The doctoral dissertations of the former Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) and Aalto University Schools of Technology (CHEM, ELEC, ENG, SCI) published in electronic format are available in the electronic publications archive of Aalto University - Aaltodoc.

Algorithms for XML Filtering

Panu Silvasti

Doctoral dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Science in Technology to be presented with due permission of the Faculty of Information and Natural Sciences for public examination and debate in Auditorium T2 at the Aalto University School of Science (Espoo, Finland) on the 28th of October 2011 at 12 noon.

Dissertation in PDF format (ISBN 978-952-60-4286-2)   [1129 KB]
Dissertation is also available in print (ISBN 978-952-60-4285-5)


In a publish-subscribe system based on XML filtering, the subscriber profiles are usually specified by filters written in the XPath language. The system processes the stream of XML documents and delivers to subscribers a notification or the content of those documents that match the filters. The number of interested subscribers and their stored profiles can be very large, thousands or even millions. In this case, the scalability of the system is critical.

In this thesis, we develop several algorithms for XML filtering with linear XPath expressions. The algorithms are based on a backtracking Aho-Corasick pattern-matching automaton (PMA) built from "keywords" extracted from the filters, where a keyword is a maximal substring consisting only of XML element names. The output function of the PMA indicates which keyword occurrences of which filter are recognized at a given state. Our best results have been obtained by using a dynamically changing output function, which is dynamically updated during the processing of the input document.

We have conducted an extensive performance study in which we compared our filtering algorithms with YFilter and the lazy DFA, two well-known automata-based filtering methods. With a non-recursive XML data set, PMA-based filtering is tens of times more efficient than YFilter and also significantly more efficient than the lazy DFA. With a slightly recursive data set PMA-based filtering has the same performance as the lazy DFA and it is significantly more efficient than YFilter.

We have also developed an optimization method called filter pruning. This method improves the performance of filtering by utilizing knowledge about the XML document type definition (DTD) to simplify the filters. The optimization algorithm takes as input a DTD and a set of linear XPath filters and produces a set of pruned linear XPath filters that contain as few wildcards and descendant operators as possible. With a non-recursive data set and with a slightly recursive data set the filter-pruning method yielded a tenfold increase in the filtering speed of the PMA-based algorithms and a hundredfold increase with YFilter and the lazy DFA. Filter pruning can also increase the filtering speed in the case of highly recursive data sets.

Keywords: XML stream processing, string processing, XPath, automata-based filtering

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© 2011 Aalto University

Last update 2011-09-28