Histogram-Based Approximation of Set-Valued Query-Answers
Yannis Ioannidis
Viswanath Poosala
Date published: 
Published In: 
25th Int'l VLDB Conference, Edinburgh, Scotland, Sept. 1999, pp. 174-185
Conference Article

Answering queries approximately has recently been proposed as a way to reduce query response times in on-line decision support systems, when the precise answer is not necessary or early feedback is helpful. Most of the work in this area uses sampling-based techniques and handles aggregate queries, ignoring queries that return relations as answers. In this paper, we extend the scope of approximate query answering to general queries. We propose a novel and intuitive error measure for quantifying the error in an approximate query answer, which can be a multiset in general. We also study the use of histograms in approximate query answering as an alternative to sampling. In that direction, we develop a histogram algebra and demonstrate how complex SQL queries on a database may be translated into algebraic operations on the corresponding histograms. Finally, we present the results of an initial set of experiments where various types of histograms and sampling are compared with respect to their effectiveness in approximate query answering as captured by the introduced error measure. The results indicate that the MaxDiff(V,A) histograms provide quality approximations for both set-valued and aggregate queries, while sampling is competitive mainly for aggregate queries with no join operators.

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