We describe the vision of being able to reason about the design space of data structures.
We break this down into two questions: 1) Can we know all data structures that is possible to design? 2) Can we compute the performance of arbitrary designs on a given hardware and workload without having to implement the design or even access the target hardware?
If those challenges are possible, then an array of exciting opportunities would become feasible such as interactive what-if design to improve the productivity of data systems researchers and engineers, and informed decision making in industrial settings with regards to critical ardware/workload/data structure design issues. Then, even fully automated discovery of new data structure designs becomes possible. Furthermore, the structure of the design space itself provides numerous insights and opportunities such as the existence of design continuums that can lead to data systems with deep adaptivity, and a new understanding of the possible performance trade-offs. Given the universal presence of data structures at the very core of any data-driven field across all sciences and industries, reasoning about their design can have significant benefits, making it more feasible (easier, faster and cheaper) to adopt tailored state-of-the-art storage solutions. And this effect is going to become increasingly more critical as data keeps growing, hardware keeps changing and more applications/fields realize the transformative power and potential of data analytics.
This paper presents this vision and surveys first steps that demonstrate its feasibility.