Use $skiptoken for server-driven paging
Loading large data can be slow. Services often rely on pagination to load the data incrementally to improve the response times and the user experience. Paging can be server-driven or client-driven:
In client-driven paging, the client decides how many records it wants to load and asks the server that many records. That is achieved by using $skip and $top query options in conjunction. For instance, if a client needs to request 10 records from 71-80, it can send a similar request as below:
In server-driven paging, the client asks for a collection of entities and the server sends back partial results as well as a nextlink to use to retrieve more results. The nextlink is an opaque link which may use $skiptoken to store state about the request, such as the last read entity.
Currently, WebAPI uses $skip for server-driven paging which is a slight deviation from the OData standard and can be problematic when the data source can get updated concurrently. For instance, a deletion of a record may cause the last record to be sent down to the client twice.
WebAPI will now implement $skiptoken. When a collection of entity is requested which requires paging, we will assign the key value of the last sent entity to $skiptoken in the nextlink url prepended by values of the orderby properties in same order. While processing a request with $skiptoken, we will add another condition to the predicate based on the value of the skipoken.
After all the query options have been applied, we determine if the results need pagination. If the results need pagination, we will pass the generated skiptoken value based off of the last result to the method that generates the nextpage link.
Format of the nextlink
The nextlink may contain $skiptoken if the result needs to be paginated. In WebAPI the $skiptoken value will be a list of pairs, where the pair consists of a property name and property value separated by a delimiter(:). The orderby property and value pairs will be followed by key property and value pairs in the value for $skiptoken. Each property and value pair will be comma separated.
~/Products?$skiptoken=Id:27 ~/Books?$skiptoken=ISBN:978-2-121-87758-1,CopyNumber:11 ~/Products?$skiptoken=Id:25&$top=40 ~/Products?$orderby=Name&$skiptoken=Name:'KitKat',Id:25&$top=40 ~/Cars(id)/Colors?$skip=4
We will not use $skiptoken if the requested resource is not an entity type. Rather, normal skip will be used.
This is the default format but services can define their own format for the $skiptoken as well but in that case, they will have to parse and generate the skiptoken value themselves.
Generating the nextlink
The next link generation method in GetNextPageHelper static class will take in the $skiptoken value along with other query parameters and generate the link by doing special handling for $skip, $skiptoken and $top. It will pass on the other query options as they were in the original request.
1. Handle $skip
We will omit the $skip value if the service is configured to support $skiptoken and a collection of entity is being requested. This is because the first response would have applied the $skip query option to the results already.
2. Handle $top
The next link will only appear if the page size is less than the $top query option. We will reduce the value of $top query option by the page size while generating the next link.
3. Handle $skiptoken
The value for the $skiptoken will be updated to new value passed in which is the key value for the last record sent. If the skiptoken value is not sent, we will call the existing method and use $skip for paging instead.
Since we will only be modifying the query options from the original request to generate the nextlink, the routing will remain same as the original request.
Parsing $skiptoken and generating the Linq expression
New classes will be created for SkipTokenQueryOption and SkipTokenQueryValidator. SkipTokenQueryOption will contain the methods to create and apply the LINQ expression based on the $skiptoken value. To give an example, for a query like the following:
The following where clause will be added to the predicate:
WHERE Prop1>value1 Or (Prop1=value1 AND Prop2>value2) Or (Prop1=value1 AND Prop2=value2 AND Id1>Val) Or (Prop1=value1 AND Prop2=value2 AND Id1=idVal1 AND Id2>idVal2)
Note that the greater than operator will be swapped for less than operator if the order is descending.
Generating the $skiptoken
The SkipTokenQueryOption class will be utilized by ODataQueryOption to pass the token value to the nextlink generator helper methods. In the process, IWebApiRequestMessage will be modified and GetNextPageLink method will be overloaded to now accept another parameter for the $skiptoken value.
Configuration to use $skiptoken or $skip for server-driven paging
We will allow services to configure if they want to use $skiptoken or $skip for paging per route as there can be performance issues with a large database with multipart keys. By default, we will use $skip.
Moreover, we will ensure stable sorting if the query is configured for using $skiptoken.
Additional details and discussions
1. How would a developer implement paging without using EnableQuery attribute? What about stable ordering in that case?
a. The new SkipTokenQueryOption class will provide 2 methods-
i. GenerateSkipTokenValue – requires the EDM model, the results as IQuerable and OrderbyQueryOption. ii. ApplyTo - applies the LINQ expression for $skiptoken. iii. ParseSkipTokenValue - Populates the dictionary of property-value pairs on the class
For developers having non-linq data sources, they can generate the skiptoken value using the new class and use this class in their own implementation of the filtering that ApplyTo does.
b. To ensure stable ordering, we will provide a public method on ODataQueryOptions - GenerateStableOrderQueryOption: It will output an OrderbyQueryOption which can be passed to the skiptoken generator.
Developers not using the EnableQuery attribute will have to generate their own OrderbyQueryOption and generate the skiptoken value themselves.
2. Should the nextlink modify the list of orderby properties to ensure stable ordering?
Currently, the way the code is structured, a lot of the information about the current query ($apply and $orderby) would need to be passed down to the nextlink generator to append to the orderby and moreover, it will make it very cumbersome for developers not using the enable query attribute to use it.
Instead, we will expose methods on ODataQueryOption that will enable developers to generate their orderby clauses for stable sorting.
3. Parameterizing the nextlink instead of using skiptoken?
Currently, the developers not using the enable query attribute generate the next link by using GetNextPageLink extension method on the request. Considering that the data source can even be linq incompatible, this will be a significant deviation from the current implementation for such developers. Moreover, the need to filter the results based on a certain value fits more into the QueryOption paradigm and makes it more suitable for customers supporting linq.