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Dazzle is a database I've created to learn the internals of database architecture and design. Dazzle is a column-oriented database. Like Cassandra, each row can have a large number of columns (Cassandra supports billions) and each row can have different columns.


Like most databases, Dazzle is designed on top of a transactional storage engine. The transactional storage is currently LevelDB from Google which is a key/value store using a LSM (logged structured merge) with SSTables (Google BigTable). This is a fairly common design in databases to re-use existing transactional storage engines. Databases like but not limited to Riak (InnoDB, LevelDB), and RavenDB (Microsoft ESENT) also use 3rd party transactional storage.

Dazzle is not a relational database. Although it has a SQL-like query syntax, there is no concept of table joins.

LevelDB features:

  • Keys and values are arbitrary byte arrays.
  • Data is stored sorted by key.
  • The basic operations are Put(key,value), Get(key), Delete(key).
  • Multiple changes can be made in one atomic batch.
  • Users can create a transient snapshot to get a consistent view of data (isolation).
  • Forward and backward iteration is supported over the data.
  • Data is automatically compressed using the Snappy compression library.

The column-oriented data model is created on top of LevelDB's key/value store similar to how SQLite4 is built on top of a key/value store. Dazzle currently uses a SQL-like language. The only queries supported so far are:

  • select firstname, lastname, email from users where userid = 'joey'
  • select * from users where userid = 'joey'

How to use Dazzle

using System;
using Dazzle;

namespace Dazzle.Benchmark.Embedded
    class Program
        static void Main(string[] args)
            // The database is pre-loaded with 1 million rows each with 50 columns of gibberish data.
            // This means 50+ million keys have been inserted into the key/value storage backend.
            var (var db = new DazzleDatabase("c:\\tmp")
                var result = db.ExecuteQuery("select * from users where userid = 'joey'");

Rows: 1,000,000.00 Columns per row: 50 Total keys in DB: 50,000,000.00 DB Size: 2.36GB
Query: select * from users where userid = 'joey'

Returned Rows: 1 Columns per row: 50
Query executed in 00:00:00.0035229

How Dazzle works under the hood

Since Dazzle currently uses LevelDB which is a key/value store and is using SSTables (sorted string tables) I needed to model rows, columns and indexes in a way that would optimize sequential reads when scanning.

Key                                  | Value
/users                               | table
/users/$index/column0                | indexed-column
/users/$index/column0/bob1           | indexed-term
/users/$index/column0/bob1/0         | /users/0
/users/$index/column0/bob1/1         | /users/1
/users/$index/column1                | indexed-column
/users/$index/column1/bob1           | indexed-term
/users/$index/column1/bob1/0         | /users/0
/users/$index/column1/bob1/1         | /users/1
/users/0                             | row
/users/0/$column/column0             | bob1
/users/0/$column/column1             | bob1
/users/1                             | row
/users/1/$column/column0             | bob1
/users/1/$column/column1             | bob1

Given the query

select * from users where column0 = "bob1" 

Dazzle's query execution plan does the following:

  1. Seek to the key "/users/$index/column0/bob1"
  2. Scan down to collect all the row keys for rows that are in this indexed column such as /users/0 and /users/1
  3. For each row key collected seek to the row such as /users/0
  4. Scan the columns for the row and collect the columns and their values that are defined in the select clause or all if * was specified.
  5. When the enumerator scans and finds the next row the query repeats #3 and #4 for the next rows.


  • Currently tested on Windows but should be trivial to port to other platforms.
  • Everything is a string. Types will be introduced soon.

None of this is set in stone. My learning may lead me in different directions during this project.


There's no real hard set of TODO's because I'm not 100% sure what type of database I want to build. My learning is guiding me but here's a list of things I know missing and other possibilities.

  • Implement Create Database command.
    • Right now there's no real concept of a database.
  • Implement Create Table command.
    • Right now the DB has no real concept of a table.
  • Implement Delete command.
  • Handling query errors.
    • Query engine is assuming success and that the table, columns specified actually exist. Need to do checks & throw errors.
  • Improve select operation performance. Latest iteration is doing too many seeks and performance dropped.
  • Add TCP networking so that Dazzle can be a service as well as an embedded database.
  • Integrating into Dazzle so that Dazzle becomes a distributed hash table (consistent hashing) cluster using Gossip protocol.