Queries

Queries are an asynchronous means within a HELICS federation of asking for and receiving information from other federate components. A query provides the ability to evaluate the current state of a federation and typically addresses the configuration and architecture of the federation. Brokers, Federates, and Cores all have query functions. Federates are also able to define a callback for answering custom queries.

The general function looks like this:

C++

std::string query(const std::string& target, const std::string& queryStr)

Python

query_result = h.helicsCreateQuery(traget_string, query_string)

Targets

Each query must define a “target”, the component in the federation that is being queried. The target is either specified in terms of the relationship to the querying federate (e.g. “broker”, “core”) or by name of the federation component (e.g. “dist_system_1_fed”). The table below lists the valid query targets; if a federate happens to be named one of the target names listed below, it will not be queries by that name. For example, naming one of your brokers “broker” will prevent it being a valid target of a query by name. Instead, any federate that queries “broker” will end up targeting their broker.

target Description
broker The first broker encountered in the hierarchy from the caller
root, federation, rootbroker The root broker of the federation
global Retrieve the data associated with a global variable
parent The parent of the caller
core The core of a federate. This is not a valid target if called from a broker
federate A query to the local federate or the first federate of a core
<object name> any named object in the federation can also be queried, brokers, cores, and federates

Query String

The queryStr is the specific data being requested; the tables below show the valid data provided by each queryable federation component. All queries return a valid JSON string with invalid queries returning a JSON with an error code and error message. (The only exception is the global_value query which just returns a string that is the value stored in the global directly.)

  • true/false [T/F]
  • a single quoted string "answer" [string]
  • a vector of quoted strings delimited by ',' ["answer1","answer"","answer3"] [sv] this is a JSON compliant string vector
  • a JSON string with an object structure [structure] As of HELICS 2.7.0 Queries have an optional parameter to describe a sequencing mode. There are currently two modes, HELICS_SEQUENCING_MODE_FAST which travels along priority channels and is identical to previous versions in which all queries traveled along those channels. The other mode is HELICS_SEQUENCING_MODE_ORDERED which travels along lower priority channels but is ordered with all other messages in the system. This can be useful in some situations where you want previous messages to be acknowledged as part of the federation before the query is run. The global_flush query is forced to run in ordered mode at least until after it gets to the specified target.

Federate Queries

The following queries are defined for federates. Federates may specify a callback function which allows arbitrary user defined Queries. The queries defined here are available inside of HELICS.

queryString Description
name the identifier of the federate [string]
exists Basic query if the federate exists in the Federation [T/F]
isinit If the federate has entered init mode [T/F]
state Current state of the federate as a string [string]
global_state Current state of the federate as a string [structure]
publications current publications of a federate [sv]
subscriptions current subscriptions of a federate [sv]
inputs current inputs of a federate [sv]
endpoints current endpoints of a federate [sv]
dependencies list of the objects this federate depends on [sv]
dependents list of dependent objects [sv]
current_time the current time of the federate [structure]
endpoint_filters data structure with the filters for endpoints[structure]
dependency_graph a graph of the dependencies in a federation [structure]
data_flow_graph a structure with all the data connections [structure]
queries list of available queries [sv]
version the version string of the helics library [string]
tags a JSON structure with the tags and values [structure]
tag/<tagname> the value associated with a tagname [string]
<tagname> the value associated with a tagname [string]

The global_time_debugging and global_flush queries are also acknowledged by federates but it is not usually recommended to run those queries on a particular federate as they are more useful at higher levels. See the Core and Broker queries for more description of them. The difference between tag/<tagname> and <tagname> is that using the tag/ prefix can retrieve any tag and will return an empty string if the tag doesn’t exist. Just using the tag name will not return tags of the same name as other queries and will generate an error response if the tag doesn’t exist.

Local Federate Queries

The following queries are defined for federates but can only be queried on the local federate, that is, the federate making the query. Federates may specify a callback function which allows arbitrary user defined Queries.

queryString Description
updated_input_indices vector of number of the inputs that have been updated [sv]
updated_input_names names or targets of inputs that have been updated [sv]
updates values of all currently updated inputs [structure]
values current values of all inputs [structure]
time the current granted time [string]

Core queries

The following queries will be answered by a core:

queryString Description
name the identifier of the core [string]
address the network address of the core [string]
isinit If the core has entered init mode [T/F]
isconnected If the core has is connected to the network [T/F]
publications current publications defined in a core [sv]
inputs current named inputs defined in a core [sv]
endpoints current endpoints defined in a core [sv]
filters current filters of the core [sv]
federates current federates defined in a core [sv]
dependenson list of the objects this core depends on [sv]
dependents list of dependent objects [sv]
dependencies structure containing dependency information [structure]
federate_map a Hierarchical map of the federates contained in a core [structure]
federation_state a structure with the current known status of the brokers and federates [structure]
current_time if a time is computed locally that time sequence is returned [structure]
global_time | get a structure with the current time status of all the federates/cores [structure]
current_state | The state of all the components of a core as known by the core [structure]
global_state The state of all the components from the components [structure]
dependency_graph a representation of the dependencies in the core and its federates [structure]
data_flow_graph a representation of the data connections from all interfaces in a core [structure]
filtered_endpoints data structure containing the filters on endpoints for the core[structure]
queries list of dependent objects [sv]
version_all data structure with the version string and the federates[structure]
version the version string for the helics library [string]
counter A single number with a code, changes indicate core changes [string]
global_time_debugging return detailed time debugging state [structure]
global_flush a query that just flushes the current system and returns the id’s [structure]
tags a JSON structure with the tags and values [structure]
tag/<tagname> the value associated with a tagname [string]
<tagname> the value associated with a tagname [string]

The version and version_all queries are valid but are not usually queried directly, but instead the same query is used on a broker and this query in the core is used as a building block.

Broker Queries

The following queries will be answered by a broker:

queryString Description
name the identifier of the broker [string]
address the network address of the broker [string]
isinit If the broker has entered init mode [T/F]
isconnected If the broker is connected to the network [T/F]
publications current publications known to a broker [sv]
endpoints current endpoints known to a broker [sv]
federates current federates under the brokers hierarchy [sv]
brokers current cores/brokers connected to a broker [sv]
dependson list of the objects this broker depends on [sv]
dependencies structure containing dependency information for the broker [structure]
dependents list of dependent objects [sv]
counts a simple count of the number of brokers, federates, and handles [structure]
current_state a structure with the current known status of the brokers and federates [structure]
global_state a structure with the current state all system components [structure]
status a structure with the current known status (true if connected) of the broker [structure]
current_time if a time is computed locally that time sequence is returned, otherwise #na [string]
global_time get a structure with the current time status of all the federates/cores [structure]
federate_map a Hierarchical map of the federates contained in a broker [structure]
dependency_graph a representation of the dependencies connections in all objects connected to a broker [structure]
data_flow_graph a representation of the data connections from all interfaces in a federation [structure]
queries list of dependent objects [sv]
version_all data structure with the version strings of all broker components [structure]
version the version string for the helics library [string]
counter A single number with a code, changes indicate federation changes [string]
global_time_debugging return detailed time debugging state [structure]
global_flush a query that just flushes the current system and returns the id’s [structure]
global_status an aggregate query that returns a combo of global_time and current_state [structure]

federate_map, dependency_graph, global_time,global_state,global_time_debugging, and data_flow_graph when called with the root broker as a target will generate a JSON string containing the entire structure of the federation. This can take some time to assemble since all members must be queried. global_flush will also force the entire structure along the ordered path which can be quite a bit slower.

error codes returned by the query follow http error codes for “Not Found (404)” or “Resource Not Available (400)” or “Server Failure (500)”.

Usage Notes

Queries that must traverse the network travel along priority paths unless specified otherwise with a sequencing mode. The calls are blocking, but they do not wait for time advancement from any federate and take priority over regular communication.

The difference between current_state and global_state is that current_state is generated by information contained in the component so doesn’t generate secondary queries of other components. Whereas global_state will reach out to the other components to get up to date information on the state.

Error Handling

Queries that can’t be processed or are not recognized return a JSON error structure. The structure will contain an error code and message such as:

{
    "error": {
        "code": 404,
        "message": "target not found"
    }
}

The error codes match with HTTP error codes to the extent possible.

Application API

There are two basic calls in the application API as part of a federate object In addition to the call described above a second version omits the “target” specification and always queries the local federate.

std::string    query(const std::string& queryStr)

There is also an asyncrhonous version (that is, non-blocking) that returns a query_id_t that can be use in queryComplete and isQueryComplete functions.

query_id_t     queryAsync(const std::string& target, const std::string& queryStr)

In the header <helics\queryFunctions.hpp> a few helper functions are defined to vectorize query results and some utility functions to wait for a federate to enter init, or wait for a federate to join the federation.

C API and interface API’s

Queries in the C API have the same valid targets and properties that can be queried but the construction of the query is slightly different. The basic operation is to create a query using helicsQueryCreate(target,query). Once created, the target or query string can be changed with helicsQuerySetTarget() and helicsQuerySetQueryString(), respectively.

This function returns a query object that can be used in one of the execute functions (helicsQueryExecute(), helicsQueryExecuteAsync(), helicsQueryBrokerExecute(), helicsQueryCoreExecute(), to perform the query and receive back results. The query can be called asynchronously on a federate. The target field may be empty if the query is intended to be used on a local federate, in which case the target is assumed to be the federate itself. A query must be freed after use helicsQueryFree().

Timeouts

As long as timeouts are enabled in the library itself, queries have a timeout system so they don’t block forever if a federate fails or some other condition occurs. The current default is 15 seconds. It can be changed by using the command line option --querytimeout on cores or brokers (or in --coreinitstring on cores). In a later version an ability to set this and some other timeout values through properties will likely be added (HELICS 3.1). If the query times out a value of #timeout will be returned in the string.

Example

A full co-simulation example showing how queries can be used for dynamic configuration can can be found here (with the source code in the HELICS Examples repository).