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What is BigTable?

Vafa Batool

Overview

With the increase in the user base of mainstream applications, the amount of data generated and stored is also enormous. Commercial databases are no longer sufficient to handle these needs. To cater to large amounts of structured data, Google introduced BigTable. It was initially designed to manage its own services such as Google Earth and Google Analytics, which have large data requirements.

BigTable is a NoSQL column-wide store that can have a large number of columns with sparse values in the rows. Additionally, it is optimized for fast data reads and writes.

How is data stored in BigTable?

Data items in BigTable are stored as key-value pairs in the form of rows and columns. There can be column families, and a single cell in the table can store multiple data points. Timestamp values are also stored with every data item to maintain version history. The structure of BigTable is as follows:

How data is stored in BigTable

Advantages of using BigTable

BigTable has the following major advantages over other databases:

  • It provides low latency. Since it was designed for large amounts of data applications, it ensures that accessing and writing to the database is extremely fast and efficient.
  • It is highly scalable. It can grow horizontally very quickly, adding additional columns whenever needed. 
  • It is memory efficient. Since data is stored in key-value pairs, no space is allocated for empty rows. This significantly saves memory in case there's a large table with several empty cells. 

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