# Implementing Union in Esqueleto I

We use the SQL UNION operator at IOHK in one of our beam queries, and esqueleto does not support it. To make porting the IOHK SQL code more straightforward, I decided to implement UNION. This blog post series will delve into implementing this feature, in a somewhat stream-of-thought manner.

# Background

esqueleto is a SQL library that builds on the persistent library for database definitions and simple queries. It attempts to provide an embedded DSL that allows you to use SQL and Haskell together. In my opinion, it has less complicated types than beam and an easier to learn UX than opaleye. The persistent quasiquoter model definitions save a bunch of boilerplate, too.

esqueleto is implemented in a somewhat convoluted manner – we have a type class Esqueleto query expr backend that everything is defined in terms of. However, the functional depenencies on the class essentially only permit a single instance. The query type is always fixed to SqlQuery, a WriterT [Clauses] (StateT IdentInfo) monad. The expr type is always SqlExpr, which is a GADT that provides a structure for SQL expressions.

It’s kind of a tagless final encoding paired with a GADT initial encoding. Neat.

# Goal

Alright, so let’s start with the SQL. We want to be able to write a Haskell thing that translates to this SQL:

SELECT name
FROM person
UNION
SELECT title
FROM blog_post


Let’s just write the syntax out that esqueleto usually uses, and see where that takes us:

unionTest = (
select $from$ \person ->
return (person ^. PersonName)
) union (
select $from$ \blog ->
return (blog ^. BlogPostTitle)
)


This is a pleasing looking API! Can it work? What type would union need to have?

Well, probably not. Let’s look at the type of select:

select
:: (SqlSelect a r, MonadIO m)
=> SqlQuery a
-> SqlReadT m [r]


Once something has become a SqlReadT value, we can’t really introspect on the query structure anymore. So we can’t have this syntax :(

Let’s try something else:

unionTest =
select $union ( from$ \person -> do
pure (person ^. PersonName)
)
( from $\blog -> do pure (blog ^. BlogPostTitle) )  This means that union will end up returning a SqlQuery a. It takes two arguments, each of which is a query returning the same thing. We have our first attempt at a type to implement! union :: SqlQuery a -> SqlQuery a -> SqlQuery a union query0 query1 = undefined  # First Attempt Alright, so, uh, how do we make values of type SqlQuery? Let’s first look at what the type actually is: -- | SQL backend for @esqueleto@ using 'SqlPersistT'. newtype SqlQuery a = Q { unQ :: W.WriterT SideData (S.State IdentState) a } -- | Side data written by 'SqlQuery'. data SideData = SideData { sdDistinctClause :: !DistinctClause , sdFromClause :: ![FromClause] , sdSetClause :: ![SetClause] , sdWhereClause :: !WhereClause , sdGroupByClause :: !GroupByClause , sdHavingClause :: !HavingClause , sdOrderByClause :: ![OrderByClause] , sdLimitClause :: !LimitClause , sdLockingClause :: !LockingClause } -- | List of identifiers already in use and supply of temporary -- identifiers. newtype IdentState = IdentState { inUse :: HS.HashSet T.Text } initialIdentState :: IdentState initialIdentState = IdentState mempty  So, we use the WriterT SideData to accumulate information about the query we’re building. And then we use IdentState to keep track of identifiers in use. Let’s look at some things that return SqlQuery values. I searched through the Database.Esqueleto.Internal.Sql module for -> SqlQuery and got some interesting results. The only function that returns a SqlQuery value in the whole module is this: -- line 497 withNonNull :: PersistField typ => SqlExpr (Value (Maybe typ)) -> (SqlExpr (Value typ) -> SqlQuery a) -> SqlQuery a withNonNull field f = do where_$ not_ $isNothing field f$ veryUnsafeCoerceSqlExprValue field


Okay, so where_ is a SqlQuery function. Let’s look for it’s definition:

class (Monad query) =>
Esqueleto query expr backend
| query -> expr backend
, expr -> query backend
where
-- snip...

-- in Database.Esqueleto.Internal.Language, line 93
-- | @WHERE@ clause: restrict the query's result.
where_ :: expr (Value Bool) -> query ()


The class definition has functional dependencies that basically make it so you can determine any type variable from any other. Since persistent uses the SqlBackend type for the backend, you end up needing to totally pick Esqueleto SqlQuery SqlExpr SqlBackend, and you can’t vary any of those types.

Okay, let’s find the instance definition:

-- line 452 in Database.Esqueleto.Internal.Sql
where_ expr = Q $W.tell mempty { sdWhereClause = Where expr } on expr = Q$ W.tell mempty { sdFromClause = [OnClause expr] }

groupBy expr = Q $W.tell mempty { sdGroupByClause = GroupBy$ toSomeValues expr }

having expr = Q $W.tell mempty { sdHavingClause = Where expr } locking kind = Q$ W.tell mempty { sdLockingClause = Monoid.Last (Just kind) }


There’s actually a bunch, and they mostly just tell about a part of the query we’re building. Cool. This may be useful soon, but it’s not immediately obvious to me how.

I spent some time perusing the rest of the library, and I found another combinator that takes a SqlQuery value and produces something else:

sub
:: PersistField a
=> Mode
-> SqlQuery (SqlExpr (Value a))
-> SqlExpr (Value a)
sub mode query = ERaw Parens $\info -> toRawSql mode info query  This looks useful! Let’s look at the ERaw constructor, which is from the SqlExpr datatype:  -- Raw expression: states whether parenthesis are needed -- around this expression, and takes information about the SQL -- connection (mainly for escaping names) and returns both an -- string ('TLB.Builder') and a list of values to be -- interpolated by the SQL backend. ERaw :: NeedParens -> (IdentInfo -> (TLB.Builder, [PersistValue])) -> SqlExpr (Value a)  Okay, so we can start with this approach and just generate the raw SQL we need. This is probably the wrong approach, but it might work, and working is better than imaginary. union :: PersistField a => SqlQuery (SqlExpr (Value a)) -> SqlQuery (SqlExpr (Value a)) -> SqlQuery (SqlExpr (Value a)) union query0 query1 = pure$ ERaw Parens $\info -> let (q0, v0) = toRawSql SELECT info query0 (q1, v1) = toRawSql SELECT info query1 in (q0 <> " UNION " <> q1, v0 <> v1)  This is basically what sub does. We just concatenate them with the UNION operator in between. Let’s write a test and see how it works! ## Testing the First Approach I hop into the esqueleto test suite and start writing my test: testCaseUnion :: Run -> Spec testCaseUnion run = do describe "union"$ do
it "works" $do run$ do
let
names =
[ "john", "joe", "jordan", "james" ]
blogs =
[ "asdf", "qwer", "berty", "nopex" ]
(pid:_) <- forM names $\name -> insert (Person name Nothing Nothing 3) forM_ blogs$ \blog ->
insert (BlogPost blog pid)

res <- select $( from$ \person -> do
pure (person ^. PersonName)
)
union
( from $\blog -> do pure (blog ^. BlogPostTitle) ) liftIO$
L.sort (map unValue res)
shouldBe
L.sort (names <> blogs)


We insert four blogs and people into the database, and then get the UNION of their names and titles. Does it work?

No :(

  test/Common/Test.hs:1421:11:
1) Tests that are common to all backends, union, works
expected: ["asdf","berty","james","joe","john","jordan","nopex","qwer"]
but got: ["asdf"]


Okay, that’s a bit weird. Why does it only pick the first? Let’s test our understanding and try a raw query. I’ll add a line that runs the raw SQL and then I’m going to error out to see the output in the test suite:

-- ...
res' <- rawSql
(  "SELECT Person.name FROM Person "
<> "UNION "
<> "SELECT BlogPost.title FROM BlogPost"
)
[]
error (show $map unSingle (res' :: [Single String])) -- ...  Now, we get an error that shows what that query returned:  test/Common/Test.hs:1417:9: 1) Tests that are common to all backends, union, works uncaught exception: ErrorCall ["asdf","berty","james","joe","john","jordan","nopex","qwer"] CallStack (from HasCallStack): error, called at test/Common/Test.hs:1417:9 in main:Common.Test  Okay, that’s exactly what I expected to see! So there’s something weird about how the query is being generated. I want to get a textual representation of the query, and toRawSql is the function to do that. I’m going to make a wrapper around it: renderQuery :: (Monad m, EI.SqlSelect a r) => SqlQuery a -> SqlPersistT m TL.Text renderQuery q = do conn <- ask pure (queryToText conn q) queryToText :: EI.SqlSelect a r => SqlBackend -> SqlQuery a -> TL.Text queryToText conn q = let (tlb, _) = EI.toRawSql EI.SELECT (conn, EI.initialIdentState) q in TLB.toLazyText tlb  And we’ll render the query: -- ...snip let q = ( from$ \person -> do
pure (person ^. PersonName)
)
union
( from \$ \blog -> do
pure (blog ^. BlogPostTitle)
)
res <- select q
error . show =<< renderQuery q
-- snip...


Now, what do we get?

  test/Common/Test.hs:1415:9:
1) Tests that are common to all backends, union, works
uncaught exception: ErrorCall
"SELECT (SELECT \"Person\".\"name\"\nFROM \"Person\"\n UNION SELECT \"BlogPost\".\"title\"\nFROM \"BlogPost\"\n)\n"
CallStack (from HasCallStack):
error, called at test/Common/Test.hs:1415:9 in main:Common.Test


Okay, so it’s doing something that we don’t want. We want this:

SELECT name
FROM person
UNION
SELECT title
FROM blog_post


And it’s doing this:

SELECT (
SELECT name
FROM person
UNION
SELECT title
FROM blog_post
)


Which explains our problem! We actually need it do SELECT * FROM (the union query). Or removing the outer SELECT entirely. So, this suggests that this isn’t the right approach.

Next post, I’ll attempt to find another way to implement it, and write down the stream-of-thought process on how I got there.