NoSQLBench has a built-in library for the flexible management and expressive use of procedural generation libraries. This section explains the core concepts of this library, known as Virtual Data Set.
These functions can be stitched together in small recipes. When you give these mapping functions useful names in your workloads, they are called bindings.
Here is an example:
bindings: numbers: NumberNameToString() names: FirstNames()
These are two bindings that you can use in your workloads. The names on the left are the binding names and the functions on the right are the binding recipes. Altogether, we just call them bindings.
A numeric sample that is drawn from a distribution for the purpose of simulation or analysis is called a Variate.
Procedural generation is a category of algorithms and techniques which take a set or stream of inputs and produce an output in a different form or structure. While it may appear that procedural generation actually generates data, no output can come from a void. These techniques simply perturb a value in some stateful way, or map a coordinate system to another representation. Sometimes, both techniques are combined together.
A variate (sample) drawn from a uniform (flat) distribution is what we are used to seeing when we ask a system for a "random" value. These are often produced in one of two very common forms, either a register full of bits as with most hashing functions, or a floating point value between 0.0 and 1.0. (This is called the unit interval).
Uniform variates are not really random. Without careful attention to API usage, such random samples are not even unique from session to session. In many systems, the programmer has to be very careful to seed the random generator or they will get the same sequence of numbers every time they run their program. This turns out to be a useful property, and the random number generators that behave this way are usually called Pseudo-Random Number Generators, or PRNGs.
Apparently Random Variates
Uniform variates produced by PRNGs are not actually random, even though they may pass certain tests for randomness. The streams of values produced are nearly always measurably random by some meaningful standard. However, they can be used again in exactly the same way with the same initial seed.
If you intentionally avoid randomizing the initial seed for a PRNG, for example, with the current timestamp, then it gives you a way to replay a sequence. You can think of each initial seed as a bank of values which you can go back to at any time. However, when using stateful PRNGs as a way to provide these variates, your results will be order dependent.
Randomly Accessible Determinism
Instead of using a PRNG, it is possible to use a hash function instead. With a 64-bit register, you have 2^64 (2^63 in practice due to available implementations) possible values. If your hash function has high dispersion, then you will effectively get the same result of apparent randomness as well as deterministic sequences, even when you use simple sequences of inputs to your random() function. This allows you to access a random value in bucket 57, for example, and go back to it at any time and in any order to get the same value again.
Data Mapping Functions
The data mapping functions are the core building block of virtual data set.
Data mapping functions are generally pure functions. This simply means that
a generator function will always provide the same result given the same input.
The parameters that you will see on some binding recipes are not representative
of volatile state. These parameters are initializer values which are part of a
function's definition. For example a
Mod(5) will always behave like a
as a pure function. But a
Mod(7) will behave differently than a
each function will always produce its own stable result for a given input.
Combining RNGs and Data Mapping Functions
Because pure functions play such a key part in procedural generation techniques, the terms "data mapping function", "data mapper" and "data mapping library" will be more common in the library than "generator". Conceptually, mapping functions to not generate anything. It makes more sense to think of mapping data from one domain to another. Even so, the data that is yielded by mapping functions can appear quite realistic.
Because good RNGs do generally contain internal state, they aren't purely functional. This means that in some cases -- those in which you need to have random access to a virtual data set, hash functions make more sense. This toolkit allows you to choose between the two in some cases. However, it generally favors using hashing and pure-function approaches where possible. Even the statistical curve simulations do this.
It is often useful to have a template that describes a set of generator functions that can be reused across many threads or other application scopes. A bindings template is a way to capture the requested generator functions for re-use, with actual scope instantiation of the generator functions controlled by the usage point. For example, in a JEE app, you may have a bindings template in the application scope, and a set of actual bindings within each request (thread scope).
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