Test of Time Award for paper on vectorized execution

A CWI paper on a new way of implementing database systems has won the Test of Time Award, established by the Conference on Innovative Data Systems Research (CIDR). The paper was published in 2005 by Peter Boncz, Marcin Zukowski and Niels Nes.

Publication date
16 Jan 2024

They introduced a technique called 'vectorized execution' to improve the performance of database queries. In vectorized execution, all database operators are not executed one by one on individual database records, as in previous systems, but always on small columnar blocks called 'vectors'. As a result, analytical systems are at least ten times faster. "The principle is relatively simple," says Peter Boncz. "It keeps the database software easy to maintain. It also helps with performance profiling, which is important for optimizing slow queries."

The winning paper was part of Marcin Zukowski's PhD research at CWI. Together with Boncz and CWI researcher Niels Nes he created the VectorWise database system and CWI spin-off in 2008, the fastest analytical system at the time.

Zukowski went on to co-found Snowflake in 2013, which is now one of the largest cloud database services. And not only Snowflake uses vectorized execution, but Databricks, Google BigQuery, Microsoft's SQLserver and many other systems have since adopted the technique. It is also used in CWI's new database system, DuckDB, and the MotherDuck cloud service, which uses DuckDB.

The CIDR organization selected the vectorized execution paper from 52 papers presented at their 2003 and 2005 conferences. The paper, 'MonetDB/X100: Hyper-Pipelining Query Execution', is the first to receive the Test of Time Award. The award was presented Monday 15 January at CIDR 2024.


Afterwards, Peter Boncz and Marcin Zukowski gave a lecture on the development of the VectorWise database system and the legacy of the winning paper.

Peter Boncz gives his presentation during CIDR 2024 in front of an audience.
Peter Boncz (in picture) and Marcin Zukowski gave a talk on their winning paper.

About the authors

Peter Boncz is a senior researcher in data systems at CWI. He is also a professor at the Special Chair of Large Scale Analytical Database Systems at VU University Amsterdam. Boncz has co-founded four spin-off companies in the area of data systems, and was named ACM Fellow in 2023.

Marcin Zukowski is a leading expert in database processing with a focus on high performance and modern hardware architectures. He was CEO and co-founder of CWI spin-off VectorWise (now Actian) as well as the leading cloud database company Snowflake.

CWI researcher Niels Nes co-founded VectorWise and two other CWI spin-offs around MonetDB.

About CIDR

The Conference on Innovative Data Systems Research (CIDR) is a systems-oriented conference that emphasizes the systems architecture perspective. The conference is organized every year, alternating between Amsterdam and the USA. CIDR 2024 takes place in Santa Cruz, California from 14 to 17 January.

CIDR encourages papers on innovative and high-risk ideas for data management system architectures, system-building experiences and insights, inventive experimental studies, and provocative position statements. Papers are encouraged to present novel approaches to data systems architecture and use, and to stimulate discussion of the latest innovative and visionary ideas in the field.

Photo at top of this page: From left to right: Peter Boncz, Niels Nes and Marcin Zukowski (2nd, 3rd and 4rth from left).