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Tuple Representation

• Tuples
• Records vs Tuples
• Converting Records to Tuples
• Operations on Records
• Operations on Tuples
• Fixed-length Records
• Variable-length Records
• Data Types
• Field Descriptors
COMP9315 21T1 ♢ Tuple Representation ♢ [0/13]
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❖ Tuples

Each page contains a collection of tuples

What do tuples contain? How are they structured internally?
COMP9315 21T1 ♢ Tuple Representation ♢ [1/13]
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❖ Records vs Tuples

A table is defined by a schema, e.g.

create table Employee (
id integer primary key,
name varchar(20) not null,
job varchar(10),
dept smallint references Dept(id)
where a schema is a collection of attributes  (name,type,constraints)
Reminder: schema information (meta-data) is also stored, in the DB catalog
COMP9315 21T1 ♢ Tuple Representation ♢ [2/13]
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❖ Records vs Tuples (cont)

Tuple = collection of attribute values based on a schema, e.g.

Record = sequence of bytes, containing data for one tuple, e.g.

Bytes need to be interpreted relative to schema to get tuple
COMP9315 21T1 ♢ Tuple Representation ♢ [3/13]
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❖ Converting Records to Tuples

A Record is an array of bytes (byte[])
• representing the data values from a typed Tuple
• stored on disk (persistent) or in a memory buffer
A Tuple is a collection of named,typed values  (cf. C struct)
• to manipulate the values, need an “interpretable” structure
• stored in working memory, and temporary

COMP9315 21T1 ♢ Tuple Representation ♢ [4/13]
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❖ Converting Records to Tuples (cont)

Information on how to interpret bytes in a record …
• may be contained in schema data in DBMS catalog
• may be stored in the page directory
• may be stored in the record (in a record header)
• may be stored partly in the record and partly in the schema
For variable-length records, some formatting info …
• must be stored in the record or in the page directory
• at the least, need to know how many bytes in each varlen value
COMP9315 21T1 ♢ Tuple Representation ♢ [5/13]
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❖ Operations on Records

Common operation on records … access record via RecordId:

Record get_record(Relation rel, RecordId rid) {
(pid,tid) = rid;
Page buf = get_page(rel, pid);
return get_bytes(rel, buf, tid);

Cannot use a Record directly; need a Tuple:

Relation rel = … // relation schema
Record rec = get_record(rel, rid)
Tuple t = mkTuple(rel, rec)
Once we have a Tuple, we can access individual attributes/fields
COMP9315 21T1 ♢ Tuple Representation ♢ [6/13]
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❖ Operations on Tuples

Once we have a record, we need to interpret it as a tuple …
Tuple t = mkTuple(rel, rec)
• convert record to tuple data structure for relation rel

Once we have a tuple, we want to examines its contents …
Typ   getTypField(Tuple t, int i)
• extract the i’th field from a Tuple as a value of type Typ
E.g.   int x = getIntField(t,1),   char *s = getStrField(t,2)
COMP9315 21T1 ♢ Tuple Representation ♢ [7/13]
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❖ Fixed-length Records

A possible encoding scheme for fixed-length records:
• record format (length + offsets) stored in catalog
• data values stored in fixed-size slots in data pages

Since record format is frequently used at query time, cache in memory.
COMP9315 21T1 ♢ Tuple Representation ♢ [8/13]
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❖ Variable-length Records

Possible encoding schemes for variable-length records:
• Prefix each field by length 

• Terminate fields by delimiter 

• Array of offsets 

COMP9315 21T1 ♢ Tuple Representation ♢ [9/13]
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❖ Data Types

DBMSs typically define a fixed set of base types, e.g.

This determines implementation-level data types for field values:




int[] (?)

PostgreSQL allows new base types to be added
COMP9315 21T1 ♢ Tuple Representation ♢ [10/13]
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❖ Field Descriptors

A Tuple could be implemented as
• a list of field descriptors for a record instance 
(where a FieldDesc gives (offset,length,type) information)
• along with a reference to the Record data

typedef struct {
ushort nfields; // number of fields/attrs
ushort data_off; // offset in struct for data
FieldDesc fields[]; // field descriptions
Record data; // pointer to record in buffer
} Tuple;
Fields are derived from relation descriptor + record instance data.
COMP9315 21T1 ♢ Tuple Representation ♢ [11/13]
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❖ Field Descriptors (cont)

Tuple data could be
• a pointer to bytes stored elsewhere in memory

COMP9315 21T1 ♢ Tuple Representation ♢ [12/13]
<< ∧ ❖ Field Descriptors (cont) Or, tuple data could be ... • appended to Tuple struct   (used widely in PostgreSQL)  COMP9315 21T1 ♢ Tuple Representation ♢ [13/13] Produced: 27 Feb 2021

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