Database Management Systems

A database management system (DBMS) is software that enables an orga­nization to centralize data, manage them efficiently, and provide access to the stored data by application programs. The DBMS acts as an interface between application programs and the physical data files. When the application program calls for a data item, such as gross pay, the DBMS finds this item in the database and presents it to the application program. Using traditional data files, the pro­grammer would have to specify the size and format of each data element used in the program and then tell the computer where they were located.

The DBMS relieves the programmer or end user from the task of understand­ing where and how the data are actually stored by separating the logical and physical views of the data. The logical view presents data, as they would be perceived by end users or business specialists, whereas the physical view shows how data are actually organized and structured on physical storage media.

The database management software makes the physical database available for different logical views required by users. For example, for the human re­sources database illustrated in Figure 6.3, a benefits specialist might require a view consisting of the employee’s name, social security number, and health insurance coverage. A payroll department member might need data such as the employee’s name, social security number, gross pay, and net pay. The data for all these views are stored in a single database, where they can be more easily managed by the organization.

1. How a DBMS Solves the Problems of the Traditional File Environment

A DBMS reduces data redundancy and inconsistency by minimizing isolated files in which the same data are repeated. The DBMS may not enable the organization to eliminate data redundancy entirely, but it can help control redundancy. Even if the organization maintains some redundant data, using a DBMS eliminates data

inconsistency because the DBMS can help the organization ensure that every oc­currence of redundant data has the same values. The DBMS uncouples programs and data, enabling data to stand on their own. The description of the data used by the program does not have to be specified in detail each time a different program is written. Access and availability of information will be increased and program development and maintenance costs reduced because users and programmers can perform ad hoc queries of the database for many simple applications with­out having to write complicated programs. The DBMS enables the organization to centrally manage data, their use, and security. Data sharing throughout the organization is easier because the data are presented to users as being in a single location rather than fragmented in many different systems and files.

2. Relational DBMS

Contemporary DBMS use different database models to keep track of enti­ties, attributes, and relationships. The most popular type of DBMS today for PCs as well as for larger computers and mainframes is the relational DBMS. Relational databases represent data as two-dimensional tables (called relations). Tables may be referred to as files. Each table contains data on an entity and its attributes. Microsoft Access is a relational DBMS for desktop systems, whereas DB2, Oracle Database, and Microsoft SQL Server are relational DBMS for large mainframes and midrange computers. MySQL is a popular open source DBMS.

Let’s look at how a relational database organizes data about suppliers and parts (see Figure 6.4). The database has a separate table for the entity SUPPLIER and a table for the entity PART. Each table consists of a grid of columns and rows of data. Each individual element of data for each entity is stored as a separate field, and each field represents an attribute for that entity. Fields in a relational database are also called columns. For the entity SUPPLIER, the sup­plier identification number, name, street, city, state, and ZIP code are stored as separate fields within the SUPPLIER table and each field represents an attribute for the entity SUPPLIER.

The actual information about a single supplier that resides in a table is called a row. Rows are commonly referred to as records, or in very technical terms, as tuples. Data for the entity PART have their own separate table.

The field for Supplier_Number in the SUPPLIER table uniquely identifies each record so that the record can be retrieved, updated, or sorted. It is called a key field. Each table in a relational database has one field that is designated as its primary key. This key field is the unique identifier for all the information in any row of the table and this primary key cannot be duplicated. Supplier_Number is the primary key for the SUPPLIER table and Part_Number is the primary key for the PART table. Note that Supplier_Number appears in both the SUPPLIER and PART tables. In the SUPPLIER table, Supplier_Number is the primary key. When the field Supplier_Number appears in the PART table, it is called a foreign key and is essentially a lookup field to look up data about the supplier of a specific part.

3. Operations of a Relational DBMS

Relational database tables can be combined easily to deliver data required by users, provided that any two tables share a common data element. Suppose we wanted to find in this database the names of suppliers who could provide us with part number 137 or part number 150. We would need information from two tables: the SUPPLIER table and the PART table. Note that these two files have a shared data element: Supplier_Number.

In a relational database, three basic operations, as shown in Figure 6.5, are used to develop useful sets of data: select, join, and project. The select operation creates a subset consisting of all records in the file that meet stated criteria. Select creates, in other words, a subset of rows that meet certain cri­teria. In our example, we want to select records (rows) from the PART table where the Part_Number equals 137 or 150. The join operation combines re­lational tables to provide the user with more information than is available in individual tables. In our example, we want to join the now-shortened PART table (only parts 137 or 150 will be presented) and the SUPPLIER table into a single new table.

The project operation creates a subset consisting of columns in a table, permit­ting the user to create new tables that contain only the information required. In our example, we want to extract from the new table only the following columns: Part_Number, Part_Name, Supplier_Number, and Supplier_Name.

Source: Laudon Kenneth C., Laudon Jane Price (2020), Management Information Systems: Managing the Digital Firm, Pearson; 16th edition.

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