A Variant is a union of all built-in data types including an ExtensionObject. Variants can also contain arrays of any of these built-in types. Variants are used to store any value or parameter with a data type of BaseDataType or one of its subtypes.
Variants can be empty. An empty Variant is described as having a null value and should be treated like a null column in a SQL database. A null value in a Variant may not be the same as a null value for data types that support nulls such as Strings. Some DevelopmentPlatforms may not be able to preserve the distinction between a null for a DataType and a null for a Variant, therefore, applications shall not rely on this distinction. This requirement also means that if an Attribute supports the writing of a null value it shall also support writing of an empty Variant and vice versa.
Values of Attributes are always returned in instances of DataValues. Therefore, the DataType of an Attribute cannot be a DataValue. Variants can contain DataValue when used in other contexts such as Method Arguments or PubSub Messages. The Variant in a DataValue cannot, directly or indirectly, contain another DataValue.
Variables with a DataType of BaseDataType are mapped to a Variant, however, the ValueRank and ArrayDimensions Attributes place restrictions on what is allowed in the Variant. For example, if the ValueRank is Scalar then the Variant may only contain scalar values.
ExtensionObjects and Variants allow unlimited nesting which could result in stack overflow errors even if the message size is less than the maximum allowed. Decoders shall support at least 100 nesting levels. Decoders shall report an error if the number of nesting levels exceeds what it supports.