Columnar databases are an idea whose time has come - again. First introduced inthe 1970s in (still available) products such as Model 204 and ABABAS, thisapproach has resurfaced recently at Vertica and to some extent at QD Technology. These join resurgentcolumnar database vendors Alterian and SmartFocus, whose original products dateto the 1990s.

As the name implies, columnar databases are organized by column rather thanrow: that is, all instances of a single data element (say, Customer Name) arestored together so they can be accessed as a unit. This makes them particularlyefficient at analytical queries, such as list selections, which often read a fewdata elements but need to see all instances of these elements. In contrast, aconventional relational database stores data by rows, so all information for aparticular record (row) is immediately accessible. This makes sense fortransactional queries, which typically concern one record at a time.

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