Covering Indexes for Branching Path Queries


Published by Association for Computing Machinery, Inc.

In this paper, we ask if the traditional relational query acceleration techniques of summary tables and covering indexes have analogs for branching path expression queries over tree- or graph-structured XML data. Our answer is yes — the forward-and-backward index already proposed in the literature can be viewed as a structure analogous to a summary table or covering index. We also show that it is the smallest such index that covers all branching path expression queries. While this index is very general, our experiments show that it can be so large in practice as to offer little performance improvement over evaluating queries directly on the data. Likening the forward-and-backward index to a covering index on all the attributes of several tables, we devise an index definition scheme to restrict the class of branching path expressions being indexed. The resulting index structures are dramatically smaller and perform better than the full forward-and-backward index for these classes of branching path expressions. This is roughly analogous to the situation in multidimensional or OLAP workloads, in which more highly aggregated summary tables can service a smaller subset of queries but can do so at increased performance. We evaluate the performance of our indexes on both relational decompositions of XML and a native storage technique. As expected, the performance benefit of an index is maximized when the query matches the index definition.