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Stream Windows


27 January 2014

Stream Windows

From the system’s point of view, it is infeasible to store an entire stream. From the user’s point of view, recently arrived data may be more useful. This motivates the use of windows to restrict the scope of continuous queries. Windows may be classified according the following criteria.

  1. Direction of movement: Fixed starting and ending points define a fixed window. Moving starting and ending points (either forward or backward) creates a sliding window. The starting and ending points typically slide in the same direction, although it is possible for both to slide outwards, starting from a common position (creating an expanding window), or for both to slide inwards, starting from fixed, positions (creating a contracting window). One fixed point and one moving point define a landmark window. Usually, the starting point is fixed, and the ending point moves forward in time. There are a total of nine possibilities as the beginning and ending points may independently be fixed, moving forward or moving backward.
  2. Definition of contents: Logical or time-based windows are defined in terms of a time interval, e.g., a time-based sliding window may maintain the last ten minutes of data. Physical (also known as count-based or tuple-based ) windows are defined in terms of the number of tuples, e.g., a count-based sliding window may store the last 1000 tuples. When using count-based windows in queries with a GROUP BY condition,it may be useful to maintain separate windows of equal size for each group, say, 1000 tuples each, rather than a single window of 1000 tuples; these are referred to as partitioned windows. The most general type is a predicate window, in which an arbitrary logical predicate (or SQL query) specifies the contents. Predicate windows are analogous to materialized views. For example, consider an on-line auction that produces three types of tuples for each item being sold: a “begin” tuple, zero or more “bid” tuples, followed by an “end” tuple that is generated when the item has been sold, presumably to the highest bidder. Assume that each tuple contains a timestamp, an item id, a type (being, bid or end), and other information such as the bid amount. A possible predicate window over this auction stream keeps track of all items that have not yet been sold. New items enter the window when their “begin” tuples appear; sold items “fall out” of the window when their “end” tuples appear.
  3. Frequency of movement: By default, a time-based window is updated at every time tick, and a count-based window is updated when a new tuple arrives. A jumping window is updated every k ticks or after every kth arrival. Note that a count-based window may be updated periodically, and a time-based window may be updated after some number of new tuples have arrived; these are referred to as mixed jumping windows. If k is equal to the window size, then the result is a series of non-overlapping tumbling windows.

In practice, tumbling windows, such as the one-minute windows in query Q1, are popular due to the simplicity of their implementation—at the end of each window, the query resets its state and starts over. Forward-sliding windows (time-based and count-based) are also appealing due to their intuitive semantics, especially with joins and aggregation. However, sliding windows are more difficult to implement than tumbling windows; over time, a continuous query must insert new tuples into a window and remove expired tuples that have fallen out of the window range.


[1] Lukasz Golab and M. Tamer Özsu, Data Stream Management, Synthesis Lectures on Data Management, 2010.

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