Switching gears a bit from the NoSQL to the Hadoop world ... here's a quick preview of some work we did on storage organization on Hadoop. We started this work to investigate how a columnar storage layer could be implemented for Hadoop and if it would lead to any insights that weren't already known in the context of parallel DBMSs. It turned up some pretty interesting results.
First, we built an InputFormat/OutputFormat pair on Hadoop v-0.21 that uses some of the new APIs for a pluggable BlockPlacementPolicy. We gave it a rather inventive name -- CIF and COF-- for ColumnInputFormat and ColumnOutputFormat :-) Instead of using a PAX-like layout with RCFile, CIF lets you you true columnar storage where each column is stored in a separate file. As one would expect, when you scan only a small number of columns from a much wider dataset, CIF eliminates the I/O for the unnecessary columns and improves your map-phase performance compared to SequenceFiles and RCFile.
Second, most of the literature on columnar processing in DBMSs usually deals with atomic types -- we looked at more complex types that are typically used in the Hadoop environment -- lists, maps, and nested records. These are all typically variable length columns. Being able to automatically avoid deserialization for these complex types when they're not accessed during the MapReduce job turns out to be a nice performance boost.
We combined the two ideas above to build a novel skip-list based Input/OutputFormat called CIF-SL. It lets you eliminate I/O for columns that you don't need in a job. Also, it lets you use lazily decompress and deserialize columns that are only accessed for some of the records during a MapReduce job. This can lead to substantial CPU savings. If it turns out that if you access a particular column for only a small fraction of the records you scan,CIF-SF can provide a pretty substantial advantage over plain CIF.
We wrote up these findings in a paper for PVLDB with details of the APIs, examples, an implementation sketch, and a performance evaluation. This paper is much simpler than Spinnaker paper, and a much more fun read :) Avrilia Floratou, who did most of the engineering for this project during her internship at Almaden, will present this at VLDB this fall.