The goal is to build a web application that operates on a domain model that's given as an ontology. Our initial attempts at modeling the domain indicate that we'll probably need to work in OWL-Full or just raw RDF. We're looking for a tool chain, ideally one that's free and open, with the following layers:

1) A highly scalable triple store.
2) A Python ORM that is RDF-specific (a la RDFAlchemy) and plays nicely with the triple store
3) A graphical editor (a la Protege) that can connect to the triple store for hand-tooling the ontology

So far we've tried a Virtuoso/SuRF stack and a 4Store/ORDF stack. We can't identify a good OWL-Full editor to support either. (Protege is OWL-DL only.) We don't mind changing the stack if there are better options available.


Thanks in advance!

asked 05 Jan '11, 22:21

BrianTheLion's gravatar image

accept rate: 100%

edited 06 Jan '11, 15:04

Made a couple of quick clarity edits based on your feedback.

(06 Jan '11, 15:05) BrianTheLion BrianTheLion's gravatar image

I'll try to keep a running list of various tool chains I've tried and my experience with each so that people don't have to go down the same blind alleys. You can find a structured summary on SemanticWeb.org. Please contribute to it. My own editorial follows:

The format is (triple store) / (orm) / (editor) :

Virtuoso / SuRF / Ontowiki

  • I thought I'd hit on something clever here by using Ontowiki but ultimately I give it a "not ready for primetime."

4Store / ORDF / ?

  • ?

AllegroGraph / SuRF / TopBraid Composer

  • AllegroGraph 4.0 only comes in 64-bit flavors. Don't bother messing with those if you don't have a 64-bit machine. Stick with version 3.3. WONK.
  • Composer is an Eclipse plugin and you can get it in one of two ways: (1) in an existing Eclipse 3.6 installation via the update manager or (2) as a standalone Eclipse environment that you just download and run. I had A LOT of trouble with #1 so I ended up doing #2, but had to install Java 6 to get it running.
  • Getting Composer to play nice with AllegroGraph requires a plugin that requires the non-free version of Composer.

? / ? / Protege

  • Quickly realized that Protege doesn't support OWL-Full. Too bad. I was able to pick it up and start using it rather quickly

? / ? / NeOn

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answered 06 Jan '11, 19:58

BrianTheLion's gravatar image

accept rate: 100%

edited 15 Jan '11, 16:00

Anybody think I should make this entry a "community wiki?"

(06 Jan '11, 20:14) BrianTheLion BrianTheLion's gravatar image

I wish they'd let me build a table but there's no support for it in the markup.

(07 Jan '11, 17:05) BrianTheLion BrianTheLion's gravatar image

Howdy. Maybe consider editting it into your question à la http://www.semanticoverflow.com/questions/1/where-can-i-learn-about-the-semantic-web ... currently, it's a bit lost down here.

(15 Jan '11, 19:42) Signified ♦ Signified's gravatar image
  1. Allegrograph. (commercial, but free if <50M triples) Here's a good link to start a search for others

  2. AFAIK There aren't any ORM equivalent APIs for RDF/OWL that have really taken off. I did a search some time ago and came up with Topaz, but development seems to have stopped on that. Allegrograph has a Python API, you might consider it instead.

  3. An obvious choice would be Top Braid Composer.

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answered 05 Jan '11, 23:09

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harschware ♦
accept rate: 20%

edited 06 Jan '11, 02:45

It's not clear that the AllegroGraph/Composer combo works without paying money to TopBraid. I got AllegroGraph 3.3 and Composer 3.4 Free Edition up and running only to discover that you need a non-free plugin to glue them together. I would really rather try before I buy. Any thoughts?

(06 Jan '11, 21:38) BrianTheLion BrianTheLion's gravatar image

Composer has a 30-day trial period for full-featured versions of TBC (http://www.topquadrant.com/products/TB_install.php). This can often be extended by contacting TopQuadrant.

(07 Jan '11, 15:30) scotthenninger ♦ scotthenninger's gravatar image

I don't recall it being a non-free plugin, that's news to me. Franz now makes the plugin for version 4.0 of AG, it installs via the usual eclipse plugin mechanism: http://bit.ly/f4sa4Z

(16 Jan '11, 03:53) harschware ♦ harschware's gravatar image

I believe TopBraid Suite satisfies all three, although the criteria for the object-relational mapper may be a bit unclear. TopBraid includes a D2RQ server and a mapping wizard to get you started. D2RQ will map Relational back-ends to RDF/RDFS/OWL in a read-only capacity. If that's what you're looking for then it's a trifecta.

For scalable triple stores, TopBraid includes Jena TDB and SDB. TDB is a native RDF store and SDB maps triples to a relational back-end. TopBraid also plays nicely with AllegroGraph, Sesame, and Oracle RDF. AllegroGraph and Oracle are not open source, although it may be best to see the triple store as doing just that (storing triples) and writing features around it. I.e. view the triple store as the blackest of boxes in your tool chain.

In terms of a "graphical editor", I take this to mean a GUI editor for RDF/RDFS/OWL, including OWL 2. Others have already stated how Composer and Protégé compare ;-). More to the point, though, TopBraid Composer is a full-featured RDF editor, and therefore works with OWL Full. Composer is just the editor, and you may want to look at Live, Ensemble, and Enterprise Vocabulary Network (EVN) to see how semantic application development is supported by TopBraid Suite. TopBraid has SPARQL and OWL-based tools for scripting solutions on top of RDF/RDFS/SPARQL/OWL, and hence works over triple stores.

If you move the "open" criteria from the triple store to the editor/browser/framework, this may do what you need. However, except for TopBraid Composer-Free, which is just the GUI editor (and some import/export features), the platform is not free.

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answered 06 Jan '11, 02:19

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scotthenninger ♦
accept rate: 17%

(+1) nice answer. Though the OP said he has an ontology (not an RDBMS) and I take ORM to mean things like Hibernate, GORM, etc. Thanks for pointing Allegrograph is not open source, I edited my answer.

(06 Jan '11, 02:59) harschware ♦ harschware's gravatar image

I'd like to test the TopBraid option, but installing Composer on Eclipse 3.6.0 is not going very well. I'm trying to do it through the Update Manager and it's failing in spectacularly cryptic fashion. Any ideas? See http://www.topquadrant.com/products/TB_Update.html

(06 Jan '11, 16:08) BrianTheLion BrianTheLion's gravatar image

I suggest that to start, you keep TBC and your other eclipse development separate. Just download TBC as bundled with eclipse. If you really want it to co-exist with your current eclipse environment, then give it a go later when you have had a chance to get your feet wet.

(06 Jan '11, 16:23) harschware ♦ harschware's gravatar image

This is the stack used by oreilly.com for RDF. It's mostly open source.

Triple/Quad Store

Tenuki (Jena SDB or Jena TDB based) https://github.com/norcalrdf/Tenuki

Fuseki (Jena SDB or Tena TDB based) http://openjena.org/wiki/Fuseki

Either can be hooked up to Pellet (Open Source but AGPL, not sure of your application)

Python API

rdflib... doesn't do much in the way of pythonic access, have not been very happy with it.


https://github.com/norcalrdf/pymantic Our own ORMish wrapper on rdflib, now also working on replacing rdflib itself. The public version is still in early development but we would love feedback. The earlier private version runs http://oreilly.com/catalog/


TopBraid as mentioned by other folks is a great tool for Ontology design. If it doesn't work with Fuseki and Tenuki (which it should, as both are "just" SPARQL 1.1 servers) that should get fixed.

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answered 11 Jan '11, 05:23

Gavin%20Carothers's gravatar image

Gavin Carothers
accept rate: 0%

A correction to the reference on "TopBraid". TopBraid Suite includes a number of products, not just an editor (Composer). TopBraid Live is a full-featured semantic web server. This indeed has many to all of the features seen in Fuseki, but adds a number of features, such as scripting (SPARQLMotion), SPIN inference,technologies for creating applications, including TopBraid Ensemble and SPARQL Web pages, etc. It is also a supported product, which is what really costs, and where the real value comes for most enterprises.

(12 Jan '11, 02:56) scotthenninger ♦ scotthenninger's gravatar image

Apparently SuRF cannot write to AllegroGraph

Can you say why you believe that? I've been using both together. If you have issues please file a bug report (I'm a contributor to SuRF).

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answered 14 Jan '11, 09:58

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accept rate: 0%

Read it in the docs somewhere. Let me try to track down the reference for you. Apologies in advance if I've screwed up.

(15 Jan '11, 14:41) BrianTheLion BrianTheLion's gravatar image

I deleted my dubious claim since it was a docs bug at best.

(15 Jan '11, 18:03) BrianTheLion BrianTheLion's gravatar image
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question asked: 05 Jan '11, 22:21

question was seen: 5,305 times

last updated: 15 Jan '11, 16:00