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CACM Research Highlight: A New Query Model for Handling Constrained Optimization Problems

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The February 2019 issue of Communications of the ACM (CACM) features a paper by UMass Amherst College of Information and Computer Sciences (CICS) doctoral student Matteo Brucato, NYU Abu Dhabi Assistant Professor Azza Abouzied, and CICS Assistant Professor Alexandra Meliou, entitled "Scalable Computation of High-Order Optimization Queries."

The paper presents a new query model designed to improve how databases handle complex, constrained optimization problems. These constrained problems are at the heart of significant applications in a broad range of domains, including finance, transportation, manufacturing, and healthcare. Modeling and solving these problems has relied on application-specific solutions, which are often complex, error-prone, and do not generalize. In their paper, the researchers propose a domain-independent, declarative approach, supported and powered by the system where the data relevant to these problems typically resides: the database. The team presents a complete system that supports package queries, a new query model that extends traditional database queries to handle complex constraints and preferences over answer sets.

The paper is preceded by a one-page "Technical Perspective" summary of the article and its significance written by Surajit Chaudhuri, distinguished scientist at Microsoft Research, who says, "If you are interested in the topic of constraint specification and optimization over data stored in databases, this paper is sure to interest you. Also, it is worth a read for anyone who wants to consider adding extensions to SQL to ease application tasks, as the authors illustrate the key dimensions of what it takes to add any new functionality to relational querying..."

Each month, CACM publishes one or two "Research Highlight" papers chosen from across all of computer science.  These papers are intended to showcase cutting-edge work in various subdisciplines of computer science research for the wider tech audience.