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Chapter 3. Understanding the Data Model

Partial Table-of-Contents

  • 3.1 Introduction to the Data Model
  • 3.2 Object Types
  • Fields
  • Arrays
  • Groups

  • This chapter describes the concepts and terminology of the data model for data stored in the Data Explorer system, whether in memory or on disk.

    A complete understanding of this chapter is not required for the effective use of Data Explorer, and the brief discussion of a Field in Chapter 2. "Introduction to Visualization" should get you started. However, the more detailed information here is useful when you have specific questions about the data model.

    3.1 Introduction to the Data Model

    The Data Explorer data model supports various types of simulation and observational data. Data structures that can be represented include:

    The data samples can be defined over spaces of any dimensionality, and, independently, can also be connected by primitives of various dimensionalities (allowing, for example, triangular and quadrilateral meshes defined over 2- or 3-dimensional points). The data values can be associated either with the sample points or with the connections between the sample points. Available data types include:

    Data are stored in the form of Objects for use by Data Explorer modules. An Object is a data structure stored in memory that contains an indication of the Object's type, along with additional type-dependent information. The bulk of the data is encapsulated in Array Objects.

    The data model centers on the notion of a sampled field. The next section describes the Field, Array, and Group Objects that implement sampled fields in Data Explorer. In addition to these basic Object types, other types are used to construct models for rendering (e.g., Transforms, Clipped Objects, Lights, and Cameras). These are described in B.2 , "Data Explorer Native Files" and in IBM Visualization Data Explorer Programmer's Reference.

    Data are also stored in permanent file storage in the form of the same Objects. Although Data Explorer supports the creation of Objects from data stored in other file formats (such as netCDF), the Data Explorer file format offers significant additional functionality and flexibility.

    Note that the Data Explorer file format is versatile, allowing for future expansion of the capabilities of the system without requiring changes to the file format. It is possible to represent data types in a Data Explorer file that cannot be processed by the current version of Data Explorer. For example, in the current release of Data Explorer, only single-precision floating-point positions are universally supported. Also, most modules support only 1-, 2-, or 3-dimensional positions.

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