Developing typed object definitions

Providing a comprehensive guide for developing type specifications (typespecs) for typed objects (TOs) in the Workspace Service (WSS) is far beyond the scope of this documentation, but provided here are some general guidelines and hints.

TO size and composition

  • Generally speaking, the approach of translating each row from a traditional RDBMS into a single TO is very wrong. The major advantage of TOs is that they allow you to compose various related data into a single object.
  • It is faster to save and load a single large TO as opposed to a many small TOs. Many small objects will also slow the WSS overall and increase the WSS index size.
    • The get_objects2 method allows retrieving subsets of a TO from the WSS to provide the equivalent of retrieving a few small TOs rather than one large TO and then manually extracting the small TOs.
  • TOs are currently limited to 1GB by the WSS.
  • When contemplating TO design, consider how user interfaces might display workspaces and objects. Note that workspaces containing thousands of objects quickly become untenable.
  • Objects which consist mostly of very long strings are usually much less useful when stored in the workspace than more structured data objects. Objects like this (for example DNA sequence or raw FASTA files) might be candidates for storage in Shock.

Very large objects

  • Although in general, one larger object is better than many smaller objects, when objects are in the hundreds of megabytes they become less useful and more difficult to deal with.
    • One cannot realistically fetch a very large object (VLO) to a webpage.
  • Even when using workspace functions to extract subdata from a VLO, the VLO must still be loaded from disk into the workspace service, which could take significant time.
  • VLOs are slow to transfer in general.
  • VLOs take a large amount of memory.
  • VLOs can often take 3-20 times the size of the serialized object to represent in memory.
  • Objects with large numbers of mapping s or structure s can use large amounts of resources due to repeated keys. Consider using tuple s instead of mapping s or structure s.


TO to TO references (@id ws)

  • TO to TO references using the @id ws annotation [see ID annotations] greatly enhance the utility of typed objects.
  • For example, linking a data set TO to the genome TO that the data set references enforces and records the relationship in the workspace database.
  • If a TO to be saved references a TO that doesn’t exist, the error is caught prior to saving the TO in the workspace.
  • If you have access to a TO, you can always access the TOs referenced by that TO, regardless of the workspace in which they’re stored.
  • However, there is a performance cost - each reference must be checked for existence in the database. For tens or even hundreds of references this cost is not high, but thousands or more unique references will likely slow saving of the TO.


  • Avoid the @optional annotation whenever possible. In some cases its use is required, but every @optional annotation in a typespec makes the associated TOs more difficult to use for downstream programmers. If a typespec has no @optional annotations, a programmer knows exactly what data the TO contains and so the code to manipulate it can be simpler and therefore less buggy, easier to maintain, and less work to test.