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Archiving Scientific Data

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2-42
Number of pages41
JournalACM Transactions on Database Systems
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2004


Archiving is important for scientific data, where it is necessary to record all past versions of a database in order to verify findings based upon a specific version. Much scientific data is held in a hierarchical format and has a key structure that provides a canonical identification for each element of the hierarchy. In this article, we exploit these properties to develop an archiving technique that is both efficient in its use of space and preserves the continuity of elements through versions of the database, something that is not provided by traditional minimum-edit-distance diff approaches. The approach also uses timestamps. All versions of the data are merged into one hierarchy where an element appearing in multiple versions is stored only once along with a timestamp. By identifying the semantic continuity of elements and merging them into one data structure, our technique is capable of providing meaningful change descriptions, the archive allows us to easily answer certain temporal queries such as retrieval of any specific version from the archive and finding the history of an element. This is in contrast with approaches that store a sequence of deltas where such operations may require undoing a large number of changes or significant reasoning with the deltas. A suite of experiments also demonstrates that our archive does not incur any significant space overhead when contrasted with diff approaches. Another useful property of our approach is that we use XML format to represent hierarchical data and the resulting archive is also in XML. Hence, XML tools can be directly applied on our archive. In particular, we apply an XML compressor on our archive, and our experiments show that our compressed archive outperforms compressed diff-based repositories in space efficiency. We also show how we can extend our archiving tool to an external memory archiver for higher scalability and describe various index structures that can further improve the efficiency of some temporal queries on our archive.

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