Chapter 7. Log-Structured Storage

Accountants don’t use erasers or they end up in jail.

Pat Helland

When accountants have to modify the record, instead of erasing the existing value, they create a new record with a correction. When the quarterly report is published, it may contain minor modifications, correcting the previous quarter results. To derive the bottom line, you have to go through the records and calculate a subtotal [HELLAND15].

Similarly, immutable storage structures do not allow modifications to the existing files: tables are written once and are never modified again. Instead, new records are appended to the new file and, to find the final value (or conclude its absence), records have to be reconstructed from multiple files. In contrast, mutable storage structures modify records on disk in place.

Immutable data structures are often used in functional programming languages and are getting more popular because of their safety characteristics: once created, an immutable structure doesn’t change, all of its references can be accessed concurrently, and its integrity is guaranteed by the fact that it cannot be modified.

On a high level, there is a strict distinction between how data is treated inside a storage structure and outside of it. Internally, immutable files can hold multiple copies, more recent ones overwriting the older ones, while mutable files generally hold only the most recent value instead. When accessed, immutable files are processed, redundant copies ...

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