Introduction To RDBMS OODBMS And ORDBMS Computer Science Essay

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Thanks to the Internet, the legal need to keep track of lots of business information, new marketing methods, and the explosion of data-intensive scientific progress, databases are being used more than ever before for storing and accessing information. There are currently three different models in use for database management systems: relational, object-oriented, and object-relational. This article introduces all three, and discusses their relative strengths and weaknesses.

Relational Database Management System

Edgar F. Codd at IBM invented the relational database in 1970. Referred to as RDBMS, the relational model extended two previous database systems, the hierarchical and the network models. After Codd's development, "prototype RDBMS were developed at IBM and UC-Berkeley, and several vendors were offering relational database products shortly thereafter."

The relational model is based on the structure of a database. A database is simply a collection of one or more relations or tables with columns and rows. The use of set theory allows for data to be structured in a series of tables that has both columns and rows. Each column corresponds to an attribute of that relation, while each row corresponds to a record that contains data values for an entity.

The main elements of RDBMS are based on Ted Codd's 13 rules for a relational system, the concept of relational integrity, and normalization. The three fundamentals of a relational database are that all information must be held in the form of a table, where all data are described using data values. The second fundamental is that each value found in the table columns does not repeat. The final fundamental is the use of Standard Query Language (SQL).

Benefits of RDBMS are that the system is simple, flexible, and productive. Because the tables are simple, data is easier to understand and communicate with others. RDBMS are flexible because users do not have to use predefined keys to input information. Also, RDBMS are more productive because SQL is easier to learn. This allows users to spend more time inputting instead of learning. More importantly, RDBMS's biggest advantage is the ease with which users can create and access data and extend it if needed. After the original database is created, new data categories can be added without the existing application being changed.

There are limitations to the relational database management system. First, relational databases do not have enough storage area to handle data such as images, digital and audio/video. The system was originally created to handle the integration of media, traditional fielded data, and templates. Another limitation of the relational database is its inadequacy to operate with languages outside of SQL. After its original development, languages such as C++ and JavaScript were formed. However, relational databases do not work efficiently with these languages. A third limitation is the requirement that information must be in tables where relationships between entities are defined by values.

Today, the relational model is the dominant data model as well as the foundation for the leading DBMS products, which include IBM's DB2 family, Informix, Oracle, Sybase, Microsoft's Access and SQLServer, as well as FoxBase and Paradox. RDBMS represent close to a multibillion-dollar industry alone.

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To combat the limitations of RDBMS and meet the challenge of the increasing rise of the Internet and the Web, programmers developed object-oriented databases in the 1980s. The main objective of Object-Oriented Database Management Systems, commonly known as OODBMS, is to provide consistent, data independent, secure, controlled and extensible data management services to support the object-oriented model. They were created to handle big and complex data that relational databases could not.

There are important characteristics involved with object-oriented databases. The most important characteristic is the joining of object-oriented programming with database technology, which provides an integrated application development system. Object-oriented programming results in 4 main characteristics: inheritances, data encapsulation, object identity, and polymorphism. Inheritance allows one to develop solutions to complex problems incrementally by defining new objects in terms of previously defined objects.

Data encapsulation or simply encapsulation allows the hiding of the internal state of the objects. Encapsulated objects are those objects that can only be assessed by their methods instead of their internal states. There are three types of encapsulated objects users and developers should recognize. The first is full encapsulation, in which all the operations on objects are done through message sending and method execution. The second is write encapsulation, which is where the internal state of the object is visible only for reading operations. The third is partial encapsulation, which involves allowing direct access for reading and writing for only a part of the internal state.

Object identity allows objects of the database to be independent of each other. Polymorphism and dynamic binding allow one to define operations for one object and then to share the specification of the operation with other objects. This allows users and/or programmers to compose objects to provide solutions without having to write code that is specific to each object.

The language important to OODBMS is data definition and manipulation language (DDML). The use of this language allows persistent data to be created, updated, deleted, or retrieved. An OODBMS needs a computational versus a relational language because it can be used to avoid impedance mismatch. DDML allows users to define a database, including creating, altering, and dropping tables and establishing constraints. DDMLs are used to maintain and query a database, including updating, inserting, modifying, and querying data.

The OODBMS has many advantages and benefits. First, object-oriented is a more natural way of thinking. Second, the defined operations of these types of systems are not dependent on the particular database application running at a given moment. Third, the data types of object-oriented databases can be extended to support complex data such as images, digital and audio/video, along with other multi-media operations. Different benefits of OODBMS are its reusability, stability, and reliability. Another benefit of OODBMS is that relationships are represented explicitly, often supporting both navigational and associative access to information. This translates to improvement in data access performance versus the relational model.

Another important benefit is that users are allowed to define their own methods of access to data and how it will be represented or manipulated. The most significant benefit of the OODBMS is that these databases have extended into areas not known by the RDBMS. Medicine, multimedia, and high-energy physics are just a few of the new industries relying on object-oriented databases.

As with the relational database method, object-oriented databases also has disadvantages or limitations. One disadvantage of OODBMS is that it lacks a common data model. There is also no current standard, since it is still considered to be in the development stages.

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Object-oriented database technology is a marriage of object-oriented programming and database technologies. Figure 1 illustrates how these programming and database concepts have come together to provide what we now call object-oriented databases.

 

Introduction to RDBMS OODBMS and ORDBMS

Perhaps the most significant characteristic of object-oriented database technology is that it combines object-oriented programming with database technology to provide an integrated application development system. There are many advantages to including the definition of operations with the definition of data. First, the defined operations apply ubiquitously and are not dependent on the particular database application running at the moment. Second, the data types can be extended to support complex data such as multi-media by defining new object classes that have operations to support the new kinds of information.

Other strengths of object-oriented modeling are well known. For example, inheritance allows one to develop solutions to complex problems incrementally by defining new objects in terms of previously defined objects. Polymorphism and dynamic binding allow one to define operations for one object and then to share the specification of the operation with other objects. These objects can further extend this operation to provide behaviors that are unique to those objects. Dynamic binding determines at runtime which of these operations is actually executed, depending on the class of the object requested to perform the operation. Polymorphism and dynamic binding are powerful object-oriented features that allow one to compose objects to provide solutions without having to write code that is specific to each object. All of these capabilities come together synergistically to provide significant productivity advantages to database application developers.

A significant difference between object-oriented databases and relational databases is that object-oriented databases represent relationships explicitly, supporting both navigational and associative access to information. As the complexity of interrelationships between information within the database increases, so do the advantages of representing relationships explicitly. Another benefit of using explicit relationships is the improvement in data access performance over relational value-based relationships.

A unique characteristic of objects is that they have an identity that is independent of the state of the object. For example, if one has a car object and we remodel the car and change its appearance, the engine, the transmission, and the tires so that it looks entirely different, it would still be recognized as the same object we had originally. Within an object-oriented database, one can always ask the question, "is this the same object I had previously?", assuming one remembers the object's identity. Object-identity allows objects to be related as well as shared within a distributed computing network.

All of these advantages point to the application of object-oriented databases to information management problems that are characterized by the need to manage:

a large number of different data types,

a large number of relationships between the objects, and

objects with complex behaviors.

Application areas where this kind of complexity exists includes engineering, manufacturing, simulations, office automation and large information systems.

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Object-Relational database (ORDBMS) is the third type of database common today. ORDBMS are systems that "attempt to extend relational database systems with the functionality necessary to support a broader class of applications and, in many ways, provide a bridge between the relational and object-oriented paradigms."

ORDBMS was created to handle new types of data such as audio, video, and image files that relational databases were not equipped to handle. In addition, its development was the result of increased usage of object-oriented programming languages, and a large mismatch between these and the DBMS software.

One advantage of ORDBMS is that it allows organizations to continue using their existing systems, without having to make major changes. A second advantage is that it allows users and programmers to start using object-oriented systems in parallel.

There are challenges in implementing an ORDBMS. The first is storage and access methods. The second is query processing, and the third is query optimization.

Since the development of RDBMS, OODBMS, and ORDBMS, many vendors have extended their systems with the ability to store new data types such as images and texts, and with the ability to ask more complex queries.

One rising technique is enterprise resource planning and management resource planning, which add another layer of application-oriented features on top of a DBMS. Included applications come from Baan, Oracle, SAP, and Siebel. These programs each identify a set of common tasks encountered by a large number of organizations and provide a general application layer to carry out these tasks.

More importantly, DBMS have advanced into the Internet and Web Age. Stored data is widely being accessed through a Web browser. Today, queries are being generated through Web-accessible forms and answers are being formatted using a mark-up language such as HTML. In addition, many vendors and distributors are adding features to their DBMS aimed at making it better equipped for Internet usage.

In summary, relational and object-oriented database systems each have certain strengths as well as certain weaknesses. In general, the weakness of one type of system tends to be strength of the other.

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Why Aren't You Using An Object Oriented Database Management System?

In today's world, Client-Server applications that rely on a database on the server as a data store while servicing requests from multiple clients are quite commonplace. Most of these applications use a Relational Database Management System (RDBMS) as their data store while using an object oriented programming language for development. This causes a certain inefficency as objects must be mapped to tuples in the database and vice versa instead of the data being stored in a way that is consistent with the programming model. The "impedance mismatch" caused by having to map objects to tables and vice versa has long been accepted as a necessary performance penalty. This paper is aimed at seeking out an alternative that avoids this penalty.

What follows is a condensed version of the following paper; An Exploration of Object Oriented Database Management Systems, which I wrote as part of my independent study project under Dr. Sham Navathe.

Introduction

The purpose of this paper is to provide answers to the following questions

What is an Object Oriented Database Management System (OODBMS)?

Is an OODBMS a viable alternative to an RDBMS?

What are the tradeoffs and benefits of using an OODBMS over an RDBMS?

What does code that interacts with an OODBMS look like?

Overview of Object Oriented Database Management Systems

An OODBMS is the result of combining object oriented programming principles with database management principles. Object oriented programming concepts such as encapsulation, polymorphism and inheritance are enforced as well as database management concepts such as the ACID properties (Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation and Durability) which lead to system integrity, support for an ad hoc query language and secondary storage management systems which allow for managing very large amounts of data. The Object Oriented Database Manifesto [Atk 89] specifically lists the following features as mandatory for a system to support before it can be called an OODBMS; Complex objects, Object identity, Encapsulation , Types and Classes ,Class or Type Hierarchies, Overriding,overloading and late binding, Computational completeness , Extensibility, Persistence , Secondary storage management, Concurrency, Recovery and an Ad Hoc Query Facility.

>From the aforementioned description, an OODBMS should be able to store objects that are nearly indistinguishable from the kind of objects supported by the target programming language with as little limitation as possible. Persistent objects should belong to a class and can have one or more atomic types or other objects as attributes. The normal rules of inheritance should apply with all their benefits including polymorphism, overridding inherited methods and dynamic binding. Each object has an object identifier (OID) which used as a way of uniquely identifying a particuler object. OIDs are permanent, system generated and not based on any of the member data within the object. OIDs make storing references to other objects in the database simpler but may cause referential intergrity problems if an object is deleted while other objects still have references to its OID. An OODBMS is thus a full scale object oriented development environment as well as a database management system. Features that are common in the RDBMS world such as transactions, the ability to handle large amounts of data, indexes, deadlock detection, backup and restoration features and data recovery mechanisms also exist in the OODBMS world.

A primary feature of an OODBMS is that accessing objects in the database is done in a transparent manner such that interaction with persistent objects is no different from interacting with in-memory objects. This is very different from using an RDBMSs in that there is no need to interact via a query sub-language like SQL nor is there a reason to use a Call Level Interface such as ODBC, ADO or JDBC. Database operations typically involve obtaining a database root from the the OODBMS which is usually a data structure like a graph, vector, hash table, or set and traversing it to obtain objects to create, update or delete from the database. When a client requests an object from the database, the object is transferred from the database into the application's cache where it can be used either as a transient value that is disconnected from its representation in the database (updates to the cached object do not affect the object in the database) or it can be used as a mirror of the version in the database in that updates to the object are reflected in the database and changes to object in the database require that the object is refetched from the OODBMS.

Comparisons of OODBMSs to RDBMSs

There are concepts in the relational database model that are similar to those in the object database model. A relation or table in a relational database can be considered to be analogous to a class in an object database. A tuple is similar to an instance of a class but is different in that it has attributes but no behaviors. A column in a tuple is similar to a class attribute except that a column can hold only primitive data types while a class attribute can hold data of any type. Finally classes have methods which are computationally complete (meaning that general purpose control and computational structures are provided [McF 99]) while relational databases typically do not have computationally complete programming capabilities although some stored procedure languages come close.

Below is a list of advantages and disadvantages of using an OODBMS over an RDBMS with an object oriented programming language.

Advantages

Composite Objects and Relationships: Objects in an OODBMS can store an arbitrary number of atomic types as well as other objects. It is thus possible to have a large class which holds many medium sized classes which themselves hold many smaller classes, ad infinitum. In a relational database this has to be done either by having one huge table with lots of null fields or via a number of smaller, normalized tables which are linked via foreign keys. Having lots of smaller tables is still a problem since a join has to be performed every time one wants to query data based on the "Has-a" relationship between the entities. Also an object is a better model of the real world entity than the relational tuples with regards to complex objects. The fact that an OODBMS is better suited to handling complex,interrelated data than an RDBMS means that an OODBMS can outperform an RDBMS by ten to a thousand times depending on the complexity of the data being handled.

Class Hierarchy: Data in the real world is usually has hierarchical characteristics. The ever popular Employee example used in most RDBMS texts is easier to describe in an OODBMS than in an RDBMS. An Employee can be a Manager or not, this is usually done in an RDBMS by having a type identifier field or creating another table which uses foreign keys to indicate the relationship between Managers and Employees. In an OODBMS, the Employee class is simply a parent class of the Manager class.

Circumventing the Need for a Query Language: A query language is not necessary for accessing data from an OODBMS unlike an RDBMS since interaction with the database is done by transparently accessing objects. It is still possible to use queries in an OODBMS however.

No Impedence Mismatch: In a typical application that uses an object oriented programming language and an RDBMS, a signifcant amount of time is usually spent mapping tables to objects and back. There are also various problems that can occur when the atomic types in the database do not map cleanly to the atomic types in the programming language and vice versa. This "impedance mismatch" is completely avoided when using an OODBMS.

No Primary Keys: The user of an RDBMS has to worry about uniquely identifying tuples by their values and making sure that no two tuples have the same primary key values to avoid error conditions. In an OODBMS, the unique identification of objects is done behind the scenes via OIDs and is completely invisible to the user. Thus there is no limitation on the values that can be stored in an object.

One Data Model: A data model typically should model entities and their relationships, constraints and operations that change the states of the data in the system. With an RDBMS it is not possible to model the dynamic operations or rules that change the state of the data in the system because this is beyond the scope of the database. Thus applications that use RDBMS systems usually have an Entity Relationship diagram to model the static parts of the system and a seperate model for the operations and behaviors of entities in the application. With an OODBMS there is no disconnect between the database model and the application model because the entities are just other objects in the system. An entire application can thus be comprehensively modelled in one UML diagram.

Disadvantages

Schema Changes: In an RDBMS modifying the database schema either by creating, updating or deleting tables is typically independent of the actual application. In an OODBMS based application modifying the schema by creating, updating or modifying a persistent class typically means that changes have to be made to the other classes in the application that interact with instances of that class. This typically means that all schema changes in an OODBMS will involve a system wide recompile. Also updating all the instance objects within the database can take an extended period of time depending on the size of the database.

Who is currently using an OODBMS to handle mission critical data

The following information was gleaned from the ODBMS Facts website.

The Chicago Stock Exchange manages stock trades via a Versant ODBMS.

Radio Computing Services is the world's largest radio software company. Its product, Selector, automates the needs of the entire radio station -- from the music library, to the newsroom, to the sales department. RCS uses the POET ODBMS because it enabled RCS to integrate and organize various elements, regardless of data types, in a single program environment.

The Objectivity/DB ODBMS is used as a data repository for system component naming, satellite mission planning data, and orbital management data deployed by Motorola in The Iridium System.

The ObjectStore ODBMS is used in SouthWest Airline's Home Gate to provide self-service to travelers through the Internet.

Ajou University Medical Center in South Korea uses InterSystems' Cachè ODBMS to support all hospital functions including mission-critical departments such as pathology, laboratory, blood bank, pharmacy, and X-ray.

The Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland uses an Objectivity DB. The database is currently being tested in the hundreds of terabytes at data rates up to 35 MB/second.

As of November, 2000, the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) stored 169 terabytes of production data using Objectivity/DB. The production data is distributed across several hundred processing nodes and over 30 on-line servers.

Interacting With An OODBMS

Below are Java code samples for accessing a relational database and accessing an object database. Compare the size of the code in both examples. The examples are for an instant messaging application.

Validating a user.

Java code accessing an ObjectStore(TM) database

import COM.odi.*;

import COM.odi.util.query.*;

import COM.odi.util.*;

import java.util.*;

try {

//start database session

Session session = Session.create(null, null);

session.join();

//open database and start transaction

Database db = Database.open("IMdatabase", ObjectStore.UPDATE);

Transaction tr = Transaction.begin(ObjectStore.READONLY);

//get hashtable of user objects from DB

OSHashMap users = (OSHashMap) db.getRoot("IMusers");

//get password and username from user

String username = getUserNameFromUser();

String passwd = getPasswordFromUser();

//get user object from database and see if it exists and whether password is correct

UserObject user = (UserObject) users.get(username);

if(user == null)

System.out.println("Non-existent user");

else

if(user.getPassword().equals(passwd))

System.out.println("Successful login");

else

System.out.println("Invalid Password");

//end transaction, close database and retain terminate session

tr.commit();

db.close();

session.termnate();

}

//exception handling would go here ...

Java JDBC code accessing an IBM's DB2 Database(TM)

import java.sql.*;

import sun.jdbc.odbc.JdbcOdbcDriver;

import java.util.*;

try {

//Launch instance of database driver.

Class.forName("COM.ibm.db2.jdbc.app.DB2Driver").newInstance();

//create database connection

Connection conn = DriverManager.getConnection("jdbc:db2:IMdatabase");

//get password and username from user

String username = getUserNameFromUser();

String passwd = getPasswordFromUser();

//perform SQL query

Statement sqlQry = conn.createStatement();

ResultSet rset = sqlQry.executeQuery("SELECT password from user_table WHERE username='" + username +"'");

if(rset.next()){

if(rset.getString(1).equals(passwd))

System.out.println("Successful login");

else

System.out.println("Invalid Password");

}else{

System.out.println("Non-existent user");

}

//close database connection

sqlQry.close();

conn.close();

}

//exception handling would go here ...

There isn't much difference in the above examples although it does seem a lot clearer to perform operations on a UserObject instead of a ResultSet when validating the user.

Getting the user's contact list.

Java code accessing an ObjectStore(TM) database

import COM.odi.*;

import COM.odi.util.query.*;

import COM.odi.util.*;

import java.util.*;

try {

/* start session and open DB, same as in section 1a */

//get hashmap of users from the DB

OSHashMap users = (OSHashMap) db.getRoot("IMusers");

//get user object from database

UserObject c4l = (UserObject) users.get("Carnage4Life");

UserObject[] contactList = c4l.getContactList();

System.out.println("This are the people on Carnage4Life's contact list");

for(int i=0; i <contactList.length; i++)

System.out.println(contactList[i].toString()); //toString() prints fullname, username, online status and webpage URL

/* close session and close DB, same as in section 1a */

}//exception handling code

Java JDBC code accessing an IBM's DB2 Database(TM)

import java.sql.*;

import sun.jdbc.odbc.JdbcOdbcDriver;

import java.util.*;

try {

/* open DB connection, same as in section 1b */

//perform SQL query

Statement sqlQry = conn.createStatement();

ResultSet rset = sqlQry.executeQuery("SELECT fname, lname, user_name, online_status, webpage FROM contact_list, user_table" + "WHERE contact_list.owner_name='Carnage4Life' and contact_list.buddy_name=user_table.user_name");

System.out.println("This are the people on Carnage4Life's contact list");

while(rset.next())

System.out.println("Full Name:" + rset.getString(1) + " " + rset.getString(2) + " User Name:" + rset.getString(3) + " OnlineStatus:" + rset.getString(4) + " HomePage URL:" + rset.getString(5));

/* close DB connection, same as in section 1b*/

}//exception handling code

The benefits of using an OODBMS over an RDBMS in Java slowly becomes obvious. Consider also that if the data from the select needs to be returned to another method then all the data from the result set has to be mapped to another object (UserObject).

Get all the users that are online.

Java code accessing an ObjectStore(TM) database

import COM.odi.*;

import COM.odi.util.query.*;

import COM.odi.util.*;

import java.util.*;

try{

/* same as above */

//use a OODBMS query to locate all the users whose status is 'online'

Query q = new Query (UserObject.class, "onlineStatus.equals(\"online\"");

Collection users = db.getRoot("IMusers");

Set onlineUsers = q.select(users);

Iterator iter = onlineUsers.iterator();

// iterate over the results

while ( iter.hasNext() )

{

UserObject user = (UserObject) iter.next();

// send each person some announcement

sendAnnouncement(user);

}

/* same as above */

}//exception handling goes here

Java JDBC code accessing an IBM's DB2 Database(TM)

import java.sql.*;

import sun.jdbc.odbc.JdbcOdbcDriver;

import java.util.*;

try{

/* same as above */

//perform SQL query

Statement sqlQry = conn.createStatement

();

ResultSet rset = sqlQry.executeQuery

("SELECT fname, lname, user_name, online_status,

webpage FROM user_table WHERE

online_status='online'");

while(rset.next()){

UserObject user = new UserObject

(rset.getString(1),rset.getString

(2),rset.getString(3),rset.getString

(4),rset.getString(5));

sendAnnouncement(user);

}

/* same as above */

}//exception handling goes here

List of Object Oriented Database Management Systems

Proprietary

Object Store

O2

Gemstone

Versant

Ontos

DB/Explorer ODBMS

Ontos

Poet

Objectivity/DB

EyeDB

Open Source

Ozone

Zope

FramerD

XL2

Conclusion

The gains from using an OODBMS while developing an application using an OO programming language are many. The savings in development time by not having to worry about separate data models as well as the fact that there is less code to write due to the lack of impedance mismatch is very attractive. In my opinion, there is little reason to pick an RDBMS over an OODBMS system for newapplication development unless there are legacy issues that have to be dealt with.

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