Learning Guide

Relational Database Management System (RDBMS) fundamentals tutorial

New to database administration or development? Here is a quick guide that can get you started in the right direction by providing background on the relational model and practical advice for working with relational database management systems (RDBMS).

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TABLE OF CONTENTS
   The relational model
   Database structure
   Database design
   Normalization
   Working with an RDBMS
   More Learning Guides

 

 

  The relational model  Return to top

Because much confusion stems from vague database-related terms, a good starting point is to know the terminology. First described by E. F. Codd at IBM in 1970, a relational database is a collection of data items organized as a set of formally-described tables from which data can be accessed or reassembled in many different ways without having to reorganize the database tables. The best backgrounder on the relational model is this chapter from Chris Date's new book, Database in Depth: Relational Theory for Practitioners.

Definitions of more database-related terms are available from our sister site WhatIs.com:

The relational model is not without controversy, pitting purists versus theorists versus practitioners versus flat-out critics. For some background, check out these links:

 

 

  Database structure  Return to top

As mentioned above, database terminology sometimes gets in the way of database administration. The terms "database" and "instance" are important to know when using Oracle systems, and it is also important to know that different vendors will use the terms to mean different things. Here are some examples:

Another important distinction to make is the difference between the physical structure of the database, which consists of data files, redo log files and control files, and the logical structure, which consists of the tablespaces, schema objects, segments and extents. For further explanation:

 

 

  Database design  Return to top

Most of the time, database performance and ease of use is only as good as its design. And good design can, like everything else so far, be open to considerable debate. Here are a few resources to help you decide for yourself:

 

 

  Normalization  Return to top

The rules of normalization are critical to database design, and with controversy continuing into this section, here are plenty of viewpoints on how normalization and denormalization affect the design and use of a database:

 

 

  Working with an RDBMS  Return to top

For practical matters, sometimes you have questions that are pretty basic, but you don't know where to start to look for an answer if you can't find it in the Oracle documentation. For those types of issues, a great resource is our repository of expert answers, which you can search. SearchOracle.com's panel of experts have answered hundreds of basic questions, and here is a very small sampling.

Oracle features explained:

Here are examples of how to:

For more, here's a field survey of database best practices, and a chapter excerpt of the book Oracle9i: The complete reference.

To retrieve data, you need to know the structured query language (SQL). We have a complete SQL Learning Guide, but for a basic understanding of what it can do for you, read below:

 

 

  More Learning Guides  Return to top

 

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  • Learning guide: Oracle security This guide covers a wide variety of topics on many aspects of Oracle security to help you lock down your data.

  • Fast Guide: Becoming an Oracle Certified Professional Get expert technical advice on where to begin your certification studies, passing the final exam and putting your certification into effect in the workplace.

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  • Learning Guide: Backup and recovery This guide covers everything from the basics of creating a backup and recovery plan to the specifics of using RMAN and other methods of hot and cold backups.

  • Learning Guide: SQL Whether you are a newbie or a seasoned expert looking to tweak query performance, this learning guide can help you figure out how to get the data you need by looking at solutions to real-world problems.

This was first published in June 2005

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