Data cube

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In computer programming contexts, a data cube (or datacube) is a multi-dimensional array of values, commonly used to describe a time series of image data. The data cube is used to represent data along some measure of interest. Even though it is called a 'cube', it can be 1-dimensional, 2-dimensional, 3-dimensional, or higher-dimensional. Every dimension represents a new attribute in the database and the cells in the cube represent the measure of interest.


Many high-level computer languages treat data cubes and other large arrays as single entities distinct from their contents. These languages, of which APL, IDL, NumPy, PDL, and S-Lang are examples, allow the programmer to manipulate complete film clips and other data en masse with simple expressions derived from linear algebra and vector mathematics. Some languages (such as PDL) distinguish between a list of images and a data cube, while many (such as IDL) do not.

Array DBMSs (Database Management Systems) offer a data model which generically supports definition, management, retrieval, and manipulation of n-dimensional datacubes. This database category has been pioneered by the rasdaman system since 1994.


Multi-dimensional arrays can meaningfully represent spatio-temporal sensor, image, and simulation data, but also statistics data where the semantics of dimensions is not necessarily of spatial or temporal nature. Generally, any kind of axis can be combined with any other into a datacube.


In mathematics, a one-dimensional array corresponds to a sequence, a two-dimensional array resembles a matrix; more generally, a tensor may be represented as an n-dimensional data cube.

Science and Engineering[edit]

For a time sequence of color images, the array is generally four-dimensional, with the dimensions representing image X and Y coordinates, time, and RGB (or other color space) color plane. For example, the EarthServer initiative[1] unites data centers from different continents offering 3-D x/y/t satellite image timeseries and 4-D x/y/z/t weather data for retrieval and server-side processing through the Open Geospatial Consortium WCPS geo datacube query language standard.

A data cube is also used in the field of imaging spectroscopy, since a spectrally-resolved image is represented as a three-dimensional volume.

Business Intelligence[edit]

For business intelligence software, data cubes are built from pre-computed aggregates from sales/customer data.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "EarthServer - Big Datacube Analytics at Your Fingertips". Retrieved 2017-03-31. 
  2. ^ "Differences between CUBES and Star Schema - Blogs - SeeMoreData". Retrieved 2016-02-08.