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Author's profile photo Matthew Billingham

Boxed components and memory efficiency

What’s a boxed component?

I read about them first in this document – http://scn.sap.com/docs/DOC-26231. Then I read the release notes – you do read the release notes when you upgrade to a new abap version, don’t you? It’s worth doing, as you can find some very nice language enhancements. I read the sap help, but couldn’t quite get what the point of them was, nor how they worked.

Then I read this excellent blog SAP ABAP TYPE BOXED, New Type Category 7.02 Ehp2 – ABAP Help Blog that explains their functionality very clearly, but just now, I’ve created my first, real world use of the concept. So I’ll share it.

Buffering data

I’ve got some master data – materials and time dependent attributes. I’ve got a few million records of data that contain materials and dates, and I want to find the attributes for those material, at that particular date. The records I’ve got are in no particular order, may refer to the same material many times, and may well have materials that don’t have any master data. Also, the materials in my records are only a subset of all the possible materials.


Got that? Good.


The volume of master data is such that I cannot read all the data into an internal table in one go. So what I do is maintain a buffer that starts off empty. For a given material, I first check the buffer. If it isn’t there, I check the database. If I still don’t find anything I create a record in the buffer with a flag “not found”, If I do find something, then I add it to the buffer.


Memory


So, my line structure is something like: MATERIAL, CORRECTED_COST, CORRECT_CURRENCY, NOT_FOUND. Here’s some ABAP:

TYPES: BEGIN OF corrected_cost_ty,
                    MATERIAL,
                    CORRECTED_COST,
                    CORRECTED_CURRENCY,
                    NOT_FOUND,
               END OF corrected_cost_ty


Now, the problem is that if a material is NOT_FOUND, then it has no correct cost. So for all the NOT_FOUND data, there’s these two fields which never contain anything, but will be taking up space, nonetheless. This is where boxing comes in.


I create a type “attributes” which has CORRECTED_COST and CORRECT_CURRENCY, then I redo my corrected_cost_ty like this.

TYPES: BEGIN OF attributes_ty,
        CORRECTED_COST,
        CORRECTED_CURRENCY,
      END OF attributes_ty.

TYPES: BEGIN OF corrected_cost_ty,
         MATERIAL,
         ATTRIBUTES type attributes_ty BOXED,
         NOT_FOUND,
       END OF corrected_cost_ty

Now, when I don’t have any attributes for a material (because it’s NOT_FOUND), memory is only allocated to the MATERIAL and NOT_FOUND.


Let’s say material is 18 bytes, not_found is 1 byte, corrected_cost is 17 bytes and corrected_currency 5 bytes. Then each of these records occupies 41 bytes. If we didn’t have a boxed structure, then all the records in my internal table would occupy 41 bytes. So if I had 6 entries, then that would be 246 bytes total. However, we do have a boxed structure, so the memory allocation looks something like this:

boxed structure.png

In this diagram, materials 1, 2 and 5 are not found, so their corrected costs and corrected currency are all initial. Boxing means that if the fields of the boxed part are initial, then every record that has these fields initial will share the same area of memory, for those fields. So these not found materials occupy 79 bytes, instead of (without boxing) 123 bytes.


The only downside of using boxing, is that I have to refer to my attributes as attributes-corrected_cost.  I’d like to be able to use something like

INCLUDE TYPE attributes_ty BOXED.


But I guess we’ll have to wait a while for that to happen.





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      22 Comments
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      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Nice!

      I am so naïve I had always assumed deep structures would be dynamic by default...

      This is much nicer than having to use data references and creating the objects yourself.

      Author's profile photo Kumar Akshat
      Kumar Akshat

      That's new! Thanks for sharing.

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Then, can we consider field ERSDA is inbuilt BOXED component as it has no initial values check.

      For Internal table BOXED means Initial Values On/Off

      As per my understanding. please correct me.

      -Avirat

      Author's profile photo Matthew Billingham
      Matthew Billingham
      Blog Post Author

      No - initial values for transparent tables are entirely unrelated to the concept of BOXED structures. Initial values for transparent tables determine whether (for example) an integer field of a new record in the table is filled with '0' (in the database) or with "null".

      I've updated my blog with a diagram that hopefully makes it clear that BOXED structures are about efficient allocation of memory, when using internal tables.

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Ok ,

      up till now I have a knowledge that if we declare initial check then it will occupy memory else it will not.

      in boxed case."it will share same memory" concept.

      its clear now .

      Thanks.

      Author's profile photo Eitan Rosenberg
      Eitan Rosenberg

      Hi,

      Coming from different environment (AS/400) I find it absolutely amazing that you still have to think about memory usage and not on the problem on hand.

      Thanks for sharing.

      Regards.

      Author's profile photo Rainer Hübenthal
      Rainer Hübenthal

      If just think about of thosunds of byte - its not worth thinking about boxed components. But if you have a long running job dealing with millions of row blocking main memory you still should think about memory issues.

      Customers tend to enter huge selection spans resulting in a lot amount of data...

      Author's profile photo Matthew Billingham
      Matthew Billingham
      Blog Post Author

      I work mainly (at the moment) in BW. We're often dealing with millions of records.

      Author's profile photo Eitan Rosenberg
      Eitan Rosenberg

      Hi,

      I am not saying that we do not need it in SAP. As I mention I came from s/38 as/400 where we had Single-level store( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single-level_store)

      and record-level access which is not using SQL at all that allow you to process millions of records without blocking main memory....

      And those features were available at August 1979(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_System/38)

      I guess I am spoiled by those feature.....

      Regards.

      Author's profile photo Matthew Billingham
      Matthew Billingham
      Blog Post Author

      I used to work on an OLAP called essBase. It handled sparse data very efficiently.

      Author's profile photo Eitan Rosenberg
      Eitan Rosenberg

      It is a very impressive piece of technology.

      This is the first time I hear about it.

      I read here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Essbase#Calculation_engine_2 about its Block storage.

      "Since version 7, Essbase has supported two "storage options" which take advantage of sparsity to minimize the amount of physical memory and disk space required to represent large multidimensional spaces."

      When version 7 occur ?

      Regards.

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Hello Matt,

      I also make it a point to look at the Release changes to see the new language elements available in ABAP.

      A couple of questions -

      1. How do you identify which elements need to be BOXED?
      2. What will happen if the contents of the internal table are changed later? Do we need to take any precautions?

      BR,

      Suhas

      Author's profile photo Matthew Billingham
      Matthew Billingham
      Blog Post Author

      1) If you have a dataset where it's common for a subset of the fields to be empty, then you could benefit from boxing. In my example, I have a buffer that also marks when the data could not be found in the db. In the past, I maintained two buffers, one with data, and one with the "not found" data (just the keys). Now, I can maintain just one buffer and have even better memory efficiency.

      2) No precautions necessary. As soon as one of the boxed fields of a record gets a data, memory space is allocated to the boxed structure.

      Author's profile photo Tolga POLAT
      Tolga POLAT

      Thank you for sharing,

      I didnt understand boxed component, now it is very clear to me.

      Regards

      Tolga

      Author's profile photo Kripa Rangachari
      Kripa Rangachari

      Very neatly explained .. Thanks for this 🙂

      Cheers,

      Kripa Rangachari.

      Author's profile photo Juwin Pallipat Thomas
      Juwin Pallipat Thomas

      Hi Matthew,

      Is there any reason why a person shouldn't use BOXED component?

      Thanks,

      Juwin

      Author's profile photo Matthew Billingham
      Matthew Billingham
      Blog Post Author

      No. Why would you think there would be?

      Author's profile photo Juwin Pallipat Thomas
      Juwin Pallipat Thomas

      Exactly, thats what I thought. So, shouldn't SAP be defaulting such things, rather than asking developers to add BOXED for every data declaration, in every program?

      May be we should add this to the Stuff SAP could easily fix - rant / wish list

      Thanks,

      Juwin

      Author's profile photo Naimesh Patel
      Naimesh Patel

      Juwin - correct that it would improve the performance, but it would only improve the performance, but only in certain cases.

      http://help.sap.com/abapdocu_740/en/abenstatic_boxes.htm 

      See the notes:

      • Static boxes can be used to optimize the memory requirement of structures that are used more than once. If, for example, the row structure of an internal table contains substructures, the memory requirement of the substructure accumulates without the use of static boxes for each row, even if the substructure is initial. If static boxes are used, initial substructures do not require multiple memory stores as long as they permit read access only.

      It also mentions:

      • In addition to the optimized memory requirements, static boxes generally have a positive impact on runtime performance, because assignments between components for which initial value sharing is active only require the internal reference (and no additional data) to be copied.

      This "generally" makes me skeptical that the performance would be improved all the time. If BOXED is default then, I think the admin cost would be high and the performance will not be improved.

      Also, it may have more admin cost for the flat structure which doesn't have same repeating deep structure.

      Regards,
      Naimesh Patel

      Author's profile photo Timmy Becker
      Timmy Becker

      Is my understanding correct that use of boxed components is reasonable for SAP BC 7.4 as it is not defaulted or automatically considered within the ABAP runtime?

      As it was introduced by 7.02 I would have expected this has become a standard of saving memory although memory got cheaper.

      Thanks.

      Author's profile photo Matthew Billingham
      Matthew Billingham
      Blog Post Author

      As far as I know,  nothing has changed.

      Author's profile photo Nabheet Madan
      Nabheet Madan

      Thanks Matthew Billingham for the great blog.  The same concept was used in the last saturday SAP Inside Track Berlin session.

      Nabheet