References are used to relate Nodes to each other. They can be accessed using the browsing and querying Services defined in OPC 10000-4.
Like Attributes, they are defined as fundamental components of Nodes. Unlike Attributes, References are defined as instances of ReferenceType Nodes. ReferenceType Nodes are visible in the AddressSpace and are defined using the ReferenceType NodeClass (see 5.3).
The Node that contains the Reference is referred to as the SourceNode and the Node that is referenced is referred to as the TargetNode. The combination of the SourceNode, the ReferenceType and the TargetNode are used in OPC UA Services to uniquely identify References. Thus, each Node can reference another Node with the same ReferenceType only once. Any subtypes of concrete ReferenceTypes are considered to be equal to the base concrete ReferenceTypes when identifying References (see 5.3 for subtypes of ReferenceTypes). Figure 4 illustrates this model of a Reference.
Figure 4 – Reference Model
The TargetNode of a Reference may be in the same AddressSpace or in the AddressSpace of another OPC UA Server. TargetNodes located in other Servers are identified in OPC UA Services using a combination of the remote Server name and the identifier assigned to the Node by the remote Server.
OPC UA does not require that the TargetNode exists, thus References may point to a Node that does not exist.