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Updating Repositories


  • When a new version of Knora requires an existing repository to be updated, do this automatically when Knora starts, if possible.

  • Make the update process as fast as possible, with some indication of progress as it runs.


As explained in Knora Ontology Versions, the knora-base ontology contains a version string to ensure compatibility between a repository and a given version of Knora. The same version string is therefore hard-coded in the Knora source code, in the string constant org.knora.webapi.KnoraBaseVersion. For new pull requests, the format of this string is knora-base vN, where N is an integer that is incremented for each version.

During Knora's startup process, ApplicationActor sends an UpdateRepositoryRequest message to the StoreManager, which forwards it to TriplestoreManager, which delegates it to

RepositoryUpdater does the following procedure:

  1. Check the knora-base version string in the repository.

  2. Consult to see which transformations are needed.

  3. Download the entire repository from the triplestore into an N-Quads file.

  4. Read the N-Quads file into an RdfModel.

  5. Update the RdfModel by running the necessary transformations, and replacing the built-in DSP ontologies with the current ones.

  6. Save the RdfModel to a new N-Quads file.

  7. Empty the repository in the triplestore.

  8. Upload the transformed repository file to the triplestore.

To update the RdfModel, RepositoryUpdater runs a sequence of upgrade plugins, each of which is a class in and is registered in RepositoryUpdatePlan.

Design Rationale

We tried and rejected several other designs:

  • Running SPARQL updates in the triplestore: too slow, and no way to report progress during the update.

  • Downloading the repository and transforming it in Python using rdflib: too slow.

  • Downloading the repository and transforming it in C++ using Redland: also too slow.

The Scala implementation is the fastest by far.

The whole repository is uploaded in a single transaction, rather than uploading one named graph at a time, because GraphDB's consistency checker can enforce dependencies between named graphs.

Adding an Upgrade Plugin

Each time a pull request introduces changes that are not compatible with existing data, the following must happen:

  • The knora-base version number must be incremented in knora-base.ttl and in the string constant org.knora.webapi.KnoraBaseVersion.

  • A plugin must be added in the package, to transform existing repositories so that they are compatible with the code changes introduced in the pull request. Each new plugin must be registered by adding it to the sequence returned by RepositoryUpdatePlan.makePluginsForVersions.

The order of version numbers (and the plugins) must correspond to the order in which the pull requests are merged.

An upgrade plugin is a Scala class that extends UpgradePlugin. The name of the plugin class should refer to the pull request that made the transformation necessary, using the format UpgradePluginPRNNNN, where NNNN is the number of the pull request.

A plugin's transform method takes an RdfModel (a mutable object representing the repository) and modifies it as needed.

Before transforming the data, a plugin can check whether a required manual transformation has been carried out. If the requirement is not met, the plugin can throw InconsistentRepositoryDataException to abort the upgrade process.

Testing Update Plugins

Each plugin should have a unit test that extends UpgradePluginSpec. A typical test loads a file containing RDF test data into a RdfModel, runs the plugin, makes an RdfRepository containing the transformed RdfModel, and uses SPARQL to check the result.

Last update: January 19, 2023