News

jAgg 0.8.1 (Beta) Released

New in jAgg 0.8.1:

  • Ticket #6. Allow dynamic property names. If there is no bean method matching the property name, e.g. getProperty() for the property property, then jAgg will now look for a get(String) or a get(Object) method, and pass the property name as a parameter. In this example, get("property") would be called.

New in jAgg 0.8.0:

  • Ticket #4. When a Web Server such as Tomcat reloads an web appplication, it creates a new ClassLoader and reloads the classes for the web application. But if jAgg is also deployed, the Methods in its internal MethodCache still refer to the old classes. This class has been changed so that if the class is reloaded, separate cache entries will be made, so that a stale entry isn't used. It can also be cleared explicitly with the new clear() method.
  • Ticket #5. Nested properties are here! Now it is possible to provide a property such as "item.objectB.displayName", with the "." character representing nested access to properties.

View a history of all changes at the Change Log.

Overview

jAgg is a Java 5.0 API that supports “group by” operations on Lists of Java objects: aggregate operations such as count, sum, max, min, avg, and many more. It allows such "super aggregate" operations as rollups and cubes. It also allows custom aggregate operations. That is, one can create custom Aggregators to work with jAgg.

Introduction

Java

Today in Java there is no practical “group by” operation that imitates the corresponding database functionality mandated by the SQL language. That is, we can’t take an arbitrary List of Objects, group them according to specific object properties, and perform aggregate operations on them. There are a few parts of Java that do begin to implement a little of the desired functionality. Some of them follow here:

  1. The methods “Collections.min” and “Collections.max” iterate over a Collection, returning the minimum or maximum, respectively, of the Collection. The objects in the Collection must be Comparable.
  2. The method “Collections.sort” does provide a sorting capability, which is necessary before object values can be aggregated.
  3. The “Collection” class does define a “size” method that returns the count of items in a Collection.
  4. Java Specification Request (JSR) 243 is Java Data Objects (JDO) 2.0. (JDO 1.0 was specified by JSR 12). Its main focus is object persistence and object-relational mapping. In the specification for JDO 2.2, chapter 14, a PersistenceManager offers the Query capability to applications. This supplies built-in SQL-like syntax that offers limited aggregate function capabilities, with average, count, max, min, and sum supported.

A programmer can always write specific code that loops over a List of Objects, extracts the desired values, performs the aggregate calculations, and returns the aggregate result. But such code is very likely to be highly coupled to existing programmer object types.

Oracle

Oracle, being a relational database that supports the SQL standard, supports many aggregate functions, including many that go beyond the five basic aggregate operations mentioned above, like variance, covariance, standard deviation, correlation, linear regression, and percentile.

Oracle also allows the database user to implement custom aggregate functions, covered here.

If a database programmer creates an Oracle object type with a few specific method names, and associates this object type with the definition of a new function, then a new aggregate function is created. The object type must define methods for initialization, value iteration (processing the next row of input), merging (merging object state for parallel processing), and termination (calculation of the final result).

Main Features

  • Ability to apply "group by" functionality to an arbitrary List of Objects
  • Specify "group by" properties by making List items Comparable or by supplying a list of property names, like a SQL "group by"
  • 20 built-in aggregators, including Sum, Count, Avg, Max, and Min
  • Custom aggregator support
  • Parallel processing
  • Multiset Discrimination as an alternative to sorting, to gather items with identical properties prior to aggregation
  • Super aggregate feature includes ability to create rollups and cubes

Use Case

What if a Java programmer obtains a List of Objects, from a database or another data source, but wants to provide multiple or customizable views to summarize and/or breakdown the data? The programmer does not want to go back to the database or data source for each breakdown a user specifies. Such queries can be costly.

A mechanism to obtain the data once, and then process aggregate functions in any manner in memory is more desirable in this case.

Fully Dressed Use Case

Primary Actor: Statistical Analyzer

Stakeholders and Interests:

  • Statistical Analyzer: Wants aggregate operations performed on a list of values, without going to a database, or going back to a database from which the list of values came.

Preconditions: A statistical analyzer has a List of values to analyze with one or more aggregate operations. Built-in operations include, but are not limited to, standard aggregate operations such as average, count, max, min, and sum.

Success guarantee: The aggregation engine generates correct values for each desired aggregate operation, or it throws a RuntimeException that indicates why an operation could not be performed.

Main Success Scenario:

  1. A statistical analyzer has obtained a list of objects that contain one or more sets of values, and knows which aggregate operations are to be performed.
  2. The analyzer sends the list of objects, a list of "group-by" properties, and a list of aggregate operations on specific properties to the jAgg API.
  3. The jAgg API creates a shallow copy of the list of objects and sorts the list.
  4. The API iterates through the sorted list, creating and using Aggregators to obtain aggregate values.
  5. The API wraps the "group-by" values and the aggregate values in a List of AggregateValues and returns that list to the analyzer.

Alternative Flows:

4a. A specified "group-by" or aggregation property name is invalid, a specified property is inappropriate for a performed aggregation, or an Exception is generated by an Aggregator. No non-null values does not represent an alternative flow.

  1. The aggregator engine throws a RuntimeException to indicate that an error has occurred during the aggregation process, encapsulating any internally thrown Exception as its cause.

Technology and Data Variations List:

2a. The statistical analyzer may indicate that the aggregations engine should use one or more custom Aggregator objects to generate custom aggregate values.