October 12, 2012

(Relational) database (management system) — three analytic glossary draft entries

These are three closely-related draft entries for the DBMS2 analytic glossary. Please comment with any ideas you have for their improvement!

1. Database management system (DBMS)

In our definition, a database management system (DBMS) is:

Commonly, that API takes the form of a data manipulation language (DML) such as SQL or MDX, but our definition allows for APIs as simple as those of key-value stores.

There are two major alternatives to our definition:

  1. The above could be a definition of “data management software”, with the term “DBMS” reserved for systems with a true DML.
  2. Many vendors and industry observers abbreviate “database management system” or “data management software” as “database”.

Two important distinctions among categories of DBMS and the processing they’re optimized for are:

2. Database

The term database has two common meanings in IT:

  1. The data managed by a database management system (DBMS).
  2. The data management software itself.

We adhere to the first usage.

3. Relational database management system (RDBMS)

In practice, a relational database management system (RDBMS) is a DBMS in which:

Prominent RDBMS include Oracle, IBM DB2, Microsoft SQL Server, Sybase ASE, MySQL, PostgreSQL, and a variety of analytic RDBMS. The primary data manipulation language (DML) for almost every commercially successful RDBMS has been a version of SQL. (However, QUEL was a briefly viable alternative to SQL in the 1980s.)

Theoretically, relational database management systems can be defined more precisely in terms of how they manipulate predicate logic. In practice, however, commercial relational database management systems deviate from the theoretical ideal(s). Also, commercial RDBMS commonly offer alternative forms of data management that conflict with the relational paradigm, in areas such as:


3 Responses to “(Relational) database (management system) — three analytic glossary draft entries”

  1. DBMS2 analytic glossary — a new project | DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on October 12th, 2012 11:22 pm

    […] Database […]

  2. Rob Klopp on October 15th, 2012 2:45 pm

    In the old days the phrase “database management system” was used to differentiate systems like R, ADABAS, and IDMS from lower level data systems like VSAM… which has enough an API to qualify. I do not see how to make this distinction in your definition? Maybe the distinction is no longer relevant?

  3. Curt Monash on October 15th, 2012 4:35 pm

    Hi Rob,

    If I got it right about how VSAM works, that’s covered. But looking at the description of KSDS for VSAM, I probably got it wrong. Let me rethink …

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