2006-04-12Buch DOI: 10.18452/2461
On the Distance of Databases
Freytag, Johann Christoph
We study the novel problem of efficiently computing the update distance for a pair of relational databases. In analogy to the edit distance of strings, we define the update distance of two databases as the minimal number of set-oriented insert, delete and modification operations necessary to transform one database into the other. We show how this distance can be computed by traversing a search space of database instances connected by update operations. This insight leads to a family of algorithms that compute the update distance or approximations of it. In our experiments we observed that a simple heuristic performs surprisingly well in most considered cases. Our motivation for studying distance measures for databases stems from the field of scientific databases. There, replicas of a single database are often maintained at different sites, which typically leads to (accidental or planned) divergence of their content. To re-create a consistent view, these differences must be resolved. Such an effort requires an understanding of the process that produced them. We found that minimal update sequences are a proper representation of systematic errors, thus giving valuable clues to domain experts responsible for conflict resolution.
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