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SharpHSQL - An SQL engine written in C#

, 10 Oct 2001
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Presenting a high performance SQL engine ported to C# from Java

Sample Image - SharpHSQL.jpg

Introduction

.NET! C#! If you haven't been inundated with the marketing of Microsoft's new initiatives, you've been living in your cube without a web connection for quite a while. Like a lot of developers, I had installed the .NET SDK and the Beta 1 of Visual Studio .NET and played with it. However, since its release was so far out in the future and I had deadlines to meet, I soon went back to working with the things my customers needed now.

But the press coverage continued. One evening our Vice President of New Technologies noticed me carrying out a book on COM+ on the way out, and asked something like 'COM+? Why aren't you studying .NET and C#?'

Ok, I knew what management was thinking about, it couldn't hurt to give this thing another look...

Being the masochist that I am, I generally learn a new language or technology by jumping in over my head and figuring it out when I've got motivation, like a looming deadline. Since I'm not likely to see any customers asking for .NET work prior to it's release, I needed to come up with something on my own.

I recently started a project on SourceForge, the HSQL Database Engine which is continuing the development of a Java SQL engine project that had been dropped by the original developer. From what I saw and read, C# was a lot like Java, so why not port it? There would be enough changes required to force me to learn the language and environment.

This is the story of that little adventure.

Porting issues

There are enough differences between Java and C# to give you a bit of a headache when porting anything significant. I believe that Microsoft's Java User Migration Path (JUMP) will be a success at converting 80-90% of Java code, but the rest of it is going to be sticky. Doing it manually was a somewhat painful process.

Syntax differences are minor at best. The compiler thankfully complained about these and stopped, so I spent a little over a day making these changes, without being distracted by the next step.

Then came the majority of the porting effort. If my memory serves me right, the first time there were no syntax problems the complier reported over 3000 library/API errors. Almost all of these were due to differences between the Java API and the .NET API.

Rather than go into all of them, I'll elaborate on a few.

In Java, the StringBuffer class is used for building a string to eliminate the overhead of creating multiple String objects when building a complex string. .NET has an equivalent class, StringBuilder. The methods are almost identical, with the exception of the first character of the methods are uppercase, so StringBuffer.append becomes StringBuilder.Append.

The number of keys in a Java Hashtable class object is accessed through the size() method, where the same information for .NET Hashtable class is available through it's Count property.

These kinds of differences are pervasive throughout the .NET API. Most of the JAVA API objects are represented, but have slight differences that could be resolved by a smart parser that understood both languages. Without something like JUMP, or at least a comparative guide available, I had to do a lot of reading to find the classes I needed.

The bad part: C# and .NET do not support the loading of a class at runtime based on it's name. This forced me to drop support for triggers from the C# version of the database engine, as this was central to their design. Additionally, many of the SQL operators were implemented using this technique in the Java version, so the C# version currently does not support as many SQL options as the Java version. If someone was motivated, they could probably add support for them in the C# version in a couple of days.

Update

Thanks to Rossen Blagoev, who pointed out that it is possible to load a class by name in C#, using the Activator class.

 Activator.CreateInstance(Type.GetType("MyClass")); 

I'll have to play with it, but I think the Activator and MethodInfo classes will be required to do what I need to, and I think for C# the parser will have to be changed slightly, since it needs to know the Assembly if the class to be loaded is not in the executing assembly.

Here is the Java version of a Result object's constructor

    Result(byte b[]) throws SQLException {
        ByteArrayInputStream bin = new ByteArrayInputStream(b);
        DataInputStream      in = new DataInputStream(bin);

        try {
            iMode = in.readInt();

            if (iMode == ERROR) {
                throw Trace.getError(in.readUTF());
            } else if (iMode == UPDATECOUNT) {
                iUpdateCount = in.readInt();
            } else if (iMode == DATA) {
                int l = in.readInt();

                prepareData(l);

                iColumnCount = l;

                for (int i = 0; i < l; i++) {
                    iType[i] = in.readInt();
                    sLabel[i] = in.readUTF();
                    sTable[i] = in.readUTF();
                    sName[i] = in.readUTF();
                }

                while (in.available() != 0) {
                    add(Column.readData(in, l));
                }
            }
        } catch (IOException e) {
            Trace.error(Trace.TRANSFER_CORRUPTED);
        }
    }

And the C# version

    public Result(byte[] b)
    {
        MemoryStream bin = new MemoryStream(b);
        BinaryReader din = new BinaryReader(bin);

        try
        {
            iMode = din.ReadInt32();

            if (iMode == ERROR)
            {
                throw Trace.getError(din.ReadString());
            }
            else if (iMode == UPDATECOUNT)
            {
                iUpdateCount = din.ReadInt32();
            }
            else if (iMode == DATA)
            {
                int l = din.ReadInt32();

                prepareData(l);

                iColumnCount = l;

                for (int i = 0; i < l; i++)
                {
                    iType[i] = din.ReadInt32();
                    sLabel[i] = din.ReadString();
                    sTable[i] = din.ReadString();
                    sName[i] = din.ReadString();
                }

                while (din.PeekChar() != -1)
                {
                    add(Column.readData(din, l));
                }
            }
        }
        catch (Exception e)
        {
            Trace.error(Trace.TRANSFER_CORRUPTED);
        }
    }

As you can see, the two look pretty similar. C# requires a constructor to be declared as public, where as Java simply assumes public visibility, and C# does not use throws. .NET's MemoryStream class is pretty much a direct replacement for ByteArrayInputStream, and BinaryReader is the .NET equivalent to DataInputStream. The ReadXXX methods differ slightly, but the logic and syntax are pretty much identical.

SQL Engine architecture

Each database connection uses a different Channel object. The Channel has a link to a User object and a list of Transaction objects. (a Transaction object is a single row insert or delete in a table)

The result from a database operation is a Result object. (this *may* contain Record objects if the query was a successful select operation)

The query results are a linked list of Record objects, for which the root object is contained in the Result object.

How a statement is processed

The Database creates a Tokenizer that breaks the statement into tokens. If it's a INSERT, UPDATE, DELETE or SELECT, a Parser is created (all other statements are processed by the Database class directly) The Parser creates a Select object if it's a SELECT. This Select contains one or more TableFilter objects (a conditional cursor over a table), Expression objects and possibly another Select (if it's a UNION)

How the data is stored

The Index is an AVL tree. Each Index contains a root Node that is 'null' if the table is empty. Each node may have a parent node and a left and/or right child. Each node is linked to a Row object (the Row contains the data.) The data is contained in an array of objects.

Transaction handling

The Channel keeps track of the uncommitted transactions. Each Transaction object contains a reference to the 'old' data. Statements that may fail (for example UPDATES) start a nested transaction, but more nesting is not built in. Also, since SharpHSQL was not designed as a multi-user database, other Channel's can read the uncommitted transaction objects, i.e. a two-phase commit protocol is not used. A rollback is done by un-doing (re-inserting or deleting) the changes in reverse order. This also means that we have implemented UPDATES as a combination of DELETE and INSERT operations, which is why updates are slower than inserts.

More specific information about the internal architecture of the engine can be found at the HSQL Database Engine project page on SourceForge.

How to use the SharpHSQL classes

The SharpHSQL class in the sample project contains basic examples of executing queries and accessing their results. It implements a simple command line SQL engine that you can type queries into and display the results.

Example

// Create an in memory database by creating with the name "."
// This has no logging or other disk access
Database db = new Database(".");
// The "sa" user is created by default with no password, so we can connect
// using this user
Channel myChannel = db.connect("sa","");
All queries return a Result object
Result rs;
// We need a string to enter our queries
string query = "";

// While the query is not the quit command
while (!query.ToLower().Equals("quit"))
{
    // Write a little prompt out to the console
    Console.Write("SQL> ");
    // Read a line of text
    query = Console.ReadLine();
    // Is it our quit command?
    if (!query.ToLower().Equals("quit"))
    {
        // No, execute it using our Channel object
        rs = db.execute(query,myChannel);
        // If there was an error
        if (rs.sError != null)
        {
            // Print the error message out to the console
            Console.WriteLine(rs.sError);
        }
        else
        {
            // Write out some statistics
            Console.Write(rs.getSize() + " rows returned, " + 
                          rs.iUpdateCount + " rows affected.\n\n");
            // If we had records returned
            if (rs.rRoot != null)
            {
                // Get the first one
                Record r = rs.rRoot;
                // Get the column count from the Result Object
                int column_count = rs.getColumnCount();
                for (int x = 0; x < column_count;x++)
                {
                    // Print out the column names
                    Console.Write(rs.sLabel[x]);
                    Console.Write("\t");
                }
                Console.Write("\n");
                while (r != null)
                {
                    for (int x = 0; x < column_count;x++)
                    {
                        // Write out the data values
                        Console.Write(r.data[x]);
                        Console.Write("\t");
                    }
                    Console.Write("\n");
                    // Get the next Record object
                    r = r.next;
                }
                Console.Write("\n");
            }
        }
    }
}

I would have liked to develop ADO.NET driver classes for SharpHSQL, but a combination of sparse documentation and lack of time did not permit this. Perhaps in the future, if there is interest...

Performance

Regarding the performance section, my intention is only to demostrate the relative performance of the two versions of the application, and attempt to ascertain where the difference lies by way of comparison. I do not intend for the article to be viewed as a benchmark of .NET, obviously there is much more to .NET than is demonstrated by this application. If it is percieved as such, I apologize, and will remove the performance section if requested.

After having gotten the disk based databases working with the C# version, I decided to spend a little time benchmarking the two. What I found surpised me! My earlier observations were not a valid comparison, as the Java version of the SelfTest application was printing out a running status rather than just the summary totals, as well as doing a few other things that the C# version did not.

Performance Chart

The chart above details the timing results from executing the performance test option in the C# version. I wrote an exact replica of the test for the Java version. For disk based databases, C# was slightly faster in all tests. The real surprise was in the in-memory database test. An in-memory database does not log transactions to disk, therefore there is no recovery, however the removal of the disk IO makes for significantly faster access times.

I then profiled both applications, the Java version using TrueTime from NuMega, and the C# version using the beta version of AQtime.NET from AutomatedQA. I won't post the full details here, but will instead briefly discussed the areas that surprised me.

Java version Top 10 Functions
Function Name Hit Count % Time
Tokenizer.getToken() 550060 12.55
Column.compare(java.lang.Object, java.lang.Object, int) 1437073 5.93
Index.insert(org.hsqldb.Node) 40000 5.35
Parser.read() 240005 4.46
Index.compareRow(java.lang.Object[], java.lang.Object[]) 945900 2.7
Index.findFirst(java.lang.Object, int) 30000 2.65
Node.getData() 1467073 2.46
Index.delete(java.lang.Object[], boolean) 40000 2.31
Index.search(java.lang.Object[]) 40000 2.17
Parser.parseSelect() 10001 1.93

For the Java version of the database engine, the largest percentage of time was spent in the Tokenizer.getToken and the Column.compare methods. The Tokenizer did not surprise me, however the Column.compare did. If you look at both versions of the method, you'll see that they are virtually identical. Based on the test parameters, I believe that Java's String.compareTo(String) method is the bottleneck, as the comparison is needed when the engine is building the index on the name column in the test table. It appears that Java's string handling suffers in comparison to that of C#, since several of the top percentage functions in the Java profile are string related.

C# version Top 10 Functions
Function Name Hit Count % Time
Index.insert(Node) 40000 10.14
Node.getData() 1464842 5.19
Index.delete(object[], bool) 40000 4.4
Index.findFirst(object, int) 30000 4.25
Index.search(object[]) 40000 4.15
Index.compareRow(object[], object[]) 943669 3.45
Parser.read() 240002 3.31
Trace.check(bool, int) 846630 3
Index.from(Node) 395765 2.73
Index.child(Node, bool) 590043 2.11

The C# version showed what I expected, the majority of the time being spent in the indexing functions. However, I'm at a loss as to why it was significantly slower than the Java version in the in-memory database test. My assumption is that it is due to some extra debugging information in the pre-release .NET libraries, or possbily a lack of optimizations by the beta version of the C# compiler. There is also the possibility of some profiling differences, since the applications were profiled with two different tools.

Caveats

Since I am not using these classes for anything other than an exercise, no effort has been made to ensure that this is a bulletproof application. In particular, the disk based database functions have seen little testing. I honestly got bogged down trying to implement the ConfigManager class to read and write the equivalents of the Java versions database properties files. I found the classes and the documentation to be quite confusing, and gave up and commented this coded out for now. Consequently, there is work to be done before you can use this option effectively. If I figure out how to implement it, I'll upload a new version.

UPDATE

I implemented the database properties files using XmlTextReader and XmlTextWriter classes, and reworked the remaining classes where required to get disk based databases working. I've uploaded the new files, with modifications to allow for command line selection of the database type. See SharpHSQL.cs for the command line options.

Conclusion

C-Sharp and .NET are an intriguing combination. Overall C# seems to be an excellent design for a new language, offering elegance and simplicity over C++, while avoiding the overhead of Java and learning from Java's hindsight. The idea that you will be able to develop truly high-performance applications with C# and .NET does not seem that far-fetched.

As you would expect of a database engine, this project makes heavy use of some of the C# and .NET data manipulation classes. Reviewing the Java and C# versions of the ported classes should prove helpful to anyone planning on porting a Java application. The process of porting was time consuming, but not overly difficult.

License

This article has no explicit license attached to it but may contain usage terms in the article text or the download files themselves. If in doubt please contact the author via the discussion board below.

A list of licenses authors might use can be found here

About the Author

Mark Tutt
Web Developer
United States United States
No Biography provided

Comments and Discussions

 
Questionany updates ?? Pinmemberalhambra-eidos3-Aug-10 2:28 
NewsSilverlight "port" Pinmembercraigd11-Jul-09 21:39 
GeneralNow on CodePlex Pinmemberburning snow14-Apr-08 19:04 
GeneralRe: Now on CodePlex Pinmemberubik25-Feb-09 5:55 
GeneralReading HSQL db file PinmemberMuneer Safi24-Feb-08 20:44 
GeneralRe: Reading HSQL db file PinmemberJoke1-Mar-08 1:42 
Generalsharphsql and java hsql db Pinmembertyounsi12-Dec-05 11:00 
GeneralNew SharpHSQL on GotDotNet PinmemberAndresv28-Nov-04 7:07 
GeneralXmlTextReader and XmlTextWriter dont work ! Pinsuss:confused:7-Sep-04 0:40 
GeneralNew C# database project Pinmember8MX14-Aug-04 4:14 
QuestionLatest code? PinmemberrippRaven2-May-04 17:46 
AnswerRe: Latest code? Pinmember8MX13-Aug-04 14:27 
QuestionStatus of project? PinmemberGmonkey23-Sep-03 9:56 
AnswerRe: Status of project? PinmemberMalby23-Oct-03 0:38 
GeneralC# version of Enterprise Management for SharpHSQL Pinmemberunruledboy5-Aug-03 18:14 
Generalpersisting databases Pinmemberunruledboy4-Aug-03 18:55 
GeneralRe: persisting databases PinmemberMark Tutt5-Aug-03 2:01 
GeneralRe: persisting databases Pinmemberunruledboy5-Aug-03 18:04 
QuestionAnyone considered completing this? Pinmemberstevehiner20-May-03 10:37 
The lack of a good local db engine is one of the biggest drawbacks to .NET. I hate the fact that using Datasets in .NET makes me fondly remember the VB+Access days. If this project, or one like it, was finished out it would be a huge benefit to .NET development.
 
I'm wondering if anyone has taken on the project to turn this into a production ready database. I can see that the Java version is production ready but it would be nice to have a .NET version. I would be quite happy to participate in the development but since C# is not my primary language I wouldn't be the best person to head it up. If we converted it to VB.NET I would take a bigger role in the process.
 
Mark, do you have any objections to a group taking this on, perhaps as a parallel project to the Java HyperSQL?
 
Steve

AnswerRe: Anyone considered completing this? PinmemberMark Tutt20-May-03 10:58 
GeneralRe: Anyone considered completing this? Pinmember8MX19-Jul-03 3:43 
AnswerRe: Anyone considered completing this? Pinmemberunruledboy4-Aug-03 18:45 
GeneralRe: Anyone considered completing this? Pinmemberstevehiner7-Aug-03 11:41 
GeneralRe: Anyone considered completing this? PinmemberMark Tutt8-Aug-03 1:45 
GeneralRe: Anyone considered completing this? Pinmemberadamsdigiark5-Sep-03 9:22 

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