Understanding OData

“The Open Data Protocol (OData) is a Web protocol for querying and updating data”

as defined on the OData site here. From a web developer’s point of view, I think it can be better defined as such:

‘A standardized syntax for RESTful web services’

As such, if you don’t have solid understanding of RESTful services and calling RESTful services with jQuery then I suggest you read the previous post in this series which addresses that topic specifically. I have also written a blog on OData in SharePoint 2013 specifically which assumes the knowledge laid out here.
OData protocol – agnostic of implementation

OData logo
OData logo

OData defines a standard syntax which defines how resource representations (entities) are queried via a RESTful URI: [the base URI (eg http://server/service.svc)] + [the resource path (eg /departments)] + [the query options(eg ?$select=name)]. A standardised approach makes the service easier to work with for anyone with previous OData experience. The resource path can be determined as it is structured logically and the query options, once learned, are repeatable across services.

The resource path is used to locate a collection of entities, a single entity or a single property that the service surfaces in a hierarchical manner. E.g.

  • http://server/service.svc/departments – collection of departments
  • http://server/service.svc/departments(1) – single department
  • http://server/service.svc/organisation – single organisation
  • http://server/service.svc/organisation/name – name of the organisation

It’s worth keeping in mind that the OData protocol is fundamentally similar to SQL as it aims to achieve the same goal of data access. It is the query options that allow us to perform a subset of SQL-like queries: select ($select), where ($filter), order by ($orderby), join ($expand) and paging ($top and $skip) operations. E.g.

  • http://server/service.svc/departments?$select=name – returns only the name element for each department
  • http://server/service.svc/departments?$filter=name eq HR – returns only the HR department element
  • http://server/service.svc/departments?$orderby=name – returns all department elements sorted by name
  • http://server/service.svc/departments?$expand=directors – returns the department elements and including the department director
  • http://server/service.svc/departments?$skip=40&top=20 – returns the third page of 20 results

Multiple query options can be used at once (?$filter=staffCount gt 100&$select=name) to create complex queries. Note that a dollar sign ‘$’ character is prepended to each of OData query option parameters.

OData compliant service being consumed directly in IE
OData compliant service being consumed directly in IE

The filter query option may also support a range of math, string and date operations. It is important to remember, however, that an OData service has no obligation to support all (or any) query options.

$filter logical and arithmetic functions
Using the OData $filter query parameter – Thanks to Ted Pattison’s SPC12 slide deck for this image
$filter string functions
Using the OData $filter query parameter – Thanks to Ted Pattison’s SPC12 slide deck for this image
$filter date and math functions
Using the OData $filter query parameter – Thanks to Ted Pattison’s SPC12 slide deck for this image

Fundamentally, that is OData. The specification has a lot more to it but if you are comfortable with it at this level then it is just a matter or reading up on the spec. The blog post here expands a little on the fundamentals I’ve just described or the full spec can found here but it’s a rather difficult read as it’s raw unstyled HTML.
Please see the next post in this series on OData in SharePoint 2013 with jQuery.

Published by

Paul Ryan

As a developer my professional interests are technical and tend to be SharePoint focused. I've been working with SharePoint since 2009 and hope my posts will give back a little to the community that's supported me over this time. I'm also a keen runner (half-marathon) and passionate Brompton bicycle owner.

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