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Show Source |    | About   «  17.1. Indexing Chapter Introduction   ::   Contents   ::   17.3. ISAM  »

17.2. Linear Indexing

17.2.1. Linear Indexing

A linear index is an index file organized as a sequence of key-value pairs where the keys are in sorted order and the pointers either (1) point to the position of the complete record on disk, (2) point to the position of the primary key in the primary index, or (3) are actually the value of the primary key. Depending on its size, a linear index might be stored in main memory or on disk. A linear index provides a number of advantages. It provides convenient access to variable-length database records, because each entry in the index file contains a fixed-length key field and a fixed-length pointer to the beginning of a (variable-length) record as shown in the following slideshow A linear index also allows for efficient search and random access to database records, because it is amenable to binary search.

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If the database contains enough records, the linear index might be too large to store in main memory. This makes binary search of the index more expensive because many disk accesses would typically be required by the search process. One solution to this problem is to store a second-level linear index in main memory that indicates which disk block in the index file stores a desired key. For example, the linear index on disk might reside in a series of 1024-byte blocks. If each key/pointer pair in the linear index requires 8~bytes (a 4-byte key and a 4-byte pointer), then 128 key/pointer pairs are stored per block. The second-level index, stored in main memory, consists of a simple table storing the value of the key in the first position of each block in the linear index file. This arrangement is shown in the next slideshow. If the linear index requires 1024 disk blocks (1MB), the second-level index contains only 1024 entries, one per disk block.

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To find which disk block contains a desired search key value, first search through the 1024-entry table to find the greatest value less than or equal to the search key. This directs the search to the proper block in the index file, which is then read into memory. At this point, a binary search within this block will produce a pointer to the actual record in the database. Because the second-level index is stored in main memory, accessing a record by this method requires two disk reads: one from the index file and one from the database file for the actual record.

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A simple two-level linear index. The linear index is stored on disk. The smaller, second-level index is stored in main memory. Each element in the second-level index stores the first key value in the corresponding disk block of the index file. In this example, the first disk block of the linear index stores keys in the range 1 to 2001, and the second disk block stores keys in the range 2003 to 5688. Thus, the first entry of the second-level index is key value 1 (the first key in the first block of the linear index), while the second entry of the second-level index is key value 2003.

Every time a record is inserted to or deleted from the database, all associated secondary indices must be updated. Updates to a linear index are expensive, because the entire contents of the array might be shifted. Another problem is that multiple records with the same secondary key each duplicate that key value within the index. When the secondary key field has many duplicates, such as when it has a limited range (e.g., a field to indicate job category from among a small number of possible job categories), this duplication might waste considerable space.

One improvement on the simple sorted array is a two-dimensional array where each row corresponds to a secondary key value. A row contains the primary keys whose records have the indicated secondary key value. Figure 17.2.1 illustrates this approach. Now there is no duplication of secondary key values, possibly yielding a considerable space savings. The cost of insertion and deletion is reduced, because only one row of the table need be adjusted. Note that a new row is added to the array when a new secondary key value is added. This might lead to moving many records, but this will happen infrequently in applications suited to using this arrangement.

Figure 17.2.1: A two-dimensional linear index. Each row lists the primary keys associated with a particular secondary key value. In this example, the secondary key is a name. The primary key is a unique four-character code.

A drawback to this approach is that the array must be of fixed size, which imposes an upper limit on the number of primary keys that might be associated with a particular secondary key. Furthermore, those secondary keys with fewer records than the width of the array will waste the remainder of their row. A better approach is to have a one-dimensional array of secondary key values, where each secondary key is associated with a linked list. This works well if the index is stored in main memory, but not so well when it is stored on disk because the linked list for a given key might be scattered across several disk blocks.

Consider a large database of employee records. If the primary key is the employee's ID number and the secondary key is the employee's name, then each record in the name index associates a name with one or more ID numbers. The ID number index in turn associates an ID number with a unique pointer to the full record on disk. The secondary key index in such an organization is also known as an inverted list or inverted file. It is inverted in that searches work backwards from the secondary key to the primary key to the actual data record. It is called a list because each secondary key value has (conceptually) a list of primary keys associated with it. Figure 17.2.2 illustrates this arrangement. Here, we have last names as the secondary key. The primary key is a four-character unique identifier.

Figure 17.2.2: Illustration of an inverted list. Each secondary key value is stored in the secondary key list. Each secondary key value on the list has a pointer to a list of the primary keys whose associated records have that secondary key value.

Figure 17.2.3 shows a better approach to storing inverted lists. An array of secondary key values is shown as before. Associated with each secondary key is a pointer to an array of primary keys. The primary key array uses a linked-list implementation. This approach combines the storage for all of the secondary key lists into a single array, probably saving space. Each record in this array consists of a primary key value and a pointer to the next element on the list. It is easy to insert and delete secondary keys from this array, making this a good implementation for disk-based inverted files.

Figure 17.2.3: An inverted list implemented as an array of secondary keys and combined lists of primary keys. Each record in the secondary key array contains a pointer to a record in the primary key array. The next field of the primary key array indicates the next record with that secondary key value.

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