Data Storage Italian Style

SAP co-founder Plattner proposes a new format for data storage that promises to speed up interaction between software and databases. (All photos: Frank Völkel)
With column-based data storage, there are no empty cells. The fields hang together snugly like “uncooked spaghetti”.

The charismatic chairman of the SAP Supervisory Board flagged up the importance of the close interplay between hardware and software. In the development stakes, however, the two are growing further and further apart, with software lagging a long way behind its counterpart.

Plattner stressed that almost every hardware component – from processors to data memory – has seen dramatic development in recent years. Software, in contrast, has hardly changed in terms of its structure and has to be constantly customized to hardware in order to achieve better levels of performance.

Processors with multiple customers (multi-core) are particularly dependent on the capacity of software to operate in parallel across different processing units. Computer game software has this pretty much covered but things are looking less rosy for business applications, where the battle with data bottlenecks remains a continuing reality.

Column databases: No redundancies

According to Plattner, column databases have considerable advantages over conventional storage methods:

  • No redundant data, so less data administration
  • No redundant software codes, so easier upgrades
  • Data feeds directly into algorithms
  • Greater flexibility
  • Easy to add new fields in the customer database

Column databases have no free or blank cells, bringing data content down to a twentieth of its original size, compared with conventional storage formats.

Plattner is researching the topic at his institute at the University of Potsdam – the Hasso Plattner Institute for Software Systems Engineering – where he heads up the “Enterprise Platform and Integration Concepts” group.

Column databases can get by without updates.