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Web Databases: Introduction to Relational & Object-Oriented Databases by Janette B. Bradley axsWave Software, Inc.

This is an edited version of a presentation I gave at the American Society for Information Science Annual Conference (October, 1996). The presentation was in two parts. The second part offers a short list of tips to help you design easier to use web-query forms. Tips for Easy-to-Use Query Forms Why Web-based Databases The Web seems to offer a significant opportunity to distribute data to organizations and corporations. Due to:

Existing infrastructure Lower cost per station than proprietary/custom LANs

Seemingly quick deployment of existing databases using HTML and freely available CGI scripts.

Definitions A Database is an information or data store accessed through a query language or Application Programming Interface (API) A Web-based database fits this description with some important differences: Access is through Web applications, usually a form, which means that queries must be reformulated to SQL.

Access interfaces are multi-platform. Often, designers will have no clue what hardware or software will be used.

Access is often global, which means that profiling the user is far more difficult.

Database Types


Object-oriented Hybrid Relational - Object-oriented

Relational Databases The Relational database model is: Made up of tables

consisting of rows and columns each column has a name and single data type

multiple dimensions are represented by multiple tables which are joined to construct a multi-dimensional object or by multiple rows in a table Relational databases support

integers floating point character strings date-time currency

If it doesn't fit any of the above, then it is a

BLOB - binary large object.

Why Object-oriented Databases? Because object-oriented databases are good at handling BLOBs, and the new world of information is all about BLOBs. BLOBs like:

Images Video Audio Animations

Mixed Media

What is an OOD? An Object Oriented Database:

Provides for data objects that store in one data structure:

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The data

Rules and ways about how the data looks, acts, how it can be manipulated, and how it can be accessed. Allows for complex data types to be intermingled in one database.

Allows for algorithms that let the database search in multiple dimensions.

What Can it Do that is Different from Relational DBs? In an OOD environment, developers can create structures that model how the data will be used. An OOD and its database management system (DBMS) is aware of how to: Access or extract internal components of an object. For example, one or two frames of a video.

Execute operations or functions against objects without exporting them to the client.

Extract enough about the object to develop an "intelligent" search plan to optimize performance. For example: The user wants multiple frames of a video, plus info on actors, royalties and rights. The OODBMS gauges the speed of retrieval for each item and optimizes a retrieval plan using SERVER resources, freeing the client to continue work.

Relational vs Object-Oriented RDs:


Extensively tested Vast amounts of data in this format already Programmers know how to optimize for high-speed retrieval



here is a general shortage of experienced, quality programmers

Lack consensus on standards, definitions, etc. Performance concerns

Hybrid RD and OOD Try to combine the best of both worlds Maybe? OOD evangelists claim that RD/OOD models have the same inherent problems representing complex data that RDs have.

RD/OOD adherents claim that this model provides an effective bridge to legacy databases and has less performance and reliability problems.

Hybrid RD and OOD Vendors Illustra is one of the best known and has extensive Web support. Recently purchased by Informix

Used for 24 hours in Cyberspace

All other major vendors will soon release or have released either hybrids of pure OODs (Oracle, Sybase, IBM, CA, etc.) Smaller companies doing some innovative work on OODs and hybrids, particularly in Multimedia include:

The Bulldog Group - Media on Demand (an Illustra-based product for graphic production houses)
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Cinebase - designed for video production and editing