With the need for processing more and more data and also the availability for more data captured electronically from various data collection points through commercial, non-profit, government or research communities. This phenomenon is termed as Big Data in industry parlance. To make sense out of
this data being gathered it requires large amount of processing power. This data may be available in granular form or as documents, and sometimes both may be co-related. Over the period of time we notice that the nature of the data gathered is getting changed. Traditionally most of the data was transactional in nature, requiring CRUD(create, update, delete) operations. Now a larger amount of data is being created that is usually not updated and may only be deleted when it is no longer needed, usually after a longer period of time than in the transactional sense. While OLTP database provided the ability to store the CRUD operations with ACID(atomic, consistent, isolated and durable) properties for handling more granular data, they were then enhanced to add storage of various types of documents(text, pictures, etc.) again with the OLTP type of transactions in mind. These databases typically use a normalized data model for storage. But the need for providing ACID guaranties, and to handle different type of data volumes for analytical needs, the data could no longer be contained in those models. Therefore the data warehouses were designed using same type of databases, but with different type of data models (typically dimensional, though not always). Data warehouses allowed separation of data from the OLTP systems, but still grew fairly large in volumes, and typically serve more read type operations than frequent updates or writes.
While working with large volumes of data, I noticed that at times a large number of columns in a table have low cardinality, but the overall size of the table itself may be fairly large. This led me to believe that one could reduce the size of the data as stored on the disk if compression techniques are used. Since disk access is usually the slowest part of the access of a database a smaller footprint of data would presumably lead to faster retrieval of the data from the slower medium, however, there would be associated CPU cost that would be incurred in compressing the data. Since data warehouses carry the largest amounts of data there presumably would be tradeoff scenarios in using one or the other technique. Even though the normalization theory is about reducing the redundancy of duplicate data, and therefore providing most efficient storage, there has to be other techniques that could be combine with this to reduce the overall query timing. One of the recent technologies that focus on this aspect is the columnar storage based databases.
[Abadi, Boncz, Harizopoulos, 2009] provide a brief introductory, tutorial to the columnar databases. They describe the columnar databases as
"Column-stores, in a nutshell, store each database table column separately, with attribute values belonging to the same column stored contiguously, compressed, and densely packed, as opposed to traditional database systems that store entire records (rows) one after the other."
They trace the history of the column stores back to 1970s, when the usage of transposed files were explored. In 1980s the benefits of decomposed storage mode(DSM) over row based storage were explored. Its only in 2000s that these data stores finally took off.
Because of the affinity of the data values stored contiguously on disk pages for each of the columns the data lends to better compression schemes, that may be light weight in their CPU utilization but still provide heavy
However, these databases are challenged in their ability to provide updates and also in tuple construction required for use in applications which access data through ODBC/JDBC type interfaces. The tuple construction is required to present the data in row format used by these access applications.
Continued at Columnar Databases II
About Sarbjit Parmar
A practitioner with technical and business knowledge in areas of Data Management( Online transaction processing, data modeling(relational, hierarchical, dimensional, etc.), S/M/L/XL/XXL & XML data, application design, batch processing, analytics(reporting + some statistical analysis), MBA+DBA), Project Management / Product/Software Development Life Cycle Management.