series of Oracle tutorials provides an introduction to Oracle for
first tutorial explains relational theory, on which all relational
databases are built, and provides some examples so you can see how it
works in practice. Object-oriented design as it applies to databases is
also discussed briefly.
Other articles in this series of Oracle tutorials expand on these concepts, discuss the factors that affect SQL (and therefore database) performance and examine the Oracle database from the point of view of the dba.
Oracle is an object-relational
hybrid database - a
relational database with added object-oriented features - and,
since Oracle 10g, a
grid-enabled database - the ability to scale across multiple
inexpensive servers to provide more processing resources.
Each release of the Oracle database brings new features to improve scalability, reliability, performance and availability. We'll be examining some of these new features in later Oracle tutorials.
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Lets' start by defining a relational database.
A British engineer working for IBM named Ted Codd elucidated the theory of relational databases in his paper "A Relational Model of Data for Large Shared Data Banks" in the 1970s. At the core of this relational model is the concept of the separation of the logical and physical data models which enables you to "see" the database in a completely different way to its underlying structure.
importance of this separation is that it
makes relational databases extremely flexible by enabling each model to
be changed without affecting the other. With earlier
database technologies, such as hierarchical databases, changes in
business requirements requiring new data
structures necessitated the complete re-design of the database. With
relational databases, new data structures can be added without having
to perform a complete re-design.
A relational database can be regarded as containing a set of 2-dimensional tables ("relations") with each table comprising rows ("tuples") and columns ("domains"). Relationships between database tables are created when one table has a column with the same meaning as a column in another table. The names and values of the two columns are irrelevant but they must refer to/mean the same thing.
Let's take the example of a very simple database with just 2 tables (relations):
the employees table has just three columns :
the department table has just two columns :
There is a relationship between these two tables via the department_id
column in each table. The department_id column in the employees
table relates to the department_id column in the departments
table. This enables you to assign employees to a department and
determine which employees work for which department.
Now that we can say that these two tables are related, the other part of relational database model - relational calculus (which is essentially set theory) enables relations (i.e. database tables) to be combined in various ways: