Rethinking the Application-Database Interface

Alvin Cheung

MIT Dissertation, George M. Sprowls award for best computer science dissertation


Applications that interact with database management systems (DBMSs) are ubiquitous in our daily lives. Such database applications are usually hosted on an application server and perform many small accesses over the network to a DBMS hosted on a database server to retrieve data for pro- cessing. For decades, the database and programming systems research communities have worked on optimizing such applications from different perspectives: database researchers have built highly efficient DBMSs, and programming systems researchers have developed specialized compilers and runtime systems for hosting applications. However, there has been relative little work that exam- ines the interface between these two software layers to improve application performance.

In this thesis, I show how making use of application semantics and optimizing across these layers of the software stack can help us improve the performance of database applications. In particular, I describe three projects that optimize database applications by looking at both the programming system and the DBMS in tandem. By carefully revisiting the interface between the DBMS and the application, and by applying a mix of declarative database optimization and modern program analysis and synthesis techniques, we show that multiple orders of magnitude speedups are possible in real-world applications. I conclude by highlighting future work in the area, and propose a vision towards automatically generating application-specific data stores.

Advisors: Prof. Samuel Madden and Prof. Armando Solar-Lezama