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Group-by is a core database operation that is used extensively in OLTP, OLAP, and decision support systems. In many application scenarios, it is required to group similar but not necessarily equal values. In this paper we propose a new SQL construct that supports similarity-based group-by (SGB). SGB is not a new clustering algorithm, but rather is a practical and fast similarity grouping query operator that is compatible with other SQL operators and can be combined with them to answer similarity-based queries efficiently. In contrast to expensive clustering algorithms, the proposed similarity group-by operator maintains low execution times while still generating meaningful groupings that address many application needs. The paper presents a general definition of the similarity group-by operation and gives three instances of this definition. The paper also discusses how optimization techniques for the regular group-by can be extended to the case of SGB. The proposed operators are implemented inside PostgreSQL. The performance study shows that the proposed similarity-based group-by operators have good scalability properties with at most only 25% increase in execution time over the regular group-by.
Date of Conference: March 29 2009-April 2 2009