> Can anyone with some experience in these matters, and especially of
> alternative formats, e.g. netCDF, comment on this and recommend a
> standard well-supported solution?
I do not think scientific data should be stored with protocol-buffers.
I would suggest, since netCDF-4 now encloses HDF5, the you also look at
HDF5 (e.g. wikipedia is always a good
source of links).
The netCDF and HDF5 are both self-describing data file formats unlike
protocol-buffer's wire format.
It is impossible to read back and analyze a protocol-buffer without the
.proto file description because the wire format does not hold the actual
type of any of the data (e.g. bool vs int vs unsigned int vs
enumeration, or string vs bytes vs embedded message).
The protocol-buffer wire format for repeated elements, such as you need
for scientific data vectors and arrays, is relatively inefficient since
it includes the "field# + wire tag" before each and every single number
in your file. This kills efficient bulk reading and writing unless you
create a new format and embed it as a binary blob.
So you end up using HDF5 or something else anyway.
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