             reload the agcluster.cfg file that  
                                             it read on startup to learn of  
                                             the current distributed repository  
Other options:  
  --quiet                                    Reduce output (default: no)  
  -v, --verbose                              Include more output  
Repository options:  
  --host HOST                                Host where the repository lives  
  	     					 (default: localhost)  
  --password PASSWORD                        Password for the repository; use  
  		 				 with --user (default: password)  
  -u USER, --user USER                       User name for the repository; use  
  	       	      				 with --password (default: username)  

We first create the knowledge base (kb-for-patients) repository. Run this command on aghost1:

agtool create-db kb-for-patients 

This repo will exist on aghost1 only.

Then we want to create all of the shards in our distributed DB, which we gave the label bigDB in our agcluster.cfg file. So, we invoke the following command-line (still on aghost1):

agtool create-db bigDB 

When this command completes, all shards for bigDB will have been created, and we can now undertake the process of populating them.

You need not use agtool create-db to create the distributed repository. Any method you've already been using in programs to create a normal repository in AllegroGraph can be used to create a distributed repository in the exact same way.

Adding data to a distributed repository

All of the ways of adding data to a single repository (such as agtool load or the various AllegroGraph client libraries) will also work for a distributed repository. For distributed repositories using attribute-based partitioning, all incoming triples must have the attribute specified by the db definition in the cluster configuration file.

We also provide a sample data generator using agtool generate. For this tutorial we generate sample data representing health insurance patients, and populate our db with it using the following command:

$ agtool generate patient-only 10000  
Generating data for 10,000 patient-onlys...  
Operation completed in 0h3m57s.  
Added 10,000 patient-onlys. 42.072144 patient-onlys/sec.  
Added 4,712,806 triples. 19827.785 triples/sec 

We also populate the knowledge base repo kb-for-patients:

$ agtool generate patient-kb 10000  
Generating data for 10,000 patient-kbs...  
Operation completed in 0h0m1s.  
Added 10,000 patient-kbs. 9886.312 patient-kbs/sec.  
Added 19,342 triples. 19122.104 triples/sec 

In the first agtool generate call, patient-only indicates that we desire sample patient data, and the intended destination is the endpoint The value 10000 instructs the generator how many patients we want data for. Each patient data set is comprised of roughly 800-900 triples. 10,000 keeps the number of triples generated under the 5,000,000 triple free limit.

When generating data for a partitioned DB, the generate command divides the job into one subtask per shard, each generating a portion of the patients. For example, if bigDB was comprised of 10 shards, there would be 10 subtasks, each generating 1000 patients. Once the command completes, each shard in our DB will be populated with data that we can query.

The generate patient-kb call puts about 18,000 triples in the kb-for-patients repo on aghost1.

Querying a distributed repository using SPARQL

SPARQL queries on a distributed repository work by taking a single SPARQL query, making small adjustments to it, and issuing the adjusted query to each shard in parallel. The results from each shard are then combined to form the result of the query. The AllegroGraph server that receives the initial query is known as the Query Coordinator. It is responsible for executing the query on each shard and processing the results before returning an answer to the requesting client. Any server in an AllegroGraph cluster can, at any time, act as the Query Coordinator for a query made against a distributed repository.

Types of Queries that run efficiently on Distributed Repositories

Some SPARQL queries can be run very efficiently on distributed repositories. They can be delivered with minimal or no changes to all of a repository's shards, and the results combined in whatever order they return.

Other queries require a post-processing step to combine the results. For example, a query that uses DISTINCT must compare the results returned by each shard to ensure that there are no duplicates. Similarly, if a query has a LIMIT, then the coordinator will ask each shard for up to the LIMIT rows of results but then the coordinator will need to further constrain the solution set. Queries that run without the need for post-processing can be much more efficient.

post-processing is required if the SPARQL query uses any of the following constructs:

Additional post-processing is not required when one of the following output formats is used:

Thus, the most efficient queries will be ones that request results in an above format without any of the above SPARQL constructs.

Issuing a Parallel SPARQL Query

We can now deliver queries to the distributed repository using our client of choice. If using AG WebView to issue the query, open the Query dialog for the distributed repository:

Query 1: Compute the frequency of each diagnosis

prefix franzOption_logQuery: <franz:onFailure>  
prefix fr: <>  
select (count(?node) as ?count) ?node where  
  ?EmergencyEncounter fr:diagnosis ?PatientDiagnosis .  
  ?diagnosis rdfs:label ?node .  
  ?PatientDiagnosis      <> ?diagnosis .  
group by ?node  
order by desc(?count)  

Query 2: How many patients have Lumbago?

prefix franzOption_logQuery: <franz:onFailure>  
prefix fr: <>  
select (count(distinct ?Person) as ?count) where  
  ?Person fr:claim ?OutpatientClaim .  
  ?OutpatientClaim fr:diagnosis ?PatientDiagnosis .  
  ?PatientDiagnosis <> ?diagnosis .  
  ?diagnosis rdfs:label "Lumbago" .  

Query 3: Same as Query 2 (How many people have Lumbago?), but optimized

prefix franzOption_logQuery: <franz:onFailure>  
prefix fr: <>  
select (sum(?count) as ?total) {  
  select (count(distinct ?Person) as ?count) where  
    ?Person fr:claim ?OutpatientClaim .  
?OutpatientClaim fr:diagnosis ?PatientDiagnosis .  
?PatientDiagnosis <> ?diagnosis .  
?diagnosis rdfs:label "Lumbago" .