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Communications of the ACM

Communications of the ACM

A note on virtual memory indexes

In [4] Maruyama and Smith analyzed design alternatives for virtual memory indexes. The indexes investigated were those modeled on the structure of VSAM [5] which are closely related to B-trees [1]. Maruyama and Smith presented alternatives for search strategies, page format, and whether or not to compress keys. They made a comparative analysis based on the average cost of processing the index for retrieval of a key with its associated data pointer (or a sequence of keys and data pointers). The analysis showed that the optimal solution depends on machine and file characteristics and they provided formulas for selecting the best alternative. In this brief note1 we propose that another alternative for the page format be considered. The basic idea is to replace the sequential representation within a page by a linked representation. The main advantage of this method is realized in the construction (and maintenance) phase of the index. Although this phase is difficult to analyze quantitatively—as alluded to in [4]—we provide data to substantiate our claim of a net saving in construction cost without any corresponding loss in the average retrieval cost. In the ensuing discussion we assume that the reader is familiar both with B-trees and the paper of Maruyama and Smith [4].

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