[Mondrian] Blog post: Improved collections classes for Mondrian's query execution process

Julian Hyde jhyde at pentaho.com
Tue Feb 16 21:37:40 EST 2010

I just posted an article "Improved collections classes for Mondrian's query
execution process" to my blog. I'd like to start a design discussion.

Mondrian calculations work predominantly over lists of members and tuples.
Internally, Mondrian represents lists of members as List, and represents
lists of tuples as List. (And similarly for iterators over members and

There are two problems with this. First, the representation of tuple lists
requires an array to be allocated for each element of the list. Allocations
cost time and memory. (Granted, we could allocate temporary arrays only when
tuples are accessed, which would cost only time. But according to my latest
round of profiling, the effort of allocating lots small arrays is

Second, the code to deal with members and tuples has to be different. The
most extreme example of this found in the implementation of CrossJoin. There
are over 30 inner classes in CrossJoinFunDef.java, to deal with the
permutations of iterator vs. list, mutable vs. immutable, and tuple vs.

In short, the java standard List and Iterator classes are not serving us
well. I think it's appropriate to introduce classes/interfaces that handle
members and tuples more uniformly, and can store, access, and iterate over
collections without lots of small arrays being created.

Here are some collection classes that I think would serve the purpose:

interface TupleList {
    int size();
    int arity();
    Member getMember(int index, int ordinal);
    TupleIterator tupleIterator();

interface TupleIterator {
    int arity();
    boolean hasNext();
    // writes the members of the next tuple into given array
    void next(Member[] members);
    // appends members of the next tuple to given list
    void next(List<Member> members);

If arity = 1 (i.e. if the list is just a collection of members) then
TupleList could easily be implemented using java.util.ArrayList.

For other arities, a list of tuples could be represented as a set of members
end-to-end. For instance, the list with two 3-tuple elements {(A1, B1, C1),
(A2, B2, C2)} would be held in a list {A1, B1, C1, A2, B2, C2} and
getMember(index, ordinal) would read element index * arity + ordinal of the

Introducing these would require quite a few code changes, mostly in the
mondrian.olap.fun package, which is where the builtin functions are
implemented. There should be no changes to the user API or olap4j.

I am still debating whether this change makes sense. Usually this kind of
penny-pinching architectural change doesn't pay off. But some of them pay
off big. I've learned in Oracle, Broadbase, and SQLstream that for
high-performance data processing you shouldn't be doing any memory
allocations in an inner loop that is executed once per row. That isn't quite
practical in Java, but it's a goal to strive for. In today's CPU
architectures, where memory is slow and last-level-cache is fast, it pays to
keep data contiguous.

If you are a Mondrian developer, I'd be interested to hear what you think
about this proposed change.

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