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57.2. Extensibility

The GIN interface has a high level of abstraction, requiring the access method implementer only to implement the semantics of the data type being accessed. The GIN layer itself takes care of concurrency, logging and searching the tree structure.

All it takes to get a GIN access method working is to implement four (or five) user-defined methods, which define the behavior of keys in the tree and the relationships between keys, indexed items, and indexable queries. In short, GIN combines extensibility with generality, code reuse, and a clean interface.

The four methods that an operator class for GIN must provide are:

int compare(Datum a, Datum b)

Compares two keys (not indexed items!) and returns an integer less than zero, zero, or greater than zero, indicating whether the first key is less than, equal to, or greater than the second. Null keys are never passed to this function.

Datum *extractValue(Datum itemValue, int32 *nkeys, bool **nullFlags)

Returns a palloc'd array of keys given an item to be indexed. The number of returned keys must be stored into *nkeys. If any of the keys can be null, also palloc an array of *nkeys bool fields, store its address at *nullFlags, and set these null flags as needed. *nullFlags can be left NULL (its initial value) if all keys are non-null. The return value can be NULL if the item contains no keys.

Datum *extractQuery(Datum query, int32 *nkeys, StrategyNumber n, bool **pmatch, Pointer **extra_data, bool **nullFlags, int32 *searchMode)

Returns a palloc'd array of keys given a value to be queried; that is, query is the value on the right-hand side of an indexable operator whose left-hand side is the indexed column. n is the strategy number of the operator within the operator class (see Section 35.14.2). Often, extractQuery will need to consult n to determine the data type of query and the method it should use to extract key values. The number of returned keys must be stored into *nkeys. If any of the keys can be null, also palloc an array of *nkeys bool fields, store its address at *nullFlags, and set these null flags as needed. *nullFlags can be left NULL (its initial value) if all keys are non-null. The return value can be NULL if the query contains no keys.

searchMode is an output argument that allows extractQuery to specify details about how the search will be done. If *searchMode is set to GIN_SEARCH_MODE_DEFAULT (which is the value it is initialized to before call), only items that match at least one of the returned keys are considered candidate matches. If *searchMode is set to GIN_SEARCH_MODE_INCLUDE_EMPTY, then in addition to items containing at least one matching key, items that contain no keys at all are considered candidate matches. (This mode is useful for implementing is-subset-of operators, for example.) If *searchMode is set to GIN_SEARCH_MODE_ALL, then all non-null items in the index are considered candidate matches, whether they match any of the returned keys or not. (This mode is much slower than the other two choices, since it requires scanning essentially the entire index, but it may be necessary to implement corner cases correctly. An operator that needs this mode in most cases is probably not a good candidate for a GIN operator class.) The symbols to use for setting this mode are defined in access/gin.h.

pmatch is an output argument for use when partial match is supported. To use it, extractQuery must allocate an array of *nkeys booleans and store its address at *pmatch. Each element of the array should be set to TRUE if the corresponding key requires partial match, FALSE if not. If *pmatch is set to NULL then GIN assumes partial match is not required. The variable is initialized to NULL before call, so this argument can simply be ignored by operator classes that do not support partial match.

extra_data is an output argument that allows extractQuery to pass additional data to the consistent and comparePartial methods. To use it, extractQuery must allocate an array of *nkeys Pointers and store its address at *extra_data, then store whatever it wants to into the individual pointers. The variable is initialized to NULL before call, so this argument can simply be ignored by operator classes that do not require extra data. If *extra_data is set, the whole array is passed to the consistent method, and the appropriate element to the comparePartial method.

bool consistent(bool check[], StrategyNumber n, Datum query, int32 nkeys, Pointer extra_data[], bool *recheck, Datum queryKeys[], bool nullFlags[])

Returns TRUE if an indexed item satisfies the query operator with strategy number n (or might satisfy it, if the recheck indication is returned). This function does not have direct access to the indexed item's value, since GIN does not store items explicitly. Rather, what is available is knowledge about which key values extracted from the query appear in a given indexed item. The check array has length nkeys, which is the same as the number of keys previously returned by extractQuery for this query datum. Each element of the check array is TRUE if the indexed item contains the corresponding query key, ie, if (check[i] == TRUE) the i-th key of the extractQuery result array is present in the indexed item. The original query datum is passed in case the consistent method needs to consult it, and so are the queryKeys[] and nullFlags[] arrays previously returned by extractQuery. extra_data is the extra-data array returned by extractQuery, or NULL if none.

When extractQuery returns a null key in queryKeys[], the corresponding check[] element is TRUE if the indexed item contains a null key; that is, the semantics of check[] are like IS NOT DISTINCT FROM. The consistent function can examine the corresponding nullFlags[] element if it needs to tell the difference between a regular value match and a null match.

On success, *recheck should be set to TRUE if the heap tuple needs to be rechecked against the query operator, or FALSE if the index test is exact. That is, a FALSE return value guarantees that the heap tuple does not match the query; a TRUE return value with *recheck set to FALSE guarantees that the heap tuple does match the query; and a TRUE return value with *recheck set to TRUE means that the heap tuple might match the query, so it needs to be fetched and rechecked by evaluating the query operator directly against the originally indexed item.

Optionally, an operator class for GIN can supply a fifth method:

int comparePartial(Datum partial_key, Datum key, StrategyNumber n, Pointer extra_data)

Compare a partial-match query key to an index key. Returns an integer whose sign indicates the result: less than zero means the index key does not match the query, but the index scan should continue; zero means that the index key does match the query; greater than zero indicates that the index scan should stop because no more matches are possible. The strategy number n of the operator that generated the partial match query is provided, in case its semantics are needed to determine when to end the scan. Also, extra_data is the corresponding element of the extra-data array made by extractQuery, or NULL if none. Null keys are never passed to this function.

To support "partial match" queries, an operator class must provide the comparePartial method, and its extractQuery method must set the pmatch parameter when a partial-match query is encountered. See Section 57.3.2 for details.

The actual data types of the various Datum values mentioned above vary depending on the operator class. The item values passed to extractValue are always of the operator class's input type, and all key values must be of the class's STORAGE type. The type of the query argument passed to extractQuery and consistent is whatever is specified as the right-hand input type of the class member operator identified by the strategy number. This need not be the same as the item type, so long as key values of the correct type can be extracted from it.

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