TupleDesign Struct Reference


Detailed Description


The Fennel tuple library defines classes for manipulating rows of relational data and physically mapping them to contiguous byte arrays for storage in memory or on disk. The library was designed to meet the following goals:

The tuple library is not intended for directly representing anything more complicated than rows of atomic data. In particular, constructs such as nested tables (e.g. storing line items together with order headers) and compound types (e.g. a user-defined address type consisting of street, city, state, and zip fields) are outside the scope of the tuple library. That's not to say that the tuple library can't be used to implement these constructs, but the logic (e.g. to flatten a row of compound types into a row of simple types) must be programmed at a higher level.

A number of other Fennel components depend on the tuple library:

Type System

All tuple data values must have well-defined type descriptors. Fennel abstracts this concept in the StoredTypeDescriptor interface. A StoredTypeDescriptor instance defines

Fennel uses the Factory pattern for creating StoredTypeDescriptor instances. An application chooses an implementation of interface StoredTypeDescriptorFactory in order to be able to define tuple data types. Fennel provides a default implementation in StandardTypeDescriptorFactory, which defines the following type ordinals (declared in enum StandardTypeDescriptorOrdinal):

Applications may extend this list with their own types via a customized subclass of StandardTypeDescriptorFactory. Primitive types may also be reinterpreted at higher levels; e.g. date/time types are often represented as a STANDARD_TYPE_UINT_64 interpreted as a quantity such as milliseconds since a given epoch.

TODO: lobs

Tuple Descriptors

A StoredTypeDescriptor describes a homogeneous domain of possible data values for a single attribute (e.g. a column in a table); several of these can be combined into an ordered, heterogeneous tuple descriptor via the TupleDescriptor and TupleAttributeDescriptor classes. A single TupleAttributeDescriptor specifies:

TupleDescriptor is simply a std::vector of TupleAttributeDescriptors (with some extra utility methods tacked on); this makes it very easy to manipulate TupleDescriptors directly via STL. For example, tuple descriptors can be concatenated with code like

    TupleDescriptor td1 = getFirstTupleDesc();
    TupleDescriptor td2 = getSecondTupleDesc();
    return td1;

Consider an SQL statement like

create table MACHINES(
    IP_ADDRESS int not null,
    NAME varchar(32));

A TupleDescriptor to define the rows of this table could be constructed as:

    StandardTypeDescriptorFactory typeFactory;
    TupleDescriptor machineTupleDesc;
    TupleAttributeDescriptor ipAddressAttr(
    TupleAttributeDescriptor nameAttr(

Note that the TupleDescriptor contains only a minimal amount of information needed for data storage; it does not store metadata such as attribute names. While a TupleDescriptor does specify the logical structure of rows to be stored, it does not contain the data itself, nor does it explicitly specify the physical layout of data values. The next two sections describe additional classes which work together with TupleDescriptor to carry out those duties.

Discontiguous Tuple Data Representation

A row of data to be processed can be represented in memory with all of the data values stored at discontiguous addresses; this is the job of the TupleData class, which is a std::vector of TupleDatum instances. A TupleDatum is a combination of a pointer to the actual data together with a byte length. A NULL data pointer is interpreted as a NULL value. To continue the previous example, a row to be inserted into the MACHINES table could be constructed like so:

    TupleData machineTupleData(machineTupleDesc);
    uint32_t localhostIP = 0x7F000001;
    char const *pMachineName = "jackalope";
    machineTupleData[0].pData = &localhostIP;
    machineTupleData[1].pData = pMachineName;
    machineTupleData[1].cbData = strlen(pMachineName);


Stored Tuple Access

So far, TupleDescriptor and TupleData by themselves aren't terribly useful. The TupleAccessor class is the missing piece which allows tuple data to be efficiently stored and accessed in contiguous memory buffers. As with TupleData, the idea is that a TupleAccessor can be precomputed from a TupleDescriptor once, and then used over and over again to access many different stored tuples. The most important operations on a TupleAccessor once it has been computed are:

In the context of the running example:

void storeMachineTuple(FILE *file)
    TupleAccessor tupleAccessor;
    boost::scoped_array<byte> tupleBuffer =
        new byte[tupleAccessor.getMaxByteCount()];

uint32_t readStoredMachineIpAddress(FILE *file)
    TupleAccessor tupleAccessor;
    boost::scoped_array<byte> tupleBuffer =
        new byte[tupleAccessor.getMaxByteCount()];
    return *((uint32_t *) (machineTupleData[0].pData));

The diagram below shows the effect of the marshal and unmarshal operations. The gray boxes are internal length-indicator fields described later on:


Contiguous Tuple Data Representation

TupleAccessor's physical storage scheme is designed to meet the following requirements:

A tuple is formatted as an ordered series of fields. Some of these fields represent value data; others represent extra information about a value such as its length or null indicator. Physical field ordering does not match TupleDescriptor ordering, although within an attribute storage class (e.g. all 4-byte aligned attributes), the values are stored in the order the corresponding attributes appear in the TupleDescriptor. Each nullable attribute has a corresponding bit field in a bit array. Bit-typed values are also stored packed into the same bit array.

Every field has an offset relative to the start of the stored tuple. Some fields are stored at fixed offsets; others have variable offsets. For constant-time access to a field with a variable offset, it is necessary to compute the variable offset based on the contents of some other field with a fixed offset. Such a fixed-offset field containing information about a variable-offset field is referred to as an indirection field. Each variable-width attribute gets a corresponding "end offset" indirection field, which references the byte after the last data byte of the variable-width attribute. Start offsets are not actually recorded, since they can be computed from the end offset of other attributes.

The physical field ordering is illustrated in the following diagram:


In the variable-width portion, all 2-byte aligned fields are stored before any unaligned fields; also, if the bitfields end on an odd byte boundary, one extra byte of padding is inserted so that the first variable width field comes out aligned.

Alternate Storage Formats

In the default representation described above, integer fields are stored in native byte order. TupleAccessor supports an alternate format in which fields are stored in network byte order. This can be requested by passing TUPLE_FORMAT_NETWORK as the optional second parameter when the TupleAccessor is computed. Since values are unmarshalled by reference rather than copied, this leads to a question: where to put the native unmarshalled value when a network-ordered attribute is accessed? This is the purpose of the anonymous union in class TupleDatum. Unmarshalling writes the native value to the appropriate field of the union, and then sets TupleDatum.pData to reference it.

A third storage format is also supported: TUPLE_FORMAT_ALL_FIXED. This format treats all values as fixed-width (a variable-width attribute is taken at its maximum width). It is mostly useful for setting up a TupleData instance with a preallocated staging area. For example:

void storeLocalhostMachineTuple(FILE *file)
    TupleAccessor fixedAccessor;
    boost::scoped_array<byte> tupleBuffer =
        new byte[fixedAccessor.getMaxByteCount()];
    // the 2nd arg 'valid = false' tells the accessor not to load the offsets
    // and bitflags  from the new buffer, because they contain garbage.
    fixedAccessor.setCurrentTupleBuf(tupleBuffer.get(), false);

    // this is a little weird; the purpose of this unmarshal isn't actually
    // to read existing data values; instead, it's to set machineTupleData
    // value pointers to the correct offsets in tupleBuffer


void fillLocalhostMachineTuple()
    *((uint32_t *) (machineTupleData[0].pData)) = 0x7F000001;
    int rc = gethostname((char *) machineTupleData[1].pData,32);
    if (rc == -1) {
        // couldn't get host name; null it out
        machineTupleData.pData = NULL;

Storage formats are defined in enum TupleFormat.

Tuple Projection

It was previously mentioned that access to any individual value in a stored tuple can be performed in constant time. This makes no difference when the entire tuple is unmarshalled at once. However, the tuple library also provides classes for accessing a projection (a subset of the attributes of the tuple, possibly reordered). Analogously to the way TupleDescriptor and TupleAccessor work together, class TupleProjection defines the logical projection (as a std::vector of 0-based attribute positions), while class TupleProjectionAccessor defines how to extract it.

Suppose we want to extract the NAME attribute from a series of stored tuples. The following class does the trick:

class NameExtractor
    TupleAccessor tupleAccessor;
    TupleProjection proj;
    TupleDescriptor projDescriptor;
    TupleProjectionAccessor projAccessor;
    TupleData projData;

    explicit NameExtractor()
        // the name field is attribute #1 counting from 0

    char const *getMachineName(byte const *pStoredTuple)
        return (char const *) (projData[0].pData);


Tuple Comparison

TupleDescriptor provides method compareTuples for comparing two instances of TupleData, with the first attribute being the most significant and the last attribute the least significant in the comparison. This will probably be eliminated eventually; a calculator program generator should be used instead.


The TuplePrinter class provides a simple means of rendering tuple values as text.

Definition at line 545 of file TupleDesign.cpp.

The documentation for this struct was generated from the following file:
Generated on Mon Jun 22 04:00:48 2009 for Fennel by  doxygen 1.5.1