Effective timestamping in databases

Kristian Torp, Christian S. Jensen, Richard T. Snodgrass

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Many existing database applications place various timestamps on their data, rendering temporal values such as dates and times prevalent in database tables. During the past two decades, several dozen temporal data models have appeared, all with timestamps being integral components. The models have used timestamps for encoding two specific temporal aspects of database facts, namely transaction time, when the facts are current in the database, and valid time, when the facts are true in the modeled reality. However, with few exceptions, the assignment of timestamp values has been considered only in the context of individual modification statements. This paper takes the next logical step: It considers the use of timestamping for capturing transaction and valid time in the context of transactions. The paper initially identifies and analyzes several problems with straightforward timestamping, then proceeds to propose a variety of techniques aimed at solving these problems. Timestamping the results of a transaction with the commit time of the transaction is a promising approach. The paper studies how this timestamping may be done using a spectrum of techniques. While many database facts are valid until now, the current time, this value is absent from the existing temporal types. Techniques that address this problem using different substitute values are presented. Using a stratum architecture, the performance of the different proposed techniques are studied. Although querying and modifying time-varying data is accompanied by a number of subtle problems, we present a comprehensive approach that provides application programmers with simple, consistent, and efficient support for modifying bitemporal databases in the context of user transactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)267-288
Number of pages22
JournalVLDB Journal
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Feb 2000


  • NOW
  • Timestamping
  • Transaction time
  • Transactions
  • Valid time

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Hardware and Architecture


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