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From Matthias Pfau <>
Subject Re: Storing pre-sorted data
Date Mon, 17 Oct 2011 09:39:12 GMT
thanks for your nice summary on this topic.

We would be very happy if cassandra would give us an option to maintain 
the sort order on our own (application logic). That is why it would be 
interesting to hear from any of the developers if it would be easily 
possible to add such a feature to cassandra.

Otherwise, it seems like we have to implement sth. based on strategy (a) 
because (b) is not feasible for us and (c) is a rather young research 
topic which is slowly gaining more attention.

Kind Regards

On 10/15/2011 10:55 PM, David Jeske wrote:
> Logically, whether you use cassandra or not, there is some "physics" of
> sorted order structures which you should understand and dictate what is
> possible.
> In order to keep data sorted, a database needs to be able to see the
> proper sort-order of the data "all the time" not just at insertion or
> query time. When inserting a new record, it is compared with existing
> records to put it in the "right place".
> As a result, whether you use cassandra or a different system, I believe
> you are limited to one of these strategies:
> (a) Encrypt the data outside the database with non-order-preserving
> encryption, and expose some "actual data" in unencrypted form for
> sorting. Since the encryption ruins the sort order, some "actual data"
> must be exposed to sort properly. Any data you expose, even if encoded,
> would be your actual data, because otherwise it wouldn't sort in the
> right order. You can limit the amount of data you expose, creating
> buckets instead of proper detailed sorting. Within buckets, only the
> agent capable of decrypting the data would be able to properly order the
> data within a bucket.
> (b) Encrypt the data inside the database. This would expose the "actual
> data" to the database, allowing it to keep it in proper order. The code
> to handle encryption would be handled after sort-order comparisons. The
> code (and keys) for decryption would also be known to the database. The
> data would need to be decryptable by the database at all times, because
> the database will need to compare new data to existing data in order to
> perform operations correctly.
> (c) Use an order-preserving encryption scheme. If the encryption output
> is in the same order as the source-data, then the database can sort on
> the encrypted data and get proper sort-results. I don't know anything
> about this field, but doing a google search returned the following paper...
> <>
> I believe these three cases represent a totalogy of what is possible in
> any data-storage system. So the solution you compose would involve one
> or more of these schemes.
> One might be tempted to generate some type of "ordinal value"
> representing the sort-order of an item. However, in order for this
> ordinal to be mathematically unrelated to the original data, it would
> have to be generated by a system which stored a copy of the entire data,
> which would then have to use one of the above three methods. (i.e. this
> approach is a chicken and egg problem)

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