Blog post

A Database By Any Other Name…

By Donald Feinberg | December 22, 2014 | 1 Comment

IT InfrastructureDBMSData ManagementBanco de Dados

Donald Africa

Another post from the DBMS Curmudgeon

“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet;”, From Shakespeare‘s Romeo and Juliet, 1594.  Not true for a Database Management System (DBMS).

The IT industry uses the words database and DBMS interchangeably. They are not! Simply put, a DBMS is software used to create and manage a database. A database contains data; a DBMS is a software product. First, let me define the two terms.

Gartner defines DBMS and database as follows: A database management system (DBMS) is the software used to organize, support and maintain the information or data in a structure stored in a computer. Although, normally stored on magnetic storage media such as disc or flash, it can also be stored in memory. The software includes the rules to organize the data and enforce the model (for example relational, network, hierarchical), insert, update and delete data, provide security for the data, enforce persistence and facilitate backup and recovery of the data. Vendors such as IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and SAP sell DBMSs.

A database is a structured collection of records or data. A computerised database relies upon software to organize the storage of data. The software models the database structure in what are known as database models. The model in most common use today is the relational model. Other models such as the hierarchical model and the network model use a more explicit representation of relationships. Vendors such as Dun & Bradstreet and Nielsen sell databases.
My problem is that many professionals in the DBMS software world, continue to call the DBMS product a database product. Are they referring to the DBMS or database? Some might think I am being picky, however, when reading documents that misuse the terminology, it is often difficult to understand if the author is referring to the software or the data. E.g., “My database crashed”. Does this imply a software problem or a hard disk crash? We all must be more careful to use the correct terminology.
So let’s make a New Year’s resolution: Try to use the correct terminology.
If you sea someone using terminology in air, you should should let them no.

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1 Comment

  • Dan Graham says:

    There were so many times I wished for these distinctions to be clarified and public. I spent many searches on Wikipedia to get less than this. Hadoop has made us re-examine terms and concepts. This is useful Don. Thank you.
    You’re last line is grate. You right very well.