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Pre-Disk Data Storage

Oracle Tips  by Burleson Consulting

High Performance Data Warehousing

Pre-Disk Data Storage

On the earliest commercial computers, drum storage was far too expensive to hold large volumes of transaction data. Consequently, transactions were keyed onto punched cards, and these cards were sorted and copied to a daily transaction tape. This daily transaction tape was then processed against the previous day’s sorted master tape (see Figure 1.1).

Figure 1.1  Transaction processing with magnetic tapes.

In this fashion, the data processing site collected a historical archive of each day’s transactions. These daily transaction tapes were used as the input to statistical programs that read and aggregated the transactions according to predefined rules, writing the aggregate summaries onto another tape (see Figure 1.2). These tapes, in turn, were used by managers to answer decision support queries similar to the queries serviced by today’s data warehouses.

Figure 1.2  Data aggregation on magnetic tapes.

Early Disk-Based Data Storage

Prior to the development of early commercial databases such as IMS, many "database" systems were nothing more than a loose conglomeration of flat-file storage methods on magnetic disks and drums. The term flat file includes physical-sequential storage as well as the indexed sequential access method (IS-AM) and virtual sequential access method (VSAM). Early flat-file systems such as IS-AM and VSAM were actually little more than physical-sequential files with indexes stored on disks or drums.

The data access methods used by these early disk systems were very primitive when compared to today’s commercial databases. One of the most common disk access methods was commonly known as BDAM (Basic Direct Access Method). BDAM was used for data records that required fast access and retrieval of information. BDAM uses a hashing algorithm, which takes a symbolic key and converts it into a location address on a disk (a disk address). Unfortunately, the range of addresses generated by hashing algorithms requires careful management. Because a hashing algorithm always produces the same key each time it reads an input value, duplicate keys have to be avoided. BDAM file structures also consume large amounts of disk storage. Because records are randomly distributed across the disk device, it is common to see hashed files with more unused spaces than occupied spaces. In most cases, a BDAM file is considered "logically" full if more than 70 percent of the space contains data records.

This is an excerpt from "High Performance Data Warehousing", copyright 1997.
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