Trees and Other Hierarchies in MySQL
Nested sets model of a tree Edgelist model of a network Parts explosions
Most nontrivial data is hierarchical. Customers have orders, which have lineitems, which refer to products, which have prices. Population samples have subjects, who take tests, which give results, which have subresults and norms. Web sites have pages, which have links, which collect hits, which distribute across dates and times. With such data, we know the depth of the hierarchy before we sit down to write a query. The depth of the hierarchy of tables fixes the number of JOINs we need to write.
But if our data describes a family tree, or a browsing history, or a bill of materials,hierarchical depth depends on the data. We no longer know how many JOINs it will take to walk the tree. We need a different data model.
That model is the graph (Fig 1), which is a set of nodes(vertices) and the edges (lines or arcs) that connectthem. This chapter is about how to model and query graphs in a MySQL database.
Graph theory is a branch of topology. It is the study of geometric relations which aren't changed by stretching and compression—rubber sheet geometry, some call it. Graph theory is ideal for modelling hierarchies—like family trees, browsing histories, search trees and bills of materials—whose shape and size we can't know in advance.
Let the set of nodes in Fig 1 be N
, the set of edges be L
, and the graph be
G
. Then G
is the tuple or ordered pair {N,L}
:
N = {A,B,C,D,E,F} L = {AC,CD,CF,BE} G = {N,L}
If the edges are directed, the graph is a digraph or directed graph. A mixed graph has both directed and undirected edges.
Examples of graphs are organisational charts; itineraries; route maps; parts explosions; massively multiplayer games; language rules; chat histories; network and link analysis in a wide variety of fields, for example search engines, forensics, epidemiology and telecommunications; data mining; models of chemical structure hierarchies; and biochemical processes.
Graph characteristics and models
Nodes and edges : Two nodes are adjacent if there is an edge between them. Two edges are adjacent if they connect to a common node. In a complete graph, all nodes are adjacent to all other nodes.
In a digraph, the number of edges entering a node is its indegree; the number leaving is its outdegree. A node of indegree zero is a root node, a node of outdegree zero is a leaf node.
In a weighted graph, used for example to solve the travelling salesman problem, edges have a weight attribute. A digraph with weighted edges is a
network.
Paths and cycles: A connected sequence of edges is a path, its length the number of edges traversed. Two nodes are connected if there is a path between them. If there is a path connecting every pair of nodes, the graph is a connected graph.
A path in which no node repeats is a simple path. A path which returns to its own origin without crossing itself is a cycle or circuit. A graph with multiple paths between at least one pair of nodes is reconvergent. A reconvergent graph may be cyclic or acyclic. A unit length cycle is a loop.
If a graph's edges intersect only at nodes, it is planar. Two paths having no node in common are independent.
Traversing graphs: There are two main approaches, breadthfirst and depthfirst. Breadthfirst traversal visits all a node's siblings before moving on to the next level, and typically uses a queue. Depthfirst traversal follows edges down to leaves and back before proceeding to siblings, and typically uses a stack.
Sparsity: A graph where the size of E approaches the maximum N^{2} is
dense. When the multiple is much smaller than N, the graph is considered
sparse.
Trees: A tree is a connected graph with no cycles. It is also a graph where the indegree of the root node is 0, and the indegree of every other node is 1. A tree where every node is of outdegree <=2 is a binary tree. A
forest is a graph in which every connected component is a tree.
Euler paths: A path which traverses every edge in a graph exactly once is an Euler path. An Euler path which is a circuit is an Euler circuit.
If and only if every node of a connected graph has even degree, it has an Euler circuit (which is
why the good people of Königsberg cannot go for a walk crossing each of their seven bridges exactly once). If and only if a connected graph has exactly 2 nodes with odd degree, it has a noncircuit Euler path. The degree of an endpoint of a noncycle Euler
path is 1 + twice thenumber of times the path passes through that node, so it is always odd.
Models for computing graphs
Traditionally, computer science textbooks have offered edge lists, adjacency lists and adjacency matrices as data structures for graphs, with algorithms implemented in languages like C, C++ and Java. More recently other models and tools have been suggested, including query languages customised for graphs.
Edge list: The simplest way to represent a graph is to list its edges: for Fig 1, the edge list is {AC,CD,CF,BE}
. It is easy to add an edge to the list; deletion is a little harder.


Nodes  Adjacent nodes 
A  C 
B  E 
C  F,D,A 
D  C 
E  B 
F  C 
An undirected graph may be represented by having node j in the list for node i, and node i in the list for node j. Table 1 shows the adjacency list of the graph in Fig 1 interpreted as undirected.
Adjacency matrix: An adjacency matrix represents a graph with n nodes as an n x n matrix, where the entry at (i,j) is 1 if there is an edge from node i to node j, or zero if there is not.
An adjacency matrix can represent a weighted graph using the weight as the entry, and can represent an undirected graph by using the same entry in both (i,j) and (j,i), or by using an upper triangular matrix.
There are useful glossaries here and here.
Graphs and SQL
Often standard SQL has been thought cumbersome for graph problems. Craig Mullins once wrote that "the setbased nature of SQL is not simple to master and is anathema to the OO techniques practiced by Java developers."
A few years after Mullins wrote that, SQL is everywhere, and it is increasingly applied to graph problems. DB2, Oracle and SQL Server have recursive operators for processing recursive sets, though they all work a little differently. MySQL has no such special tools, though the Open Query group has a graph engine under development. Meanwhile Joe Celko and Scott Stephens, among others, have published general SQL graph problem solutions that are simpler and smaller than equivalent C++, C# or Java code. Here we implement some of these ideas in MySQL.
Beware that in ports of edge list and adjacency list methods to SQL, there has been name slippage. What's often called the adjacency list model in the SQL world is actually an edge list model. If you follow the nowcommon practice in the SQL world of referring to edge lists as adjacency lists, don't be surprised to find that the model isn't quite like the adjacency list in Table 1. Here we waffle. We call them edgeadjacency lists.
There are also two newer kinds of models: what Joe Celko called the nested setsmodel—also known as the intervalmodel—which uses greaterthan/lessthan arithmetic to encode tree relationships and modified preorder tree traversal (MPTT) to query them, and Tropashko's materialised path model, where each node is stored with its (denormalised) path to the root. So we have four main possibilities for modelling graphs in MySQL:
 edgeadjacency lists: based on an adaptation by EF Codd of the logic of linked lists to table structures and queries,
 adjacency matrices,
 nested sets for trees simplify some queries, but insertion and deletion are cumbersome, and
 materialised paths.
Here we work out how to implement edgeadjacency, nested sets and materialised path models— or parts of them—in MySQL5&6.
The edge list
The edge list is the simplest possible representation of a graph: minimally, a single edges table where each row specifies one node and its parent (which is NULL for the root node), or more elaborately two tables, one for the nodes, the other a bridging table for their edges.
In the real world, the nodes table might be a table of personnel, orassembly parts, or locations on a map. It might have many other columms of data. The edges table might also have additional columns for edge properties. The key integers of both tables might be BIGINTs.
To model Fig 1, though, we keep things as simple as possible:
Listing 1CREATE TABLE nodes( nodeID CHAR(1) PRIMARY KEY);CREATE TABLE edges( childID CHAR(1) NOT NULL, parentID CHAR(1) NOT NULL, PRIMARY KEY(childID,parentID));INSERT INTO nodes VALUES('A'), ('B'), ('C'), ('D'), ('E'), ('F');INSERT INTO edges VALUES ('A','C'), ('C','D'), ('C','F'), ('B','E');SELECT * FROM edges;+++ childID  parentID +++ A  C  B  E  C  D  C  F +++
Now, without any assumptions whatever about whether the graph is connected, whether it is directed, whether it is a tree, or whatever, how hard is it towrite a reachability procedure, a procedure which tells us where we can get to from here, wherever 'here' is?
A simple approach is a breadthfirst search:
 Seed the list with the starting node,
 Add, but do not duplicate, nodes which are children of nodes in the list,
 Add, but do not duplicate, nodes which are parents of nodes in the list,
 Repeat steps 2 and 3 until there are no more nodes to add.
Here it is as a MySQL stored procedure. It avoids duplicate nodes by defining
reached.nodeID
as a primary key and adding reachable nodes with INSERT IGNORE
:
Listing 2DROP PROCEDURE IF EXISTS ListReached;DELIMITER goCREATE PROCEDURE ListReached( IN root CHAR(1) )BEGIN DECLARE rows SMALLINT DEFAULT 0; DROP TABLE IF EXISTS reached; CREATE TABLE reached ( nodeID CHAR(1) PRIMARY KEY ) ENGINE=HEAP; INSERT INTO reached VALUES (root ); SET rows = ROW_COUNT(); WHILE rows > 0 DO INSERT IGNORE INTO reached SELECT DISTINCT childID FROM edges AS e INNER JOIN reached AS p ON e.parentID = p.nodeID; SET rows = ROW_COUNT(); INSERT IGNORE INTO reached SELECT DISTINCT parentID FROM edges AS e INNER JOIN reached AS p ON e.childID = p.nodeID; SET rows = rows + ROW_COUNT(); END WHILE; SELECT * FROM reached; DROP TABLE reached;END;goDELIMITER ;CALL ListReached('A');++ nodeID ++ A  C  D  F ++
To make the procedure more versatile, give it input parameters which tell it whether to list child, parent or all connections, and whether to recognise loops (for example C to C).
To give the model referential integrity, use InnoDB and make edges.childID
and
edges.parentID
foreign keys. To add or delete a node, add or delete desired single rows in
nodes
and edges
. To change an edge, edit it. The model does not require the graph to be connected or treelike, and does not presume direction.
The edge list is basic to what SQLers often call the adjacency list model.
Edgeadjacency list model of a tree
Writers in the SQL graph literature often give solutions using single denormalised tables.Denormalisation can cost, big time. The bigger the table, the bigger the cost. You cannot edit nodes and edges separately. Carrying extra node information during edge computation slows performance. With nodes and edges denormalised to one table, you have to represent the root node with a NULL.
To avoid these difficulties, normalise trees like William Shakespeare's family tree (Fig 2) with two tables, a nodes table (family) containing information about individuals, and an edges table (familytree)with a row for each parentchild link or edge. Later, when we use a different tree model, we won't have to mess with the data being modelled.
Listing 3 Base data:CREATE TABLE family ( ID smallint(6) PRIMARY KEY AUTO_INCREMENT, name char(20) default '', siborder tinyint(4) default NULL, born smallint(4) unsigned default NULL, died smallint(4) unsigned default NULL);INSERT INTO family VALUES (1, 'Richard Shakespeare', NULL, NULL, 1561);INSERT INTO family VALUES (2, 'Henry Shakespeare', 1, NULL, 1569);INSERT INTO family VALUES (3, 'John Shakespeare', 2, 1530, 1601);INSERT INTO family VALUES (4, 'Joan Shakespeare', 1, 1558, NULL);INSERT INTO family VALUES (5, 'Margaret Shakespeare', 2, 1562, 1563);INSERT INTO family VALUES (6, 'William Shakespeare', 3, 1564, 1616);INSERT INTO family VALUES (7, 'Gilbert Shakespeare', 4, 1566, 1612);INSERT INTO family VALUES (8, 'Joan Shakespeare', 5, 1568, 1646);INSERT INTO family VALUES (9, 'Anne Shakespeare', 6, 1571, 1579);INSERT INTO family VALUES (10, 'Richard Shakespeare', 7, 1574, 1613);INSERT INTO family VALUES (11, 'Edmond Shakespeare', 8, 1580, 1607);INSERT INTO family VALUES (12, 'Susana Shakespeare', 1, 1583, 1649);INSERT INTO family VALUES (13, 'Hamnet Shakespeare', 1, 1585, 1596);INSERT INTO family VALUES (14, 'Judith Shakespeare', 1, 1585, 1662);INSERT INTO family VALUES (15, 'William Hart', 1, 1600, 1639);INSERT INTO family VALUES (16, 'Mary Hart', 2, 1603, 1607);INSERT INTO family VALUES (17, 'Thomas Hart', 3, 1605, 1670);INSERT INTO family VALUES (18, 'Michael Hart', 1, 1608, 1618);INSERT INTO family VALUES (19, 'Elizabeth Hall', 1, 1608, 1670);INSERT INTO family VALUES (20, 'Shakespeare Quiney', 1, 1616, 1617);INSERT INTO family VALUES (21, 'Richard Quiney', 2, 1618, 1639);INSERT INTO family VALUES (22, 'Thomas Quiney', 3, 1620, 1639);INSERT INTO family VALUES (23, 'John Bernard', 1, NULL, 1674); Table which models the tree:CREATE TABLE familytree ( childID smallint NOT NULL, parentID smallint NOT NULL, PRIMARY KEY (childID, parentID););INSERT INTO familytree VALUES (2, 1), (3, 1), (4, 2), (5, 2), (6, 2), (7, 2), (8, 2), (9, 2), (10, 2), (11, 2), (12, 6), (13, 6), (14, 6), (15, 8), (16, 8), (17, 8), (18, 8), (19, 12), (20, 14), (21, 14), (22, 14), (23, 19);
(The family
PK is autoincrement, but the listing is more readerfriendly when the
ID
values are shown.)
It will be useful to have a function that returns family.name
for a parent or child ID in
familytree
:
Listing 4 5.0.16 OR LATER:SET GLOBAL log_bin_trust_function_creators=TRUE;DROP FUNCTION IF EXISTS PersonName;DELIMITER goCREATE FUNCTION PersonName( personID SMALLINT )RETURNS CHAR(20)BEGIN DECLARE pname CHAR(20) DEFAULT ''; SELECT name INTO pname FROM family WHERE ID=personID; RETURN pname;END;goDELIMITER ;SELECT PersonName( parentID ) AS 'Parent of William'FROM familytreeWHERE childID = 6;++ Parent of William ++ Henry Shakespeare ++SELECT PersonName( childID ) AS 'Children of William'FROM familytreeWHERE parentID = ( SELECT ID FROM family WHERE name = 'William Shakespeare' );++ Children of William ++ Susana Shakespeare  Hamnet Shakespeare  Judith Shakespeare ++SELECT PersonName(childID) AS child, PersonName(parentID) AS parentFROM familytree;+++ child  parent +++ Henry Shakespeare  Richard Shakespeare  John Shakespeare  Richard Shakespeare  Joan Shakespeare  Henry Shakespeare  Margaret Shakespeare  Henry Shakespeare  William Shakespeare  Henry Shakespeare  Gilbert Shakespeare  Henry Shakespeare  Joan Shakespeare  Henry Shakespeare  Anne Shakespeare  Henry Shakespeare  Richard Shakespeare  Henry Shakespeare  Edmond Shakespeare  Henry Shakespeare  Susana Shakespeare  William Shakespeare  Hamnet Shakespeare  William Shakespeare  Judith Shakespeare  William Shakespeare  William Hart  Joan Shakespeare  Mary Hart  Joan Shakespeare  Thomas Hart  Joan Shakespeare  Michael Hart  Joan Shakespeare  Elizabeth Hall  Susana Shakespeare  Shakespeare Quiney  Judith Shakespeare  Richard Quiney  Judith Shakespeare  Thomas Quiney  Judith Shakespeare  John Bernard  Elizabeth Hall +++
A sametable foreign key can simplify tree maintenance:
Listing 4acreate table edges ( ID int PRIMARY KEY, parentid int, foreign key(parentID) references edges(ID) ON DELETE CASCADE ON UPDATE CASCADE) engine=innodb; insert into edges(ID,parentID) values (1,null),(2,1),(3,1),(4,2);select * from edges;+++ ID  parentid +++ 1  NULL  2  1  3  1  4  2 +++delete from edges where id=2;select * from edges;+++ ID  parentid +++ 1  NULL  3  1 +++
Simple queries retrieve basic facts about the tree, for example GROUP_CONCAT() collects parent nodes with their children in correct order:
Listing 5SELECT parentID AS Parent, GROUP_CONCAT(childID ORDER BY siborder) AS ChildrenFROM familytree tJOIN family f ON t.parentID=f.ID GROUP BY parentID;+++ Parent  Children +++ 1  3,2  2  4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11  6  12,13,14  8  18,17,16,15  12  19  14  22,21,20  19  23 +++
Iterate over those commaseparated lists with a bit of application code and you have a hybrid treewalk. The paterfamilias is the root node, individuals with no children are the leaf nodes, and queries to retrieve subtree statistics are straightforward:
Listing 6SELECT PersonName(ID) AS Paterfamilias, IFNULL(born,'?') AS Born, IFNULL(died,'?') AS DiedFROM family AS fLEFT JOIN familytree AS t ON f.ID=t.childIDWHERE t.childID IS NULL;++++ Paterfamilias  Born  Died ++++ Richard Shakespeare  ?  1561 ++++SELECT PersonName(ID) AS Childless, IFNULL(born,'?') AS Born, IFNULL(died,'?') AS DiedFROM family AS fLEFT JOIN familytree AS t ON f.ID=t.parentIDWHERE t.parentID IS NULL;++++ Childless  Born  Died ++++ John Shakespeare  1530  1601  Joan Shakespeare  1558  ?  Margaret Shakespeare  1562  1563  Gilbert Shakespeare  1566  1612  Anne Shakespeare  1571  1579  Richard Shakespeare  1574  1613  Edmond Shakespeare  1580  1607  Hamnet Shakespeare  1585  1596  William Hart  1600  1639  Mary Hart  1603  1607  Thomas Hart  1605  1670  Michael Hart  1608  1618  Shakespeare Quiney  1616  1617  Richard Quiney  1618  1639  Thomas Quiney  1620  1639  John Bernard  ?  1674 ++++SELECT ROUND(AVG(diedborn),2) AS 'Longevity of the childless'FROM family AS fLEFT JOIN familytree AS t ON f.ID=t.parentIDWHERE t.parentID IS NULL;++ Longevity of the childless ++ 25.86 ++
In striking contrast with Celko's
nested sets model, inserting a new item in this model requires no revision ofexisting rows. We just add a new
family
row, then a new familytree
row with IDs specifying who is parent to whom. Deletion is also a twostep: delete the
familytree
row for that childparent link, then delete the family
row for that child.
Walking an edge list tree
Traversing subtrees is what gives the edgeadjacency list model its reputation for difficulty. Wecan't know in advance, except in the simplest of trees, how many levels of parent and childhave to be queried, so we need recursion or a logically equivalent loop.
It's a natural problem for a stored procedure. Earlier editions showed a brute force breadthfirstalgorithm that needed three intermediary tables (it can be found in Appendix E). Here is a simpler algorithm thatjust seeds a result table with firstfound parentchild pairs, then uses MySQL’s INSERT IGNORE to add remaining pairs:
Listing 7DROP PROCEDURE IF EXISTS famsubtree;DELIMITER goCREATE PROCEDURE famsubtree( root INT )BEGIN DROP TABLE IF EXISTS famsubtree; CREATE TABLE famsubtree SELECT childID, parentID, 0 AS level FROM familytree WHERE parentID = root; ALTER TABLE famsubtree ADD PRIMARY KEY(childID,parentID); REPEAT INSERT IGNORE INTO famsubtree SELECT f.childID, f.parentID, s.level+1 FROM familytree AS f JOIN famsubtree AS s ON f.parentID = s.childID; UNTIL Row_Count() = 0 END REPEAT;END ;goDELIMITER ;call famsubtree(1);  from the root you can see foreverSELECT Concat(Space(level),parentID) AS Parent, Group_Concat(childID ORDER BY childID) AS ChildFROM famsubtreeGROUP BY parentID;+++ Parent  Child +++ 1  2,3  2  4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11  6  12,13,14  8  15,16,17,18  12  19  14  20,21,22  19  23 +++
Simple and quick. The logic ports to any edge list. We can prove that right now by writing a generic version.GenericTree() just needs parameters for the name of the target table, the names of its child and parent ID columns,and the parent ID whose descendants are sought:
Listing 7a: Generalpurpose edge list tree walkerDROP PROCEDURE IF EXISTS GenericTree;DELIMITER goCREATE PROCEDURE GenericTree( edgeTable CHAR(64), edgeIDcol CHAR(64), edgeParentIDcol CHAR(64), ancestorID INT)BEGIN DECLARE r INT DEFAULT 0; DROP TABLE IF EXISTS subtree; SET @sql = Concat( 'CREATE TABLE subtree ENGINE=MyISAM SELECT ', edgeIDcol,' AS childID, ', edgeParentIDcol, ' AS parentID,', '0 AS level FROM ', edgeTable, ' WHERE ', edgeParentIDcol, '=', ancestorID ); PREPARE stmt FROM @sql; EXECUTE stmt; DROP PREPARE stmt; ALTER TABLE subtree ADD PRIMARY KEY(childID,parentID); REPEAT SET @sql = Concat( 'INSERT IGNORE INTO subtree SELECT a.', edgeIDcol, ',a.',edgeparentIDcol, ',b.level+1 FROM ', edgeTable, ' AS a JOIN subtree AS b ON a.',edgeParentIDcol, '=b.childID' ); PREPARE stmt FROM @sql; EXECUTE stmt; SET r=Row_Count();  save row_count() result before DROP PREPARE loses the value DROP PREPARE stmt; UNTIL r < 1 END REPEAT;END ;goDELIMITER ;
To retrieve details like names and other data associated with node IDs, write a frontend query to join the subtree result tablewith the required detail table(s), for example:
CALL GenericTree('familytree','childID','parentID',1);SELECT Concat(Repeat( ' ', s.level), a.name ) AS Parent, b.name AS ChildFROM subtree sJOIN family a ON s.parentID=a.IDJOIN family b ON s.childID=b.ID;+++ Parent  Child +++ Richard Shakespeare  Henry Shakespeare  Richard Shakespeare  John Shakespeare  Henry Shakespeare  Joan Shakespeare  Henry Shakespeare  Margaret Shakespeare  Henry Shakespeare  William Shakespeare  Henry Shakespeare  Gilbert Shakespeare  Henry Shakespeare  Joan Shakespeare  Henry Shakespeare  Anne Shakespeare  Henry Shakespeare  Richard Shakespeare  Henry Shakespeare  Edmond Shakespeare  William Shakespeare  Susana Shakespeare  William Shakespeare  Hamnet Shakespeare  William Shakespeare  Judith Shakespeare  Joan Shakespeare  William Hart  Joan Shakespeare  Mary Hart  Joan Shakespeare  Thomas Hart  Joan Shakespeare  Michael Hart  Susana Shakespeare  Elizabeth Hall  Judith Shakespeare  Shakespeare Quiney  Judith Shakespeare  Richard Quiney  Judith Shakespeare  Thomas Quiney  Elizabeth Hall  John Bernard +++
Is GenericTree() fast? You bet. On standard hardware it processes a 5,000node tree in less than 0.5 secs—much fasterthan a comparable nested sets query on the same tree! It has no serious scaling issues. And its logic can be used to prune: call GenericTree() then delete the listed rows. Better still, write a generic tree pruner from Listing 7a and aDELETE command. To insert a subtree, prepare a table of new rows, point its top edge at an existing node as parent, and INSERT it.
The edge list treewalk is logically recursive, so how about coding it recursively? Here is a recursive depthfirstPHP treewalk for the familytree and family tables:
Listing 7b: Recursive edge list subtree in PHP$info = recursivesubtree( 1, $a = array(), 0 );foreach( $info as $row ) echo str_repeat( " ", 2*$row[4] ), ( $row[3] > 0 ) ? "<b>{$row[1]}</b>" : $row[1], "<br/>";function recursivesubtree( $rootID, $a, $level ) { $childcountqry = "(SELECT COUNT(*) FROM familytree WHERE parentID=t.childID) AS childcount"; $qry = "SELECT t.childid,f.name,t.parentid,$childcountqry,$level " . "FROM familytree t JOIN family f ON t.childID=f.ID " . "WHERE parentid=$rootID ORDER BY childcount<>0,t.childID"; $res = mysql_qry( $qry ); while( $row = mysql_fetch_row( $res )) { $a[] = $row; if( $row[3] > 0 ) $a = recursivesubtree( $row[0], $a, $level+1 ); // down before right } return $a;}
A query with a subquery, a fetch loop, and a recursive callthat's all thereis to it. A nice feature of this algorithm is that it writes result rows in displayready order.To port this to MySQL, you must have set maximum recursion depth in my.cnf/inior in your client:
Listing 7c: Recursive edge list subtree in MySQLSET @@SESSION.max_sp_recursion_depth=25;DROP PROCEDURE IF EXISTS recursivesubtree;DELIMITER goCREATE PROCEDURE recursivesubtree( iroot INT, ilevel INT )BEGIN DECLARE irows,ichildid,iparentid,ichildcount,done INT DEFAULT 0; DECLARE cname VARCHAR(64); SET irows = ( SELECT COUNT(*) FROM familytree WHERE parentID=iroot ); IF ilevel = 0 THEN DROP TEMPORARY TABLE IF EXISTS _descendants; CREATE TEMPORARY TABLE _descendants ( childID INT, parentID INT, name VARCHAR(64), childcount INT, level INT ); END IF; IF irows > 0 THEN BEGIN DECLARE cur CURSOR FOR SELECT childid,parentid,f.name, (SELECT COUNT(*) FROM familytree WHERE parentID=t.childID) AS childcount FROM familytree t JOIN family f ON t.childID=f.ID WHERE parentid=iroot ORDER BY childcount<>0,t.childID; DECLARE CONTINUE HANDLER FOR SQLSTATE '02000' SET done = 1; OPEN cur; WHILE NOT done DO FETCH cur INTO ichildid,iparentid,cname,ichildcount; IF NOT done THEN INSERT INTO _descendants VALUES(ichildid,iparentid,cname,ichildcount,ilevel ); IF ichildcount > 0 THEN CALL recursivesubtree( ichildid, ilevel + 1 ); END IF; END IF; END WHILE; CLOSE cur; END; END IF; IF ilevel = 0 THEN  Show result table headed by name that corresponds to iroot: SET cname = (SELECT name FROM family WHERE ID=iroot); SET @sql = CONCAT('SELECT CONCAT(REPEAT(CHAR(32),2*level),IF(childcount,UPPER(name),name))', ' AS ', CHAR(39),'Descendants of ',cname,CHAR(39),' FROM _descendants'); PREPARE stmt FROM @sql; EXECUTE stmt; DROP PREPARE stmt; END IF;END;goDELIMITER ;CALL recursivesubtree(1,0);++ Descendants of Richard Shakespeare ++ HENRY SHAKESPEARE  Joan Shakespeare  Margaret Shakespeare  WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE  SUSANA SHAKESPEARE  ELIZABETH HALL  John Bernard  Hamnet Shakespeare  JUDITH SHAKESPEARE  Shakespeare Quiney  Richard Quiney  Thomas Quiney  Gilbert Shakespeare  JOAN SHAKESPEARE  William Hart  Mary Hart  Thomas Hart  Michael Hart  Anne Shakespeare  Richard Shakespeare  Edmond Shakespeare  John Shakespeare ++
In MySQL this recursive treewalk can be up to 100 times slower than GenericTree(). Its slowness is comparable to that of a MySQL versionof Kendall Willet's depthfirst edge list subtree algorithm:
Listing 7d: Depthfirst edge list subtreeCREATE PROCEDURE depthfirstsubtree( iroot INT )BEGIN DECLARE ilastvisited, inxt, ilastord INT; SET ilastvisited = iroot; SET ilastord = 1; DROP TABLE IF EXISTS descendants; CREATE TABLE descendants SELECT childID,parentID,1 AS ord FROM familytree; UPDATE descendants SET ord=1 WHERE childID=iroot; this: LOOP SET inxt = NULL; SELECT MIN(childID) INTO inxt FROM descendants  go down WHERE parentID = ilastvisited AND ord = 1 ; IF inxt IS NULL THEN  nothing down, so go right SELECT MIN(d2.childID) INTO inxt FROM descendants d1 JOIN descendants d2 ON d1.parentID = d2.parentID AND d1.childID < d2.childID WHERE d1.childID = ilastvisited; END IF; IF inxt IS NULL THEN  nothing right. so go up SELECT parentID INTO inxt FROM descendants WHERE childID = ilastvisited AND parentID IS NOT NULL; END IF; UPDATE descendants SET ord = ilastord + 1 WHERE childID = inxt AND ord = 1; IF ROW_COUNT() > 0 THEN SET ilastord = ilastord + 1; END IF; IF inxt IS NULL THEN LEAVE this; END IF; SET ilastvisited = inxt; END LOOP;END;
One reason Willet's is slower is that MySQL does not permit multiple references to a temporary table in a query. When all algorithms are denied temp tables, though,this algorithm is still slower than recursion, and both are much slower than GenericTree().
Edge list subtree queries perform faster and are easier to write than their reputationsuggests. And edge tables are flexible. For a tree describing a parts explosion rather than a family, just add columns for weight, quantity, assembly time, cost, price and so on. Reports need only aggregate column values and sums. We'll revisit this near the end of the chapter.
Enumerating paths in an edgeadjacency list
Path enumeration in an edge list tree is almost as easy as depthfirst subtree traversal:
 create a table for paths,
 seed it with paths of unit length from the tree table,
 iteratively add paths till there are no more to add.
MySQL's INSERT IGNORE command simplifies the code by removing the need for a NOT EXISTS(...) clause in the INSERT ... SELECT statement. Since adjacencies are logically symmetrical, we make path direction the caller's choice,
UP
or DOWN
:
Listing 8DROP PROCEDURE IF EXISTS ListAdjacencyPaths;DELIMITER goCREATE PROCEDURE ListAdjacencyPaths( IN direction CHAR(5) )BEGIN DROP TABLE IF EXISTS paths; CREATE TABLE paths( start SMALLINT, stop SMALLINT, len SMALLINT, PRIMARY KEY(start,stop) ) ENGINE=HEAP; IF direction = 'UP' THEN INSERT INTO paths SELECT childID,parentID,1 FROM familytree; ELSE INSERT INTO paths SELECT parentID,childID,1 FROM familytree; END IF; WHILE ROW_COUNT() > 0 DO INSERT IGNORE INTO paths SELECT DISTINCT p1.start, p2.stop, p1.len + p2.len FROM paths AS p1 INNER JOIN paths AS p2 ON p1.stop = p2.start; END WHILE; SELECT start, stop, len FROM paths ORDER BY start, stop; DROP TABLE paths;END;goDELIMITER ;
To find the paths from just one node, seed the paths
table with paths from the starting node, then iteratively search a JOIN of
familytree
and paths
for edges which will extend existing paths in the userspecified direction:
Listing 8aDROP PROCEDURE IF EXISTS ListAdjacencyPathsOfNode;DELIMITER goCREATE PROCEDURE ListAdjacencyPathsOfNode( IN node SMALLINT, IN direction CHAR(5) )BEGIN TRUNCATE paths; IF direction = 'UP' THEN INSERT INTO paths SELECT childID,parentID,1 FROM familytree WHERE childID = node; ELSE INSERT INTO paths SELECT parentID,childID,1 FROM familytree WHERE parentID = node; END IF; WHILE ROW_COUNT() > 0 DO IF direction = 'UP' THEN INSERT IGNORE INTO paths SELECT DISTINCT paths.start, familytree.parentID, paths.len + 1 FROM paths INNER JOIN familytree ON paths.stop = familytree.childID; ELSE INSERT IGNORE INTO paths SELECT DISTINCT paths.start, familytree.childID, paths.len + 1 FROM paths INNER JOIN familytree ON paths.stop = familytree.parentID; END IF; END WHILE; SELECT start, stop, len FROM paths ORDER BY start, stop;END;goDELIMITER ;CALL ListAdjacencyPathsOfNode(1,'DOWN');++++ start  stop  len ++++ 1  2  1  1  3  1  1  4  2  1  5  2  1  6  2  1  7  2  1  8  2  1  9  2  1  10  2  1  11  2  1  12  3  1  13  3  1  14  3  1  15  3  1  16  3  1  17  3  1  18  3  1  19  4  1  20  4  1  21  4  1  22  4  1  23  5 ++++
These algorithms don't bend the brain. They perform acceptably with large trees. Querying edgeadjacency lists for subtrees and paths is less daunting than their reputation suggests.
Automate tree drawing!
Tables of numbers may be the most boring objects on earth. How to bring them alive? The Google Visualization API library has an ‘OrgChart’ module that can make edge list trees look like Fig 2, but each instance needs fifty or so lines of specific JavaScript code, plus an additional line of code for each row of data in the tree. Could we autogenerate that code? Mais oui! The module needs child node and parent node columns of data, and accepts an optional third column for info that pops up when the mouse hovers. Here is such a query for the Shakespeare family tree ...
Listing 9select concat( node.ID,' ', node.name) as node, if( edges.parentID is null, '', concat(parent.ID, ' ',parent.name)) as parent, if( node.born is null, 'Birthdate unknown', concat( 'Born ', node.born )) as tooltip from family as nodeleft join familytree as edges on node.ID=edges.childIDleft join family as parent on edges.parentID=parent.ID;
and here is a PHP function which generates the HTML and JavaScript needed to paint an OrgChart for any tree query that returns string columns for node, parent and optionally tooltips:
Listing 9afunction orgchart( $qry ) { $cols = array(); $rows = array(); $res = mysql_query( $qry ) or exit( mysql_error() ); $colcount = mysql_num_fields( $res ); if( $colcount < 2 ) exit( "Org chart needs two or three columns" ); $rowcount = mysql_num_rows( $res ); for( $i=0; $i<$colcount; $i++ ) $cols[] = mysql_fetch_field( $res, $i ); while( $row = mysql_fetch_row( $res )) $rows[] = $row; echo "<html>\n<head>\n", " <script type='text/javascript' src='https://www.google.com/jsapi'></script>\n", " <script type='text/javascript'>\n", " google.load('visualization', '1', {'packages':['orgchart']});\n", " google.setOnLoadCallback(drawChart);\n", " function drawChart() {\n", " var data = new google.visualization.DataTable();\n"; for( $i=0; $i<$colcount; $i++ ) echo " data.addColumn('string','{$cols[$i]>name}')\n"; echo " data.addRows([\n"; for( $j=0; $j<$rowcount; $j++ ) { $row = $rows[$j]; $c = (( $j < $rowcount1 ) ? "," : "" ); echo " ['{$row[0]}','{$row[1]}','{$row[2]}']$c\n"; } echo " ]);\n", " var chart = new google.visualization.OrgChart(document.getElementById('chart_div'));\n", " var options = {'size':'small','allowHtml':'true','allowCollapse':'true'};\n", " chart.draw(data, options);\n", " }\n", " </script>\n/head>\n<body>\n", " <div id='chart_div'></div>\n", "</body>\n</html>";}
Nested sets model of a tree
Imagine an oval drawn round every leaf and every subtree in Fig 2, and a final oval round the entire tree. The tree is a set. Each subtree is a subset. That's the basic idea of the nested sets model.
The advantage of the nested sets model is that root, leaves, subtrees, levels, tree height, ancestors, descendants and paths can be retrieved without recursion or application language code. The disadvantages are:
 initial setup of the tree table can be difficult,
 queries for parents (immediate superiors) and children (immediate subordinates) are more complicated than with an edge list model,
 insertion, updates and deletion are extremely cumbersome since they may require updates to much of the tree.
The nested sets model depends on using a modified preorder tree traversal (MPTT) depthfirst algorithm to assign each node left and right integers which define the node's tree position. All nodes of a subtree have
 left values greater than the subtree parent's left value, and
 right values smaller than that of the subtree parent's right value.
so queries for subtrees are dead simple. If the numbering scheme is integersequential as in Fig 3, the root node receives a left value of 1 and a right value equal to twice the item count.
To see how to code nested sets using MPTT, trace the ascending integers in Fig 3, starting with 1 on the
left side of the root node (Richard Shakespeare
). Following edges downward and leftward, the
left side of each box gets the next integer. When you reach a leaf (Joan
,
left=3), the right side of that box gets the next integer (4). If there is another node to the right on the same level, continue in that direction; otherwise continue up the
right side of the subtree you just descended. When you arrive back at the root on the
right side, you're done. Down, right and up.
A serious problem with this scheme jumps out right away: after you've written the Fig 3 tree to a table, what if historians discover an older brother or sister of Henry and John? Every row in the tree table must be updated!
Celko and others have proposed alternative numbering schemes to get round this problem, but the logical difficulty remains: inserts and updates can invalidate many or all rows, andno SQL CHECK or CONSTRAINTcan prevent it. The nested sets model is not good for trees which require frequent updates, and is pretty much unsupportable for large updatable trees that will be accessed by many concurrent users. But as we'llsee in a moment, it can bevery useful indeed for reporting a tree.
How to build a nested sets representation from an edge list
Obviously, numbering a tree by hand would be errorprone, seriously impractical for large trees, so it's usually best to code the tree initially as an edge list, then use a stored procedure to translate the edge list representation to nested sets. Celko 's depthfirst pushdown stack method will translate any edge list tree into a nested sets tree, though slowly:
 Create a table nestedsettree for the tree:
node
,leftedge
,rightedge
, and a stack pointer (top
),  Seed that table with the root node of the edge list tree,
 Set a nextedge counter to 1 plus the left value of the root node, i.e. 2,
 While that counter is less than the rightedge value of the root node ...
 insert a row for this parent's smallest unwritten child, and drop down a level, or
 if we're out of children, increment rightedge , write it to the current row, and back up a level.
This version has been improved to handle edge list trees with or without a row containing the root node and its NULL parent:
Listing 10DROP PROCEDURE IF EXISTS EdgeListToNestedSet;DELIMITER goCREATE PROCEDURE EdgeListToNestedSet( edgeTable CHAR(64), idCol CHAR(64), parentCol CHAR(64) )BEGIN DECLARE maxrightedge, rows SMALLINT DEFAULT 0; DECLARE trees, current SMALLINT DEFAULT 1; DECLARE nextedge SMALLINT DEFAULT 2; DECLARE msg CHAR(128);  create working tree table as a copy of edgeTable DROP TEMPORARY TABLE IF EXISTS tree; CREATE TEMPORARY TABLE tree( childID INT, parentID INT ); SET @sql = CONCAT( 'INSERT INTO tree SELECT ', idCol, ',', parentCol, ' FROM ', edgeTable ); PREPARE stmt FROM @sql; EXECUTE stmt; DROP PREPARE stmt;  initialise result table DROP TABLE IF EXISTS nestedsettree; CREATE TABLE nestedsettree ( top SMALLINT, nodeID SMALLINT, leftedge SMALLINT, rightedge SMALLINT, KEY(nodeID,leftedge,rightedge) ) ENGINE=HEAP;  root is child with NULL parent or parent which is not a child SET @nulls = ( SELECT Count(*) FROM tree WHERE parentID IS NULL ); IF @nulls>1 THEN SET trees=2; ELSEIF @nulls=1 THEN SET @root = ( SELECT childID FROM tree WHERE parentID IS NULL ); DELETE FROM tree WHERE childID=@root; ELSE SET @sql = CONCAT( 'SELECT Count(DISTINCT f.', parentcol, ') INTO @roots FROM ', edgeTable, ' f LEFT JOIN ', edgeTable, ' t ON f.', parentCol, '=', 't.', idCol, ' WHERE t.', idCol, ' IS NULL' ); PREPARE stmt FROM @sql; EXECUTE stmt; DROP PREPARE stmt; IF @roots <> 1 THEN SET trees=@roots; ELSE SET @sql = CONCAT( 'SELECT DISTINCT f.', parentCol, ' INTO @root FROM ', edgeTable, ' f LEFT JOIN ', edgeTable, ' t ON f.', parentCol, '=', 't.', idCol, ' WHERE t.', idCol, ' IS NULL' ); PREPARE stmt FROM @sql; EXECUTE stmt; DROP PREPARE stmt; END IF; END IF; IF trees<>1 THEN SET msg = IF( trees=0, "No tree found", "Table has multiple trees" ); SELECT msg AS 'Cannot continue'; ELSE  build nested sets tree SET maxrightedge = 2 * (1 + (SELECT + COUNT(*) FROM tree)); INSERT INTO nestedsettree VALUES( 1, @root, 1, maxrightedge ); WHILE nextedge < maxrightedge DO SET rows=(SELECT Count(*) FROM nestedsettree s JOIN tree t ON s.nodeID=t.parentID AND s.top=current); IF rows > 0 THEN BEGIN INSERT INTO nestedsettree SELECT current+1, MIN(t.childID), nextedge, NULL FROM nestedsettree AS s JOIN tree AS t ON s.nodeID = t.parentID AND s.top = current; DELETE FROM tree WHERE childID = (SELECT nodeID FROM nestedsettree WHERE top=(current+1)); SET nextedge = nextedge + 1, current = current + 1; END; ELSE UPDATE nestedsettree SET rightedge=nextedge, top = top WHERE top=current; SET nextedge=nextedge+1, current=current1; END IF; END WHILE;  show result IF (SELECT COUNT(*) FROM tree) > 0 THEN SELECT 'Orphaned rows remain' AS 'Error'; END IF; DROP TEMPORARY TABLE tree; END IF;END;goDELIMITER ;CALL EdgeListToNestedSet( 'familytree', 'childID', 'parentID' );SELECT nodeID, PersonName(nodeID) AS Name, ABS(top) AS 'Tree Level', leftedge AS 'Left', rightedge AS 'Right'FROM nestedsettreeORDER BY nodeID;++++++ nodeID  Name  Tree Level  Left  Right ++++++ 1  Richard Shakespeare  1  1  46  2  Henry Shakespeare  2  2  43  3  John Shakespeare  2  44  45  4  Joan Shakespeare  3  3  4  5  Margaret Shakespeare  3  5  6  6  William Shakespeare  3  7  24  7  Gilbert Shakespeare  3  25  26  8  Joan Shakespeare  3  27  36  9  Anne Shakespeare  3  37  38  10  Richard Shakespeare  3  39  40  11  Edmond Shakespeare  3  41  42  12  Susana Shakespeare  4  8  13  13  Hamnet Shakespeare  4  14  15  14  Judith Shakespeare  4  16  23  15  William Hart  4  28  29  16  Mary Hart  4  30  31  17  Thomas Hart  4  32  33  18  Michael Hart  4  34  35  19  Elizabeth Hall  5  9  12  20  Shakespeare Quiney  5  17  18  21  Richard Quiney  5  19  20  22  Thomas Quiney  5  21  22  23  John Bernard  6  10  11 ++++++
Verify the function with a query that generates an edge list tree from a nested sets tree:
Listing 10a:SELECT a.nodeID, b.nodeID AS parent FROM nestedsettree AS aLEFT JOIN nestedsettree AS b ON b.leftedge = ( SELECT MAX( leftedge ) FROM nestedsettree AS t WHERE a.leftedge > t.leftedge AND a.leftedge < t.rightedge) ORDER BY a.nodeID;
For a multitree version of Listing 10, implementing edge list and nested sets tree models in a single table, see “Multiple nested sets trees in one table” on our Queries page.
Finding a node's parent and children
In an edge list, the parent of a node is the row's parentID, and its children are the rows where that nodeID is parentID. What could be simpler? In comparison, nested sets queries for parents and their children are tortuous and slow. One way to fetch the child nodes of a given node is to INNER JOIN the nested sets tree table AS parent to itself AS child ON child.leftedge BETWEEN parent.leftedge AND parent.rightedge, then scope on the target row's leftedge and rightedge values. In the resulting list, child.nodeID values one level down occur once and are children, grandkids are two levels down and occur twice, and so on:
Listing 11SELECT PersonName(child.nodeID) AS 'Descendants of William', COUNT(*) AS GenerationFROM nestedsettree AS parentJOIN nestedsettree AS child ON child.leftedge BETWEEN parent.leftedge AND parent.rightedgeWHERE parent.leftedge > 7 AND parent.rightedge < 24  William’s leftedge, rightedgeGROUP BY child.nodeID;+++ Descendants of William  Generation +++ Susana Shakespeare  1  Hamnet Shakespeare  1  Judith Shakespeare  1  Elizabeth Hall  2  Shakespeare Quiney  2  Richard Quiney  2  Thomas Quiney  2  John Bernard  3 +++
ThereforeHAVING COUNT(t2.nodeID)=1
scopes listed descendants to the children:
Listing 11aSELECT PersonName(child.nodeID) AS 'Children of William'FROM nestedsettree AS parentJOIN nestedsettree AS child ON child.leftedge BETWEEN parent.leftedge AND parent.rightedgeWHERE parent.leftedge > 7 AND parent.rightedge < 24GROUP BY child.nodeIDHAVING COUNT(child.nodeID)=1++ Children of William ++ Susana Shakespeare  Hamnet Shakespeare  Judith Shakespeare ++
Retrieving a subtree or a subset of parents requires yet another join:
Listing 11bSELECT Parent, Group_Concat(Child ORDER BY Child) AS ChildrenFROM ( SELECT master.nodeID AS Parent, child.nodeID AS Child FROM nestedsettree AS master JOIN nestedsettree AS parent JOIN nestedsettree AS child ON child.leftedge BETWEEN parent.leftedge AND parent.rightedge WHERE parent.leftedge > master.leftedge AND parent.rightedge < master.rightedge GROUP BY master.nodeID, child.nodeID HAVING COUNT(*)=1) AS tmpWHERE parent in(6,8,12,14)GROUP BY Parent;+++ Parent  Children +++ 6  12,13,14  8  15,16,17,18  12  19  14  20,21,22 +++
This takes hundreds of times longer than a query for the same info from an edge list! An aggregating version of Listing 19 is easier to write, but is an even worse performer:
Listing 11cSELECT p.nodeID AS Parent, Group_Concat(c.nodeID) AS ChildrenFROM nestedsettree AS pJOIN nestedsettree AS c ON p.leftedge = (SELECT MAX(s.leftedge) FROM nestedsettree AS s WHERE c.leftedge > s.leftedge AND c.leftedge < s.rightedge)GROUP BY Parent;+++ Parent  Children +++ 1  2,3  2  5,6,7,8,9,10,11,4  6  12,13,14  8  15,16,17,18  12  19  14  20,21,22  19  23 +++
Logic that is reciprocal to that of Listing 11a gets us the parent of a node:
 retrieve its
leftedge
andrightedge
values,  compute its level,
 find the node which is one level up and has edge values outside the node's
leftedge
andrightedge
values.
Listing 12DROP PROCEDURE IF EXISTS ShowNestedSetParent;DELIMITER goCREATE PROCEDURE ShowNestedSetParent( node SMALLINT )BEGIN DECLARE level, thisleft, thisright SMALLINT DEFAULT 0;  find node edges SELECT leftedge, rightedge INTO thisleft, thisright FROM nestedsettree WHERE nodeID = node;  find node level SELECT COUNT(n1.nodeid) INTO level FROM nestedsettree AS n1 INNER JOIN nestedsettree AS n2 ON n2.leftedge BETWEEN n1.leftedge AND n1.rightedge WHERE n2.nodeid = node GROUP BY n2.nodeid;  find parent SELECT PersonName(n2.nodeid) AS Parent FROM nestedsettree AS n1 INNER JOIN nestedsettree AS n2 ON n2.leftedge BETWEEN n1.leftedge AND n1.rightedge WHERE n2.leftedge < thisleft AND n2.rightedge > thisright GROUP BY n2.nodeid HAVING COUNT(n1.nodeid)=level1;END;goDELIMITER ;CALL ShowNestedSetParent(6);++ Parent ++ Henry Shakespeare ++
Other queries
For some query problems, edge list and nested sets queries are equivalently simple. For example to find the tree root and leaves, compare Listing 6 with:
Listing 13SELECT name AS Paterfamilias, IFNULL(born,'?') AS Born, IFNULL(died,'?') AS DiedFROM nestedsettree AS tINNER JOIN family AS f ON t.nodeID=f.IDWHERE leftedge = 1;++++ Paterfamilias  Born  Died ++++ Richard Shakespeare  ?  1561 ++++SELECT name AS 'Childless Shakespeares', IFNULL(born,'?') AS Born, IFNULL(died,'?') AS DiedFROM nestedsettree AS tINNER JOIN family AS f ON t.nodeID=f.IDWHERE rightedge = leftedge + 1;++++ Childless Shakespeares  Born  Died ++++ Joan Shakespeare  1558  ?  Margaret Shakespeare  1562  1563  John Bernard  ?  1674  Hamnet Shakespeare  1585  1596  Shakespeare Quiney  1616  1617  Richard Quiney  1618  1639  Thomas Quiney  1620  1639  Gilbert Shakespeare  1566  1612  William Hart  1600  1639  Mary Hart  1603  1607  Thomas Hart  1605  1670  Michael Hart  1608  1618  Anne Shakespeare  1571  1579  Richard Shakespeare  1574  1613  Edmond Shakespeare  1580  1607  John Shakespeare  1530  1601 ++++
Finding subtrees in a nested sets model requires no twisted code, no stored procedure.To retrieve the
nestedsettree
nodes in William's subtree, just ask for nodeswhose
leftedge
values are greater, and whose rightedge
values are smaller than William's:
Listing 14SELECT PersonName(t.nodeID) AS DescendantFROM nestedsettree AS s JOIN nestedsettree AS t ON s.leftedge < t.leftedge AND s.rightedge > t.rightedge JOIN family f ON s.nodeID = f.IDWHERE f.name = 'William Shakespeare';
Finding a single path in the nested sets model is about as complicated as edge list path enumeration (Listings 8, 9):
Listing 15SELECT t2.nodeID AS Node, PersonName(t2.nodeID) AS Person, (SELECT COUNT(*) FROM nestedsettree AS t4 WHERE t4.leftedge BETWEEN t1.leftedge AND t1.rightedge AND t2.leftedge BETWEEN t4.leftedge AND t4.rightedge ) AS PathFROM nestedsettree AS t1 INNER JOIN nestedsettree AS t2 ON t2.leftedge BETWEEN t1.leftedge AND t1.rightedge INNER JOIN nestedsettree AS t3 ON t3.leftedge BETWEEN t2.leftedge AND t2.rightedgeWHERE t1.nodeID=(SELECT ID FROM family WHERE name='William Shakespeare') AND t3.nodeID=(SELECT ID FROM family WHERE name='John Bernard');++++ Node  Person  Path ++++ 6  William Shakespeare  1  12  Susana Shakespeare  2  19  Elizabeth Hall  3  23  John Bernard  4 ++++
Displaying the tree
Here the nested sets model shines. The arithmetic that was used to build the tree makes short work of summary queries. For example to retrieve a node list which preserves all parentchild relations, we need just two facts:
 listing order is the order taken in the node walk that created the tree, i.e.
leftedge
,  a node's indentation depth is simply the JOIN (edge) count from root to node:
Listing 16SELECT CONCAT( SPACE(2*COUNT(parent.nodeid)2), PersonName(child.nodeid) ) AS 'The Shakespeare Family Tree'FROM nestedsettree AS parent INNER JOIN nestedsettree AS child ON child.leftedge BETWEEN parent.leftedge AND parent.rightedgeGROUP BY child.nodeidORDER BY child.leftedge;++ The Shakespeare Family Tree ++ Richard Shakespeare  Henry Shakespeare  Joan Shakespeare  Margaret Shakespeare  William Shakespeare  Susana Shakespeare  Elizabeth Hall  John Bernard  Hamnet Shakespeare  Judith Shakespeare  Shakespeare Quiney  Richard Quiney  Thomas Quiney  Gilbert Shakespeare  Joan Shakespeare  William Hart  Mary Hart  Thomas Hart  Michael Hart  Anne Shakespeare  Richard Shakespeare  Edmond Shakespeare  John Shakespeare ++
To retrieve only a subtree, add a query clause which restricts nodes to those whose edges are within the range of the parent node's left and right edge values, for example for William and his descendants...
WHERE parent.leftedge >= 7 AND parent.rightedge <=24
Node insertions, updates and deletions
Nested sets arithmetic also helps with insertions, updates and deletions, but the problem remains that changing just one node can require changing much of the tree.
Inserting a node in the tree requires at least two pieces of information: the
nodeID
to insert, and the nodeID
of its parent. The model is normalised so the
nodeID
first must have been added to the parent (family
) table. The algorithm for adding the node to the tree is:
 increment
leftedge
by 2 in nodes where therightedge
value is greater than the parent'srightedge
,  increment
rightedge
by 2 in nodes where theleftedge
value is greater than the parent'sleftedge
,  insert a row with the given
nodeID
,leftedge
= 1 + parent'sleftedge
,rightedge
= 2 + parent'sleftedge
.
That's not difficult, but all rows will have to be updated!
Listing 17DROP PROCEDURE IF EXISTS InsertNestedSetNode;DELIMITER goCREATE PROCEDURE InsertNestedSetNode( IN node SMALLINT, IN parent SMALLINT )BEGIN DECLARE parentleft, parentright SMALLINT DEFAULT 0; SELECT leftedge, rightedge INTO parentleft, parentright FROM nestedsettree WHERE nodeID = parent; IF FOUND_ROWS() = 1 THEN BEGIN UPDATE nestedsettree SET rightedge = rightedge + 2 WHERE rightedge > parentleft; UPDATE nestedsettree SET leftedge = leftedge + 2 WHERE leftedge > parentleft; INSERT INTO nestedsettree VALUES ( 0, node, parentleft + 1, parentleft + 2 ); END; END IF;END;goDELIMITER ;
"Sibline" or horizontal order is obviously significant in family trees, but may not be significant in other trees. Listing 17 adds the new node at the left edge of the sibline. To specify another position, modify the procedure to accept a third parameter
for the nodeID
which is to be to the left or right of the insertion point.
Updating a node in place requires nothing more than editing nodeID
to point at a different parent row.
Deleting a node raises the problem of how to repair links severed by the deletion. In tree models of parts explosions, the item to be deleted is often replaced by a new item, so it can be treated like a simple
nodeID
update. In organisational bossemployee charts, though, does a colleague move over, does a subordinate get promoted, does everybody in the subtree move up a level, or does something else happen? No formula can catch all the possibilities.
Listing 18 illustrates how to handle two common scenarios, move everyone up, and move someone over. All possibilities except simple replacement of the
nodeID
involve changes elsewhere in the tree.
Listing 18DROP PROCEDURE IF EXISTS DeleteNestedSetNode;DELIMITER goCREATE PROCEDURE DeleteNestedSetNode( IN mode CHAR(7), IN node SMALLINT )BEGIN DECLARE thisleft, thisright SMALLINT DEFAULT 0; SELECT leftedge, rightedge INTO thisleft, thisright FROM nestedsettree WHERE nodeID = node; IF mode = 'PROMOTE' THEN BEGIN  Ian Holsman found these two bugs DELETE FROM nestedsettree WHERE nodeID = node; UPDATE nestedsettree SET leftedge = leftedge  1, rightedge = rightedge  1  rather than = thisleft WHERE leftedge BETWEEN thisleft AND thisright; UPDATE nestedsettree SET rightedge = rightedge  2 WHERE rightedge > thisright; UPDATE nestedsettree SET leftedge = leftedge  2 WHERE leftedge > thisright;  rather than > thisleft END; ELSEIF mode = 'REPLACE' THEN BEGIN UPDATE nestedsettree SET leftedge = thisleft  1, rightedge = thisright WHERE leftedge = thisleft + 1; UPDATE nestedsettree SET rightedge = rightedge  2 WHERE rightedge > thisleft; UPDATE nestedsettree SET leftedge = leftedge  2 WHERE leftedge > thisleft; DELETE FROM nestedsettree WHERE nodeID = node; END; END IF;END;goDELIMITER ;
Nesteds set model summary
Some nested sets queries are quicker than their edge list counterparts, some aren't. Given the concurrency nightmare which nested sets impose for inserts and deletions, it is reasonable to reserve the nested sets model for fairly static trees whose users are mostly interested in querying subtrees. You could think of the nested sets model as a specialised OLAP tool: maintain an OLTP tree in an edge list representation, and build a nested sets OLAP table when certain reports are needed.
If you will be using the nested sets model, you may be converting back and forth with edge list models, so here is a simple query which generates an edge list from a nested sets tree:
Listing 19SELECT p.nodeID AS parentID, c.nodeID AS childIDFROM nestedsettree AS p INNER JOIN nestedsettree AS c ON p.leftedge = (SELECT MAX(s.leftedge) FROM nestedsettree AS s WHERE c.leftedge > s.leftedge AND c.leftedge < s.rightedge)ORDER BY p.nodeID;
Edge list model of a nontree graph
Many graphs are not trees. Imagine a small airline which has just acquired licences for flights no longer than 6,000 km between Los Angeles (LAX), New York (JFK), Heathrow in London, Charles de Gaulle in Paris, AmsterdamSchiphol, Arlanda in Sweden, and HelsinkiVantaa. You have been asked to compute the shortest possible oneway routes that do not deviate more than 90° from the direction of the first hop—roughly, oneway routes and no circuits.
Airports are nodes, flights are edges, routes are paths. We will need three tables.
Airports (nodes)
To identify an airport we need its code, location name, latitude and longitude. Latitude and longitude are usually given as degrees, minutes and seconds, north or south of the equator, east or west of Greenwich. To hide details that aren't directly relevant to nodes and edges, code latitude and longitude as simple reals where longitudes west of Greenwich and latitudes south of the equator are negative, whilst longitudes east of Greenwich and latitudes north of the equator are positive:
Listing 20CREATE TABLE airports ( code char(3) NOT NULL, city char(100) default NULL, latitude float NOT NULL, longitude float NOT NULL, PRIMARY KEY (code)) ENGINE=MyISAM;INSERT INTO airports VALUES ('JFK', 'New York, NY', 40.75, 73.97);INSERT INTO airports VALUES ('LAX', 'Los Angeles, CA', 34.05, 118.22);INSERT INTO airports VALUES ('LHR', 'London, England', 51.5, 0.45);INSERT INTO airports VALUES ('HEL', 'Helsinki, Finland', 60.17, 24.97);INSERT INTO airports VALUES ('CDG', 'Paris, France', 48.86, 2.33);INSERT INTO airports VALUES ('STL', 'St Louis, MO', 38.63, 90.2);INSERT INTO airports VALUES ('ARN', 'Stockholm, Sweden', 59.33, 18.05);
Flights (edges)
The model attaches two weights to flights: distance and direction.
We need a method of calculating the Great Circle Distance—the geographical distance between any two cities  another natural job for astored function. The distance calculation
 converts to radians the degree coordinates of any two points on the earth's surface,
 calculates the angle of the arc subtended by the two points, and
 converts the result, also in radians, to surface (circumferential) kilometres (1 radian=6,378.388 km).
Listing 21SET GLOBAL log_bin_trust_function_creators=TRUE;  since 5.0.16DROP FUNCTION IF EXISTS GeoDistKM;DELIMITER goCREATE FUNCTION GeoDistKM( lat1 FLOAT, lon1 FLOAT, lat2 FLOAT, lon2 FLOAT ) RETURNS floatBEGIN DECLARE pi, q1, q2, q3 FLOAT; SET pi = PI(); SET lat1 = lat1 * pi / 180; SET lon1 = lon1 * pi / 180; SET lat2 = lat2 * pi / 180; SET lon2 = lon2 * pi / 180; SET q1 = COS(lon1lon2); SET q2 = COS(lat1lat2); SET q3 = COS(lat1+lat2); SET rads = ACOS( 0.5*((1.0+q1)*q2  (1.0q1)*q3) ); RETURN 6378.388 * rads;END;goDELIMITER ;
That takes care of flight distances. Flight direction is, approximately, the arctangent (ATAN) of the difference between
flights.depart
and flights.arrive
latitudes and longitudes. Now we can seed the airline's flights
table with onehop flights up to 6,000 km long:
Listing 22CREATE TABLE flights ( id INT PRIMARY KEY AUTO_INCREMENT, depart CHAR(3), arrive CHAR(3), distance DECIMAL(10,2), direction DECIMAL(10,2)) ENGINE=MYISAM;INSERT INTO flights SELECT NULL, depart.code, arrive.code, ROUND(GeoDistKM(depart.latitude,depart.longitude,arrive.latitude,arrive.longitude),2), ROUND(DEGREES(ATAN(arrive.latitudedepart.latitude,arrive.longitudedepart.longitude)),2) FROM airports AS depart INNER JOIN airports AS arrive ON depart.code <> arrive.code HAVING Km <= 6000;SELECT * FROM flights;++++++ id  depart  arrive  distance  direction ++++++ 1  LAX  JFK  3941.18  8.61  2  LHR  JFK  5550.77  171.68  3  CDG  JFK  5837.46  173.93  4  STL  JFK  1408.11  7.44  5  JFK  LAX  3941.18  171.39  6  STL  LAX  2553.37  170.72  7  JFK  LHR  5550.77  8.32  8  HEL  LHR  1841.91  161.17  9  CDG  LHR  354.41  136.48  10  ARN  LHR  1450.12  157.06  11  LHR  HEL  1841.91  18.83  12  CDG  HEL  1912.96  26.54  13  ARN  HEL  398.99  6.92  14  JFK  CDG  5837.46  6.07  15  LHR  CDG  354.41  43.52  16  HEL  CDG  1912.96  153.46  17  ARN  CDG  1545.23  146.34  18  JFK  STL  1408.11  172.56  19  LAX  STL  2553.37  9.28  20  LHR  ARN  1450.12  22.94  21  HEL  ARN  398.99  173.08  22  CDG  ARN  1545.23  33.66 ++++++
The distances agree approximately with public information sources for flight lengths. For a pair of airports A and B not very near the poles, the error in calculating direction using ATAN(), is small. To remove that error, instead of ATAN() use a formula from spherical trigonometry (for example one of the formulas at http://www.dynagen.co.za/eugene/where/formula.html).
Routes (paths)
A route is a path along one or more of these edges, so flights:routes
is a 1:many relationship. For simplicity, though, we denormalise our representation of routes with a variation of the
materialised path model to store all the hops of one route as a list of flights in one
routes
column. The column routes.route
is the sequence of airports, from first departure to final arrival, the column
routes.hops
is the number of hops in that route, and the column
routes.direction
is the direction:
Listing 23CREATE TABLE routes ( id INT PRIMARY KEY AUTO_INCREMENT, depart CHAR(3), arrive CHAR(3), hops SMALLINT, route CHAR(50), distance DECIMAL(10,2), direction DECIMAL(10,2)) ENGINE=MYISAM;
Starting with an empty routes
table, how do we populate it with theshortest
routes
between all ordered pairs of airports
?
 Insert all 1hop flights from the
flights
table.  Add in the setof shortest multihop routes for all pairs ofairports which don't have rows in the flights table.
For 1hop flights we just write
Listing 24INSERT INTO routes SELECT NULL, depart, arrive, 1, CONCAT(depart,',',arrive), distance, direction FROM flights;
NULL being the placeholder for the autoincrementing id
column.
For multihop routes, we iteratively add in sets of all allowed 2hop, 3hop, ... nhop routes, replacing longer routes byshorter routes as we find them, until there is nothing more to add or replace. That also breaks down to two logical steps:add hops to build the set of next allowed routes, and update longer routes with shorter ones.
Next allowed routes
The set of next allowed routes is the set of shortest routes that can be built by adding, to existing routes, flights which leave from the last arrival airport of an existing route, which arrive at an airport which is not yet in the given route, and which
stay within ± 90° of the route's initial compass direction. That is, every new route is a JOIN between
routes
and flights
in which
depart = routes.depart
,arrive = flights.arrive
,flights.depart = routes.arrive
,distance =
MIN(routes.distance + flights.distance)
,LOCATE(
flights.arrive,routes.route) = 0
,flights.direction+360 > routes.direction+270 AND flights.direction+360 < routes.direction+450
This is a natural logical unit of work for a VIEW:
Listing 25CREATE OR REPLACE VIEW nextroutes AS SELECT routes.depart, flights.arrive, routes.hops+1 AS hops, CONCAT(routes.route, ',', flights.arrive) AS route, MIN(routes.distance + flights.distance) AS distance, routes.direction FROM routes INNER JOIN flights ON routes.arrive = flights.depart ANDLOCATE(
WHERE flights.direction+360>routes.direction+270 AND flights.direction+360<routes.direction+450 GROUP BY depart,arrive;
How to add these new hops to routes
? In standard SQL, this variant on a query by Scott Stephens should do it...
Listing 26INSERT INTO routes SELECT NULL,depart,arrive,hops,route,distance,direction FROM nextroutes WHERE (nextroutes.depart,nextroutes.arrive) NOT IN ( SELECT depart,arrive FROM routes );
but MySQL does not yet support subqueries on the table being updated. We have to use asubqueryless (and faster) version of that logic:
Listing 27INSERT INTO routes SELECT NULL, nextroutes.depart, nextroutes.arrive, nextroutes.hops, nextroutes.route, nextroutes.distance, nextroutes.direction FROM nextroutes LEFT JOIN routes ON nextroutes.depart = routes.depart AND nextroutes.arrive = routes.arrive WHERE routes.depart IS NULL AND routes.arrive IS NULL;
Running that code right after the initial seeding from flights
gives ...
SELECT * FROM routes;++++++++ id  depart  arrive  hops  route  distance  direction ++++++++ 1  LAX  JFK  1  LAX,JFK  3941.18  8.61  2  LHR  JFK  1  LHR,JFK  5550.77  171.68  3  CDG  JFK  1  CDG,JFK  5837.46  173.93  4  STL  JFK  1  STL,JFK  1408.11  7.44  5  JFK  LAX  1  JFK,LAX  3941.18  171.39  6  STL  LAX  1  STL,LAX  2553.37  170.72  7  JFK  LHR  1  JFK,LHR  5550.77  8.32  8  HEL  LHR  1  HEL,LHR  1841.91  161.17  9  CDG  LHR  1  CDG,LHR  354.41  136.48  10  ARN  LHR  1  ARN,LHR  1450.12  157.06  11  LHR  HEL  1  LHR,HEL  1841.91  18.83  12  CDG  HEL  1  CDG,HEL  1912.96  26.54  13  ARN  HEL  1  ARN,HEL  398.99  6.92  14  JFK  CDG  1  JFK,CDG  5837.46  6.07  15  LHR  CDG  1  LHR,CDG  354.41  43.52  16  HEL  CDG  1  HEL,CDG  1912.96  153.46  17  ARN  CDG  1  ARN,CDG  1545.23  146.34  18  JFK  STL  1  JFK,STL  1408.11  172.56  19  LAX  STL  1  LAX,STL  2553.37  9.28  20  LHR  ARN  1  LHR,ARN  1450.12  22.94  21  HEL  ARN  1  HEL,ARN  398.99  173.08  22  CDG  ARN  1  CDG,ARN  1545.23  33.66  23  ARN  JFK  2  ARN,LHR,JFK  7000.89  157.06  24  CDG  LAX  2  CDG,JFK,LAX  9778.64  173.93  25  CDG  STL  2  CDG,JFK,STL  7245.57  173.93  26  HEL  JFK  2  HEL,LHR,JFK  7392.68  161.17  27  JFK  ARN  2  JFK,LHR,ARN  7000.89  8.32  28  JFK  HEL  2  JFK,LHR,HEL  7392.68  8.32  29  LAX  CDG  2  LAX,JFK,CDG  9778.64  8.61  30  LAX  LHR  2  LAX,JFK,LHR  9491.95  8.61  31  LHR  LAX  2  LHR,JFK,LAX  9491.95  171.68  32  LHR  STL  2  LHR,JFK,STL  6958.88  171.68  33  STL  CDG  2  STL,JFK,CDG  7245.57  7.44  34  STL  LHR  2  STL,JFK,LHR  6958.88  7.44 ++++++++
... adding 12 twohop rows.
Replace longer routes with shorter ones
As we build routes with more hops, it is logically possible that the nextroutes
view will find shorter routes for an existing
routes
pair of depart
and arrive
. Standard SQL for replacing existing
routes
rows with nextroutes
rows which match
(depart, arrive)
and have shorter distance
values would be:
Listing 28UPDATE routes SET (hops,route,distance,direction) = ( SELECT hops, route, distance, direction FROM nextroutes WHERE nextroutes.depart = routes.depart AND nextroutes.arrive = routes.arrive)WHERE (depart,arrive) IN ( SELECT depart,arrive FROM nextroutes WHERE nextroutes.distance < routes.distance);
but MySQL does not support SET(col1,...)
syntax, and as with
Listing 7,MySQL does not yet accept subqueries referencing the table being updated, so we have to write more literal SQL:
Listing 29UPDATE routes, nextroutesSET routes.hops=nextroutes.hops, routes.route=nextroutes.route, routes.distance=nextroutes.distance, routes.direction=nextroutes.directionWHERE routes.arrive=nextroutes.arrive AND routes.depart=nextroutes.depart AND nextroutes.distance < routes.distance;
Running this code right after the first run of Listing 27 updates no rows. To test the logic of iteration, continue running Listings 27 and 29 until no rows are being added or changed. The final result is:
SELECT * FROM ROUTES;++++++++ id  depart  arrive  hops  route  distance  direction ++++++++ 1  LAX  JFK  1  LAX,JFK  3941.18  8.61  2  LHR  JFK  1  LHR,JFK  5550.77  171.68  3  CDG  JFK  1  CDG,JFK  5837.46  173.93  4  STL  JFK  1  STL,JFK  1408.11  7.44  5  JFK  LAX  1  JFK,LAX  3941.18  171.39  6  STL  LAX  1  STL,LAX  2553.37  170.72  7  JFK  LHR  1  JFK,LHR  5550.77  8.32  8  HEL  LHR  1  HEL,LHR  1841.91  161.17  9  CDG  LHR  1  CDG,LHR  354.41  136.48  10  ARN  LHR  1  ARN,LHR  1450.12  157.06  11  LHR  HEL  1  LHR,HEL  1841.91  18.83  12  CDG  HEL  1  CDG,HEL  1912.96  26.54  13  ARN  HEL  1  ARN,HEL  398.99  6.92  14  JFK  CDG  1  JFK,CDG  5837.46  6.07  15  LHR  CDG  1  LHR,CDG  354.41  43.52  16  HEL  CDG  1  HEL,CDG  1912.96  153.46  17  ARN  CDG  1  ARN,CDG  1545.23  146.34  18  JFK  STL  1  JFK,STL  1408.11  172.56  19  LAX  STL  1  LAX,STL  2553.37  9.28  20  LHR  ARN  1  LHR,ARN  1450.12  22.94  21  HEL  ARN  1  HEL,ARN  398.99  173.08  22  CDG  ARN  1  CDG,ARN  1545.23  33.66  23  ARN  JFK  2  ARN,LHR,JFK  7000.89  157.06  24  CDG  LAX  2  CDG,JFK,LAX  9778.64  173.93  25  CDG  STL  2  CDG,JFK,STL  7245.57  173.93  26  HEL  JFK  2  HEL,LHR,JFK  7392.68  161.17  27  JFK  ARN  2  JFK,LHR,ARN  7000.89  8.32  28  JFK  HEL  2  JFK,LHR,HEL  7392.68  8.32  29  LAX  CDG  2  LAX,JFK,CDG  9778.64  8.61  30  LAX  LHR  2  LAX,JFK,LHR  9491.95  8.61  31  LHR  LAX  2  LHR,JFK,LAX  9491.95  171.68  32  LHR  STL  2  LHR,JFK,STL  6958.88  171.68  33  STL  CDG  2  STL,JFK,CDG  7245.57  7.44  34  STL  LHR  2  STL,JFK,LHR  6958.88  7.44  35  ARN  LAX  3  ARN,LHR,JFK,LAX  10942.07  157.06  36  ARN  STL  3  ARN,LHR,JFK,STL  8409.00  157.06  37  HEL  LAX  3  HEL,LHR,JFK,LAX  11333.86  161.17  38  HEL  STL  3  HEL,LHR,JFK,STL  8800.79  161.17  39  LAX  ARN  3  LAX,JFK,CDG,ARN  10942.07  8.61  40  LAX  HEL  3  LAX,JFK,CDG,HEL  11333.86  8.61  41  STL  ARN  3  STL,JFK,CDG,ARN  8409.00  7.44  42  STL  HEL  3  STL,JFK,CDG,HEL  8800.79  7.44 ++++++++
All that's left to do is to assemble the code in a stored procedure:
Listing 30DROP PROCEDURE IF EXISTS BuildRoutes;DELIMITER goCREATE PROCEDURE BuildRoutes()BEGIN DECLARE rows INT DEFAULT 0; TRUNCATE routes;  STEP 1, LISTING 24: SEED ROUTES WITH 1HOP FLIGHTS INSERT INTO routes SELECT NULL, depart, arrive, 1, CONCAT(depart,',',arrive), distance, direction FROM flights; SET rows = ROW_COUNT(); WHILE (rows > 0) DO  STEP 2, LISTINGS 25, 27: ADD NEXT SET OF ROUTES INSERT INTO routes SELECT NULL, nextroutes.depart, nextroutes.arrive, nextroutes.hops, nextroutes.route, nextroutes.distance, nextroutes.direction FROM nextroutes LEFT JOIN routes ON nextroutes.depart = routes.depart AND nextroutes.arrive = routes.arrive WHERE routes.depart IS NULL AND routes.arrive IS NULL; SET rows = ROW_COUNT(); END WHILE;END;goDELIMITER ;
In MySQL 5.0.6 or 5.0.7, BuildRoutes()
fails to insert four rows:
+++++++
 depart  arrive route  hops distance  direction 
+++++++
 ARN  LAX  ARN,LHR,JFK,LAX 3  10942.07  157.06 
 ARN  STL  ARN,LHR,JFK,STL 3  8409.00  157.06 
 HEL  LAX  HEL,LHR,JFK,LAX 3  11333.86  161.17 
 HEL  STL  HEL,LHR,JFK,STL 3  8800.79  161.17 
+++++++
That MySQL bug (#11302) was corrected in 5.0.9.
Route queries
Route queries are straightforward. How do we check that the algorithm produced no duplicate
departarrive
pairs? The following query should yield zero rows,
Listing 31SELECT depart, arrive, COUNT(*)FROM routesGROUP BY depart,arriveHAVING COUNT(*) > 1;
and does. Reachability queries are just as simple, for example where can we fly to from Helsinki?
Listing 32SELECT *FROM routesWHERE depart='HEL'ORDER BY distance;++++++++ id  depart  arrive  hops  route  distance  direction ++++++++ 21  HEL  ARN  1  HEL,ARN  398.99  173.08  8  HEL  LHR  1  HEL,LHR  1841.91  161.17  16  HEL  CDG  1  HEL,CDG  1912.96  153.46  26  HEL  JFK  2  HEL,LHR,JFK  7392.68  161.17  38  HEL  STL  3  HEL,LHR,JFK,STL  8800.79  161.17  37  HEL  LAX  3  HEL,LHR,JFK,LAX  11333.86  161.17 ++++++++
An extended edge list model is simple to implement, gracefully accepts extended attributes for nodes, edge and paths, does not unduly penalise updates, and responds to queries with reasonable speed.
Parts explosions
A bill of materials for a house would include the cement block, lumber, shingles, doors, wallboard, windows, plumbing, electrical system, heating system, and so on. Each subassembly also has a bill of materials; the heating system has a furnace, ducts, and so on. A bill of materials implosion links component pieces to a major assembly. A bill of materials explosion breaks apart assemblies and subassemblies into their component parts.
Which graph model best handles a parts explosion? Combining edge list and "nested sets" algorithms seems a natural solution.
Imagine a new company that plans to make variously sized bookcases, either packaged as doityourself kits of, or assembled from sides, shelves, shelf brackets, backboards, feet and screws. Shelves and sides are cut from planks. Backboards are trimmed from laminated sheeting. Feet are machinecarved from readycut blocks. Screws and shelf brackets are purchased in bulk. Here are the elements of one bookcase:
1 backboard, 2 x 1 m 1 laminate 8 screws 2 sides 2m x 30 cm 1 plank length 4m 12 screws 8 shelves 1 m x 30 cm (incl. top and bottom) 2 planks 24 shelf brackets 4 feet 4cm x 4cm 4 cubes 16 screws
which may be packaged in a box for sale at one price, or assembled as a finished product at a different price. At any time we need to be able to answer questions like
 Do we have enough parts to make the bookcases on order?
 What assemblies or packages would be most profitable to make given the current inventory?
There is no reason to break the normalising rule that item detail belongs in a nodes table, and graph logic belongs in an edges table. Edges also require a quantity attribute, for example a shelf includes four shelf brackets. Nodes and edges may also have costs and prices:
 item purchase cost,
 item assembly cost,
 assembly cost,
 assembly selling price.
In many parts problems like this one, items occur in multiple assemblies and subassemblies. The graph is not a tree. Also, it is often desirable to model multiple graphs without the table glut that would arise from giving each graph its own edges table.
A simple way to solve this problem is to represent multiple graphs (assemblies) in the edges table by giving every row not only
childID
and parentID
pointers, but a pointer which identifies the root
itemID
of the graph to which the row belongs.
So the data model is just two tables, for items (nodes) and for product graphs or assemblies (edges). Assume that the company begins with a plan to sell the 2m x 1m bookcase in two forms, assembled and kit, and that the purchasing department has bought quantities of raw materials (laminate, planks, shelf supports, screws, wood cubes, boxes). Here are the nodes (items) and edges (assemblies):
Listing 33CREATE TABLE items ( itemID INT PRIMARY KEY AUTO_INCREMENT, name CHAR(20) NOT NULL, onhand INT NOT NULL DEFAULT 0, reserved INT NOT NULL DEFAULT 0, purchasecost DECIMAL(10,2) NOT NULL DEFAULT 0, assemblycost DECIMAL(10,2) NOT NULL DEFAULT 0, price DECIMAL(10,2) NOT NULL DEFAULT 0);
CREATE TABLE assemblies (
assemblyID INT NOT NULL,
assemblyroot INT NOT NULL,
childID INT NOT NULL,
parentID INT NOT NULL,
quantity DECIMAL(10,2) NOT NULL,
assemblycost DECIMAL(10,2) NOT NULL,
PRIMARY KEY(assemblyID,childID,parentID)
);
INSERT INTO items VALUES  inventory
(1,'laminate',40,0,4,0,8),
(2,'screw',1000,0,0.1,0,.2),
(3,'plank',200,0,10,0,20),
(4,'shelf bracket',400,0,0.20,0,.4),
(5,'wood cube',100,0,0.5,0,1),
(6,'box',40,0,1,0,2),
(7,'backboard',0,0,0,3,0),
(8,'side',0,0,0,8,0),
(9,'shelf',0,0,0,4,0),
(10,'foot',0,0,0,1,0),
(11,'bookcase2x30',0,0,0,10,0),
(12,'bookcase2x30 kit',0,0,0,2,0);
INSERT INTO assemblies VALUES
(1,11,1,7,1,0),  laminate to backboard
(2,11,2,7,8,0),  screws to backboard
(3,11,3,8,.5,0),  planks to side
(4,11,2,8,6,0),  screws to side
(5,11,3,9,0.25,0),  planks to shelf
(6,11,4,9,4,0),  shelf brackets to shelf
(7,11,5,10,1,0),  wood cubes to foot
(8,11,2,10,1,0),  screws to foot
(9,11,7,11,1,0),  backboard to bookcase
(10,11,8,11,2,0),  sides to bookcase
(11,11,9,11,8,0),  shelves to bookcase
(12,11,10,11,4,0),  feet to bookcase
(13,12,1,7,1,0),  laminate to backboard
(14,12,2,7,8,0),  screws to backboard
(15,12,3,8,0.5,0),  planks to side
(16,12,2,8,6,0),  screws to sides
(17,12,3,9,0.25,0),  planks to shelf
(18,12,4,9,4,0),  shelf brackets to shelves
(19,12,5,10,1,0),  wood cubes to foot
(20,12,2,10,1,0),  screws to foot
(21,12,7,12,1,0),  backboard to bookcase kit
(22,12,8,12,2,0),  sides to bookcase kit
(23,12,9,12,8,0),  shelves to bookcase kit
(24,12,10,12,4,0),  feet to bookcase kit
(25,12,6,12,1,0);  container box to bookcase kit
Now, we want a parts list, a bill of materials, which will list show parentchild relationships and quantities, and sum the costs. Could we adapt the depthfirst "nested sets" treewalk algorithm (Listing
10) to this problem even though our graph is not a tree and our sets are not properly nested? Yes indeed. We just have to modify the treewalk to handle multiple parent nodes for any child node, and add code to percolate costs and quantities up the graph.
Navigation remains simple using leftedge
and rightedge
values. This is just the sort of problem the Celko algorithm is good for: reporting!
Listing 34DROP PROCEDURE IF EXISTS ShowBOM;DELIMITER goCREATE PROCEDURE ShowBOM( IN root INT )BEGIN DECLARE thischild, thisparent, rows, maxrightedge INT DEFAULT 0; DECLARE thislevel, nextedgenum INT DEFAULT 1; DECLARE thisqty, thiscost DECIMAL(10,2);  Create and seed intermediate table: DROP TABLE IF EXISTS edges; CREATE TABLE edges ( childID smallint NOT NULL, parentID smallint NOT NULL, PRIMARY KEY (childID, parentID) ) ENGINE=HEAP; INSERT INTO edges SELECT childID,parentID FROM assemblies WHERE assemblyRoot = root; SET maxrightedge = 2 * (1 + (SELECT COUNT(*) FROM edges));  Create and seed result table: DROP TABLE IF EXISTS bom; CREATE TABLE bom ( level SMALLINT, nodeID SMALLINT, parentID SMALLINT, qty DECIMAL(10,2), cost DECIMAL(10,2), leftedge SMALLINT, rightedge SMALLINT ) ENGINE=HEAP; INSERT INTO bom VALUES( thislevel, root, 0, 0, 0, nextedgenum, maxrightedge ); SET nextedgenum = nextedgenum + 1; WHILE nextedgenum < maxrightedge DO  How many children of this node remain in the edges table? SET rows = ( SELECT COUNT(*) FROM bom AS s INNER JOIN edges AS t ON s.nodeID=t.parentID AND s.level=thislevel ); IF rows > 0 THEN  There is at least one child edge.  Compute qty and cost, insert into bom, delete from edges. BEGIN  Alas MySQL nulls MIN(t.childid) when we combine the next two queries SET thischild = ( SELECT MIN(t.childID) FROM bom AS s INNER JOIN edges AS t ON s.nodeID=t.parentID AND s.level=thislevel ); SET thisparent = ( SELECT DISTINCT t.parentID FROM bom AS s INNER JOIN edges AS t ON s.nodeID=t.parentID AND s.level=thislevel ); SET thisqty = ( SELECT quantity FROM assemblies WHERE assemblyroot = root AND childID = thischild AND parentID = thisparent ); SET thiscost = ( SELECT a.assemblycost + (thisqty * (i.purchasecost + i.assemblycost )) FROM assemblies AS a INNER JOIN items AS i ON a.childID = i.itemID WHERE assemblyroot = root AND a.parentID = thisparent AND a.childID = thischild ); INSERT INTO bom VALUES(thislevel+1, thischild, thisparent, thisqty, thiscost, nextedgenum, NULL); DELETE FROM edges WHERE childID = thischild AND parentID=thisparent; SET thislevel = thislevel + 1; SET nextedgenum = nextedgenum + 1; END; ELSE BEGIN  Set rightedge, remove item from edges UPDATE bom SET rightedge=nextedgenum, level = level WHERE level = thislevel; SET thislevel = thislevel  1; SET nextedgenum = nextedgenum + 1; END; END IF; END WHILE; SET rows := ( SELECT COUNT(*) FROM edges ); IF rows > 0 THEN SELECT 'Orphaned rows remain'; ELSE  Total SET thiscost = (SELECT SUM(qty*cost) FROM bom); UPDATE bom SET qty = 1, cost = thiscost WHERE nodeID = root;  Show the result SELECT CONCAT(Space(Abs(level)*2), ItemName(nodeid,root)) AS Item, ROUND(qty,2) AS Qty, ROUND(cost, 2) AS Cost FROM bom ORDER BY leftedge; END IF;END;goDELIMITER ; Function used by ShowBOM() to retrieve bom item names:DROP FUNCTION IF EXISTS ItemName;SET GLOBAL log_bin_trust_function_creators=TRUE;DELIMITER goCREATE FUNCTION ItemName( id INT, root INT ) RETURNS CHAR(20)BEGIN DECLARE s CHAR(20) DEFAULT ''; SELECT name INTO s FROM items WHERE itemid=id; RETURN IF( id = root, UCASE(s), s );END;go
DELIMITER ;CALL ShowBOM(11);++++
Item  Qty  Cost 
++++
 BOOKCASE2X30  1.0  327.93 
 backboard  1.0  3.00 
 laminate  1.0  4.00 
 screw  8.0  0.80 
 side  2.0  16.00 
 screw  6.0  0.60 
 plank  0.5  5.00 
 shelf  8.0  32.00 
 plank  0.3  2.50 
 shelf bracket  4.0  0.80 
 foot  4.0  4.00 
 screw  1.0  0.10 
 wood cube  1.0 0.50 
++++
With ShowBOM()
in hand, it's easy to compare costs of assemblies and subassemblies. By adding price columns, we can do the same for prices and profit margins. And now that MySQL has reenabled prepared statements in stored procedures, it will
be relatively easy to write a more general version of ShowBOM()
. We leave that to you.
Shorter and sweeter
But ShowBOM()is not the small, efficient bit of nested sets reporting code we were hopingfor. There is a simpler solution: hide graph cycles from the edges table bymaking them references to rows in a nodes table, so we can treat the edges tablelike a tree; then apply a breadthfirst edgelistsubtree algorithm to generate the Bill of Materials. Again assume acabinetmaking company making bookcases (with a different costing model). Forclarity, skip inventory tracking for now. An items table ww_nodestracks purchased and assembled bookcase elements with their individual costs,and an assemblies/edges ww_edgestable tracks sets of edges that combine to make products.
Listing 35: DDL for a simpler parts explosionDROP TABLE IF EXISTS ww_nodes;
CREATE TABLE ww_nodes (
nodeID int,
description CHAR(50),
cost decimal(10,2)
);
INSERT INTO ww_nodes VALUES (1,'finished bookcase',10);
INSERT INTO ww_nodes VALUES (2,'backboard2x1',1);
INSERT INTO ww_nodes VALUES (3,'laminate2x1',8);
INSERT INTO ww_nodes VALUES (4,'screw',.10);
INSERT INTO ww_nodes VALUES (5,'side',4);
INSERT INTO ww_nodes VALUES (6,'plank',20);
INSERT INTO ww_nodes VALUES (7,'shelf',4);
INSERT INTO ww_nodes VALUES (8,'shelf bracket',.5);
INSERT INTO ww_nodes VALUES (9,'feet',1);
INSERT INTO ww_nodes VALUES (10,'cube4cmx4cm',1);
INSERT INTO ww_nodes VALUES (11,'bookcase kit',2);
INSERT INTO ww_nodes VALUES (12,'carton',1);
DROP TABLE IF EXISTS ww_edges;
CREATE TABLE ww_edges (
rootID INT,
nodeID int,
parentnodeID int,
qty decimal(10,2)
);
INSERT INTO ww_edges VALUES (1,1,null,1);
INSERT INTO ww_edges VALUES (1,2,1,1);
INSERT INTO ww_edges VALUES (1,3,2,1);
INSERT INTO ww_edges VALUES (1,4,2,8);
INSERT INTO ww_edges VALUES (1,5,1,2);
INSERT INTO ww_edges VALUES (1,6,5,1);
INSERT INTO ww_edges VALUES (1,4,5,12);
INSERT INTO ww_edges VALUES (1,7,1,8);
INSERT INTO ww_edges VALUES (1,6,7,.5);
INSERT INTO ww_edges VALUES (1,8,7,4);
INSERT INTO ww_edges VALUES (1,9,1,4);
INSERT INTO ww_edges VALUES (1,10,9,1);
INSERT INTO ww_edges VALUES (1,4,9,1);
INSERT INTO ww_edges VALUES (11,11,null,1);
INSERT INTO ww_edges VALUES (11,2,11,1);
INSERT INTO ww_edges VALUES (11,3,2,1);
INSERT INTO ww_edges VALUES (11,4,2,8);
INSERT INTO ww_edges VALUES (11,5,11,2);
INSERT INTO ww_edges VALUES (11,6,5,1);
INSERT INTO ww_edges VALUES (11,4,5,12);
INSERT INTO ww_edges VALUES (11,7,11,8);
INSERT INTO ww_edges VALUES (11,6,7,.5);
INSERT INTO ww_edges VALUES (11,8,7,4);
INSERT INTO ww_edges VALUES (11,9,11,4);
INSERT INTO ww_edges VALUES (11,10,9,1);
INSERT INTO ww_edges VALUES (11,4,9,11);
INSERT INTO ww_edges VALUES (11,12,11,1);
Hereis an adaptation of the breadthfirst edge list algorithm to retrieve a Bill ofMaterials for a product identified by a rootID:
· Initialise a leveltracking variable to zero.
· Seed a tempreporting table with the rootIDof the desired product.
· While rows are being retrieved, increment the level tracking variable andadd rows to the temptable whose parentnodeIDsare nodes at the current level.
· Print the BOM ordered bypath with indentation proportional to tree level.
Listing 36: A simpler parts explosion
DROP PROCEDURE IF EXISTS ww_bom;
DELIMITER go
CREATE PROCEDURE ww_bom( root INT )
BEGIN
DECLARE lev INT DEFAULT 0;
DECLARE totalcost DECIMAL( 10,2);
DROP TABLE IF EXISTS temp;
CREATE TABLE temp  initialise temp table with root node
SELECT
e.nodeID AS nodeID,
n.description AS Item,
e.parentnodeID,
e.qty,
n.cost AS nodecost,
e.qty * n.cost AS cost,
0 as level,  tree level
CONCAT(e.nodeID,'') AS path  path to this node as a string
FROM ww_nodes n
JOIN ww_edges e USING(nodeID)  root node
WHERE e.nodeID = root AND e.parentnodeID IS NULL;
WHILE FOUND_ROWS() > 0 DO
BEGIN
SET lev = lev+1;  increment level
INSERT INTO temp  add children of this level
SELECT
e.nodeID,
n.description AS Item,
e.parentnodeID,
e.qty,
n.cost AS nodecost,
e.qty * n.cost AS cost,
lev,
CONCAT(t.path,',',e.nodeID)
FROM ww_nodes n
JOIN ww_edges e USING(nodeID)
JOIN temp t ON e.parentnodeID = t.nodeID
WHERE e.rootID = root AND t.level = lev1;
END;
END WHILE;
WHILE lev > 0 DO  percolate costs up the graph
BEGIN
SET lev = lev  1;
DROP TABLE IF EXISTS tempcost;
CREATE TABLE tempcost  compute child cost
SELECT p.nodeID, SUM(c.nodecost*c.qty) AS childcost
FROM temp p
JOIN temp c ON p.nodeid=c.parentnodeid
WHERE c.level=lev
GROUP by p.nodeid;
UPDATE temp JOIN tempcost USING(nodeID)  update parent item cost
SET nodecost = nodecost + tempcost.childcost;
UPDATE temp SET cost = qty * nodecost  update parent cost
WHERE level=lev1;
END;
END WHILE;
SELECT  list BoM
CONCAT(SPACE(level*2),Item) AS Item,
ROUND(nodecost,2) AS 'Unit Cost',
ROUND(Qty,0) AS Qty,ROUND(cost,2) AS Cost FROM temp
ORDER by path;
END go
DELIMITER ;
CALL ww_bom( 1 );
+++++
 Item  Unit Cost  Qty  Cost 
+++++
 finished bookcase  206.60  1.0  206.60 
 backboard2x1  9.80  1.0  9.80 
 laminate2x1  8.00  1.0  8.00 
 screw  0.10  8.0  0.80 
 side  25.20  2.0  50.40 
 screw  0.10  12.0  1.20 
 plank  20.00  1.0  20.00 
 shelf  16.00  8.0  128.00 
 plank  20.00  0.5  10.00 
 shelf bracket  0.50  4.0  2.00 
 foot  2.10  4.0  8.40 
 cube4cmx4cm  1.00  1.0  1.00 
 screw  0.10  1.0  0.10 
+++++
Summary
Stored procedures, stored functions and Views make it possible to implement edge list graph models, nested sets graph models, and breadthfirst and depthfirst graph search algorithms in MySQL5&6.
Further Reading
Celko J, "Trees and Hierarchies in SQL For Smarties", Morgan Kaufman, San Francisco, 2004.
Codersource.net, "Branch and Bound Algorithm in C#", http://www.codersource.net/csharp_branch_and_bound_algorithm_implementation.aspx.
Math Forum, "Euler's Solution: The Degree of a Vertex", http://mathforum.org/isaac/problems/bridges2.html
Muhammad RB, "Trees", http://www.personal.kent.edu/~rmuhamma/GraphTheory/MyGraphTheory/trees.htm.
Mullins C, "The Future of SQL", http://www.craigsmullins.com/idug_sql.htm.
Rodrigue JP, "Graph Theory: Definition and Properties", http://people.hofstra.edu/geotrans/eng/ch2en/meth2en/ch2m1en.html.
Santry P, "Recursive SQL User Defined Functions", http://www.wwwcoder.com/main/parentid/191/site/1857/68/default.aspx.
Shasha D, Wang JTL, and Giugno R, "Algorithmics and applications of tree and graph searching", In Symposium on Principles of Database Systems, 2002, p 3952.
Stephens S, "Solving directed graph problems with SQL, Part I", http://builder.com.com/51006388_145245017.html.
Stephens, S, "Solving directed graph problems with SQL, Part II", http://builder.com.com/51006388_145253701.html.
Steinbach T, "Migrating Recursive SQL from Oracle to DB2 UDB", http://www106.ibm.com/developerworks/db2/library/techarticle/0307steinbach/0307steinbach.html.
Tropashko V, "Nested Intervals Tree Encoding in SQL, http://www.sigmod.org/sigmod/record/issues/0506/p47articletropashko.pdf
Van Tulder G, "Storing Hierarchical Data in a Database", http://www.sitepoint.com/print/hierarchicaldatadatabase.
Venagalla S, "Expanding Recursive Opportunities with SQL UDFs in DB2 v7.2", http://www106.ibm.com/developerworks/db2/library/techarticle/0203venigalla/0203venigalla.html.
Wikipedia, "Graph Theory", http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graph_theory.
Wikipedia, “Tree traversal”, Wikipedia, “Tree traversal”, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tree_traversal.
Willets K, "SQL Graph Algorithms", http://willets.org/sqlgraphs.html.