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Type Classes

In Substrait, the “class” of a type, not to be confused with the concept from object-oriented programming, defines the set of non-null values that instances of a type may assume.

Implementations of a Substrait type must support at least this set of values, but may include more; for example, an i8 could be represented using the same in-memory format as an i32, as long as functions operating on i8 values within [-128..127] behave as specified (in this case, this means 8-bit overflow must work as expected). Operating on values outside the specified range is unspecified behavior.

Simple Types

Simple type classes are those that don’t support any form of configuration. For simplicity, any generic type that has only a small number of discrete implementations is declared directly, as opposed to via configuration.

Type Name Description Protobuf representation for literals
boolean A value that is either True or False. bool
i8 A signed integer within [-128..127], typically represented as an 8-bit two’s complement number. int32
i16 A signed integer within [-32,768..32,767], typically represented as a 16-bit two’s complement number. int32
i32 A signed integer within [-2147483648..2,147,483,647], typically represented as a 32-bit two’s complement number. int32
i64 A signed integer within [−9,223,372,036,854,775,808..9,223,372,036,854,775,807], typically represented as a 64-bit two’s complement number. int64
fp32 A 4-byte single-precision floating point number with range as defined here. float
fp64 An 8-byte double-precision floating point number with range as defined here. double
string A unicode string of text, [0..2,147,483,647] UTF-8 bytes in length. string
binary A binary value, [0..2,147,483,647] bytes in length. binary
timestamp A naive timestamp within [1000-01-01 00:00:00.000000..9999-12-31 23:59:59.999999], with microsecond precision. Does not include timezone information and can thus not be unambiguously mapped to a moment on the timeline without context. Similar to naive datetime in Python. int64 microseconds since 1970-01-01 00:00:00.000000 (in an unspecified timezone)
timestamp_tz A timezone-aware timestamp within [1000-01-01 00:00:00.000000 UTC..9999-12-31 23:59:59.999999 UTC], with microsecond precision. Similar to aware datetime in Python. int64 microseconds since 1970-01-01 00:00:00.000000 UTC
date A date within [1000-01-01..9999-12-31]. int32 days since 1970-01-01
time A time since the beginning of any day. Range of [0..86,399,999,999] microseconds; leap seconds need not be supported. int64 microseconds past midnight
interval_year Interval year to month. Supports a range of [-10,000..10,000] years with month precision (= [-120,000..120,000] months). Usually stored as separate integers for years and months, but only the total number of months is significant, i.e. 1y 0m is considered equal to 0y 12m or 1001y -12000m. int32 years and int32 months, with the added constraint that each component can never independently specify more than 10,000 years, even if the components have opposite signs (e.g. -10000y 200000m is not allowed)
interval_day Interval day to second. Supports a range of [-3,650,000..3,650,000] days with microsecond precision (= [-315,360,000,000,000,000..315,360,000,000,000,000] microseconds). Usually stored as separate integers for various components, but only the total number of microseconds is significant, i.e. 1d 0s is considered equal to 0d 86400s. int32 days, int32 seconds, and int32 microseconds, with the added constraint that each component can never independently specify more than 10,000 years, even if the components have opposite signs (e.g. 3650001d -86400s 0us is not allowed)
uuid A universally-unique identifier composed of 128 bits. Typically presented to users in the following hexadecimal format: c48ffa9e-64f4-44cb-ae47-152b4e60e77b. Any 128-bit value is allowed, without specific adherence to RFC4122. 16-byte binary

Compound Types

Compound type classes are type classes that need to be configured by means of a parameter pack.

Type Name Description Protobuf representation for literals
FIXEDCHAR<L> A fixed-length unicode string of L characters. L must be within [1..2,147,483,647]. L-character string
VARCHAR<L> A unicode string of at most L characters.L must be within [1..2,147,483,647]. string with at most L characters
FIXEDBINARY<L> A binary string of L bytes. When casting, values shorter than L are padded with zeros, and values longer than L are right-trimmed. L-byte bytes
DECIMAL<P, S> A fixed-precision decimal value having precision (P, number of digits) <= 38 and scale (S, number of fractional digits) 0 <= S <= P. 16-byte bytes representing a little-endian 128-bit integer, to be divided by 10^S to get the decimal value
STRUCT<T1,…,Tn> A list of types in a defined order. repeated Literal, types matching T1..Tn
NSTRUCT<N:T1,…,N:Tn> Pseudo-type: A struct that maps unique names to value types. Each name is a UTF-8-encoded string. Each value can have a distinct type. Note that NSTRUCT is actually a pseudo-type, because Substrait’s core type system is based entirely on ordinal positions, not named fields. Nonetheless, when working with systems outside Substrait, names are important. n/a
LIST<T> A list of values of type T. The list can be between [0..2,147,483,647] values in length. repeated Literal, all types matching T
MAP<K, V> An unordered list of type K keys with type V values. repeated KeyValue (in turn two Literals), all key types matching K and all value types matching V

User-Defined Types

User-defined type classes can be created using a combination of pre-defined types. User-defined types are defined as part of simple extensions. An extension can declare an arbitrary number of user defined extension types. Once a type has been declared, it can be used in function declarations.

A YAML example of an extension type is below:

name: point
  longitude: i32
  latitude: i32

This declares a new type (namespaced to the associated YAML file) called “point”. This type is composed of two i32 values named longitude and latitude.

Structure and opaque types

The name-type object notation used above is syntactic sugar for NSTRUCT<longitude: i32, latitude: i32>. The following means the same thing:

name: point
structure: "NSTRUCT<longitude: i32, latitude: i32>"

The structure field of a type is only intended to inform systems that don’t have built-in support for the type how they can transfer the data type from one point to another without unnecessary serialization/deserialization and without loss of type safety. Note that it is currently not possible to “unpack” a user-defined type class into its structure type or components thereof using FieldReferences or any other specialized record expression; if support for this is desired for a particular type, this can be accomplished with an extension function.

The structure field is optional. If not specified, the type class is considered to be fully opaque. This implies that a systems without built-in support for the type cannot manipulate values in any way, including moving and cloning. This may be useful for exotic, context-sensitive types, such as raw pointers or identifiers that cannot be cloned.

Note however that the vast majority of types can be trivially moved and copied, even if they cannot be precisely represented using Substrait’s built-in types. In this case, it is recommended to use binary or FIXEDBINARY<n> (where n is the size of the type) as the structure type. For example, an unsigned 32-bit integer type could be defined as follows:

name: u32
structure: "FIXEDBINARY<4>"

In this case, i32 might also be used.


Literals for user-defined types are represented using protobuf Any messages.

Compound User-Defined Types

User-defined types may be turned into compound types by requiring parameters to be passed to them. The supported “meta-types” for parameters are data types (like those used in LIST, MAP, and STRUCT), booleans, integers, enumerations, and strings. Using parameters, we could redefine “point” with different types of coordinates. For example:

name: point
  - name: T
    description: |
      The type used for the longitude and latitude
      components of the point.
    type: dataType


name: point
  - name: coordinate_type
    type: enumeration
      - integer
      - double


name: point
  - name: LONG
    type: dataType
  - name: LAT
    type: dataType

We can’t specify the internal structure in this case, because there is currently no support for derived types in the structure.

The allowed range can be limited for integer parameters. For example:

name: vector
  - name: T
    type: dataType
  - name: dimensions
    type: integer
    min: 2
    max: 3

This specifies a vector that can be either 2- or 3-dimensional. Note however that it’s not currently possible to put constraints on data type, string, or (technically) boolean parameters.

Similar to function arguments, the last parameter may be specified to be variadic, allowing it to be specified one or more times instead of only once. For example:

name: union
  - name: T
    type: dataType
variadic: true

This defines a type that can be parameterized with one or more other data types, for example union<i32, i64> but also union<bool>. Zero or more is also possible, by making the last argument optional:

name: tuple
  - name: T
    type: dataType
    optional: true
variadic: true

This would also allow for tuple<>, to define a zero-tuple.