NNDB’s Not a Database

My latest project is called NNDB.

I’ve worked with databases for quite a long time now, and for a while I’ve been thinking about how they work under the hood. I know very little about it, but I thought I could learn a bit by trying to implement something similar myself.

I’m interested in how queries work against joined tables, how to implement indices and so on.

I’ve also been feeling that I want to do some C++ as an open source project. I do it all day at work, and for some problems it feels like the right tool for the job.

NNDB is sort-of like an in-memory database, but it works with C++ types for its columns, instead of a fixed set like varchar, int etc. You can put your own value-typed classes in the columns, and all values are type-checked at compile time.

It’s always struck me as strange that with a traditional code+SQL setup you have to keep your SQL in sync with your code manually. Of course, there are lots of trendy Object-Relational-Mapping thingies that solve that problem, but I felt it could be approached from another direction: instead of generating code to match your data, or generating SQL to match your code, why not specify your data structure in code?

In NNDB you define a table something like this:

typedef nndb::Values< unsigned long, std::string, std::string, MyDate >

class PersonTable : public nndb::Table
    enum Columns

Actually, defining your own class is unnecessary, but it’s nice to have an enum to name your columns, and making a class gives you a nice place to put it.

To insert a row you do something like this:

PersonTable person_table;
person_table.Insert( PersonValues( 0,
    "Andy", "Balaam", MyDate( 12000000 ) ) );

You can do simple queries with WHERE and ORDER BY clauses, and I’m working on indexes.

After that will come JOINs, and anything else that takes my fancy.

I don’t anticipate NNDB being useful to anyone – it’s really for me to understand why things are as they are in the world of databases. However, you never know – it may turn out to be a fast and convenient way to store data in the C++ world. I think some of the applications that use databases don’t really need the kind of concurrent multi-user network-accessible features they have, but really just want to search, join and store reliably, and NNDB might one day grow into something that can find a niche.

To explore more, check out the complete example.

4 thoughts on “NNDB’s Not a Database”

  1. “instead of generating code to match your data, or generating SQL to match your code, why not specify your data structure in code?”

    See LISP :)

    PS: Really cool C++ project!

  2. Thanks Guillaume – really interesting projects, and further really interesting links at the bottom of the second one. I knew someone else must have done something like this before…

    In self-augmenting language it is possible to build something like this on top of a real database, which I think would be very difficult in C++.

    I have been having thoughts about what my ideal language would be. Recently I have been wondering about whether it’s possible to create a self-augmenting language that is also compiled in a traditional way, and type-safe in the C++ sense. Essentially I want to be able to extend the C++ compiler at compile time.

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