Query Concepts

  • concept
    An overview of common concepts that you will need to understand in order to use the Query service.

    SQL++ Queries

    A SQL++ query is a string parsed by the Query service. The SQL++ query language is based on SQL, but designed for structured and flexible JSON documents.

    • As with SQL, a SQL++ query can have nested sub-queries.

    • SQL++ queries run on JSON documents, and you can query over multiple documents by using the JOIN clause.

    • Data in JSON documents can be nested. There are operators and functions that let you navigate through nested arrays.

    • Data in JSON documents can be irregular. You can specify conditions in the WHERE clause to retrieve data.

    • You can transform the results using standard GROUP BY, ORDER BY, LIMIT, and OFFSET clauses as well as a rich set of functions.


    The result for each query is a set of JSON documents. The returned document set may be uniform or non-uniform.

    • A SELECT statement that specifies a fixed set of attribute (column) names results in a uniform set of documents.

    • A SELECT statement that specifies the wild card (*) results in a non-uniform result set.

    Every returned document meets the query criteria.

    Here’s a sample query and the result returned:

    SELECT name, brewery_id from `beer-sample` WHERE brewery_id IS NOT MISSING LIMIT 2;
        "requestID": "fbea9e79-a2e2-4ab8-9fdc-14e098838cc1",
        "signature": {
            "brewery_id": "json",
            "name": "json"
        "results": [
                "brewery_id": "big_horn_brewing_the_ram_2",
                "name": "Schaumbergfest"
                "brewery_id": "ballast_point_brewing",
                "name": "Wahoo Wheat Beer"
        "status": "success",
        "metrics": {
            "elapsedTime": "131.492184ms",
            "executionTime": "131.261322ms",
            "resultCount": 2,
            "resultSize": 205

    Logical Hierarchy

    Couchbase stores data within a logical hierarchy of buckets, scopes, and collections. This enables separation between documents of different types.


    Datastores are similar to sites. A datastore is a database deployment, for example, a server cluster, cloud service, or mobile installation. It is analogous to a relation database instance.


    Namespaces are similar to pools. A namespace is a unit of authorization, resource allocation, and tenancy. It is analogous to a relational database or schema. Currently, only the default and system namespaces are available.


    A bucket is the fundamental space for storing data in Couchbase Capella. Each bucket contains at least one scope by default, and you can create more scopes as required. It is analogous to a relational database table space or file group.


    A scope is a set of one or more collections. Each scope contains at least one collection by default, and you can create more collections as required. It is analogous to a group of relational database tables.


    A collection is a set of documents that may vary in structure. It is a unit of authorization and resource allocation. It is analogous to a relational database table.


    Keyspaces map to collections in Couchbase Capella. You must refer to a keyspace using a keyspace reference.

    The term keyspace is also used to refer to any of the catalogs in the system namespace.

    Keyspace References

    For most queries, you must provide one or more keyspace references to specify the data sources for the query.

    A keyspace reference may be:

    • A full keyspace reference: a path comprising the optional namespace, the bucket, the scope, and the collection which contains the documents you want. For example, default:`travel-sample`.inventory.airline.

    • A partial keyspace reference, comprising the collection name only. For example, airline.

    When a query contains partial keyspace references, you must set the query context to specify a bucket and scope before running a query. Partial keyspace references are resolved using the bucket and scope supplied by the query context.

    For compatibility with legacy versions of Couchbase Server, a keyspace reference may comprise the bucket name only, when referring to the default collection in the default scope within a bucket. In this case, the query context must not be set.

    Query Context

    The query context specifies the the namespace, bucket, and scope used to resolve partial keyspace references.

    When the query context is set, you can refer to a collection using just the collection name, without having to enter the keyspace path. When the query context is not set, it defaults to the default namespace, with no bucket, scope, or collection.

    • To set the query context in the Query Workbench, use the Query Context drop-down menus in the Query Editor.

    Tenant separation

    By using queries with partial keyspace references, which are resolved using the query context, a database application can be switched from one scope to another simply by changing the query context. This can be used to support the separation of tenant data in a multi-tenancy environment.

    Sub-Document Paths

    One of the main differences between JSON and flat rows is that JSON supports a nested structure, allowing documents to contain other documents, also known as sub-documents. SQL++ provides sub-document paths to support nested data. Paths use dot notation syntax to identify the logical location of an attribute within a document. For example, to get the street from a customer order, use the path orders.billTo.street. This path refers to the value for street in the billTo object. A path is used with arrays or nested objects to get to attributes within the data structure.

    Array syntax in the path can also be used to get to information. For example, the path orders.items[0].productId evaluates to the productId value for the first array element under the order item, items.

    Paths provide a method for finding data in document structures without having to retrieve the entire document or handle it within an application. Any document data can be requested and returned to an application. When only relevant information is returned to an application, querying bandwidth is reduced.

    See Nested Path Expressions for more details.

    Parameterized Queries

    Use placeholders to declare dynamic query parameters in SQL++. When you run the query, you can pass arguments to it, with each argument being used as the placeholder value in the query.

    Placeholders in the query may be numbered positional placeholders, unnumbered positional placeholders, or named placeholders.

    • A numbered positional placeholder takes the form $1 or @1. Thus, in the query, $1 or @1 refers to the first argument,$2 or @2 to the second, and so on.

    • An unnumbered positional parameter takes the form of a question mark ?. The first occurrence of ? refers to the first argument, the second occurrence of ? to the second, and so on.

    • Named placeholders take the form of $name or @name. This is particularly useful when there are many query parameters, and ensuring that they are all in the correct order may be cumbersome.

    To set query parameter values when you run the query, use the Query tab.

    For more information and examples, refer to Named Parameters and Positional Parameters.

    Prepared Statements

    When a SQL++ query is sent to the server, the server inspects the query and parses it, planning which indexes to use, if any. Once this is done, it generates a query plan. The computation for the plan adds some additional processing time and overhead for the query.

    You can prepare a frequently-used query so that its plan is generated only once. Subsequent queries using the same query will use the pre-generated plan instead, saving on the overhead and processing of the plan each time.

    Parameterized queries are considered the same query for caching and planning purposes, even if the supplied parameters are different.

    For more information on how to optimize queries using prepared statements, refer to the PREPARE statement.


    Indexes help to improve the performance of a query. An index replicates a subset of the fields and documents stored in the Data service. This allows specific data (for example, specific fields) to be retrieved quickly.

    The Index service enables you to create two types of index: primary indexes and global secondary indexes.

    • You can define a primary index on a keyspace. Primary indexes are based on the unique key of every item in a specified collection. A primary index is intended to be used for simple queries, which have no filters or predicates.

    • You can also create a secondary index on specific fields in a keyspace. Secondary indexes, often referred to as Global Secondary Indexes or GSIs, constitute the principal means of indexing documents to be accessed by the Query service.

      For example, creating a secondary index on the name and email fields in the users keyspace would allow you to query the keyspace regarding a document’s name or email properties.

    Note that you do not need to create an index on a keyspace to be able to query that keyspace. If no indexes exist on a keyspace, Couchbase Capella uses a sequential scan to query that index.

    For more information, refer to Primary and Secondary Index Reference.