A quick over-view of RDBMSs’ general place in the world, and ours in particular


RDBMSs (or for clarity, Databases) are a basic element of any
computer-based appliance in the same way as are an Operating System,
Web Server and software development platform.  As is common for
developers of Open Source software, I am quite familiar with Linux as
the Operating System, Apache as the Web Server, MaxDB and MySQL as
Databases and Perl (and to a lesser degree, PHP) as the software
development platform.  This combination is often called the "LAMP"
stack [4].  Take the following as coming from that background.

Databases are the storage mechanism of the content presented to the
user of any computer-based appliance.  This content may be displayed
via a desktop application or through a web browser.  The main display
mechanisms I think of when writing applications are 1) Through the end
users's computer in real-time via a desktop application, in an
interactive manner.  2) Through a web server, not in real-time, via a
user's web browser (I prefer to think of Firefox[5]), often in an
interactive manner. 3) Through a portable computer device, be it a
cell phone, pager, pda, or the like.  This is most commonly done in a
"broadcast" or other non-interactive manner which does not require
processing user feedback.  4) TV, Radio: rarely interactive.  Never in
real-time.  Always broadcast.  In this email, I will discuss the
communication medium I'm most familiar with, case #2.

The web server is responsible for communication between your appliance
and the user's web browser.  It is responsible for taking information
from your appliance's database and delivering it to the user's
computer, in many cases over a secure channel.  The need for a secure
channel has been growing as more of the world's population begins
using the Internet and other forms of inter-computer-networks.
"Security," in this use of the word, is intended to indicate a
guarantee that the information that your appliance sends is the same
information that the user's browser receives.  The word can also be
used to indicate that information "on the wire" between your appliance
and the user's personal computer can not be read.  One more use of the
word is more focused on the user's perspective, and indicates that
users can validate that your appliance is who it claims to be. [6]

The software development platform is the "glue" between the web server
and the database.  A recent software development trend [7] is to
separate logically the ideas of data "Model," user's "View," and
"Controller."  In this case of a web appliance, the data Model would
be a MySQL database, which stores content for display to the user.
The client's browser would be used to View the content, and is
responsible for initiating a connection to the web server.  The
software development platform Controls the mechanism which transform
the content of the database for presentation via the web server and
browser to the user.  It is not, in my opinion, a perfect analogy, but
it often fits.

The Operating System is responsible for keeping all of these pieces
playing together well on the hardware that is available.  For
instance, MySQL databases use the operating system to transfer data
between their cache, disk, and network stack.  Web servers ask the
operating system for resources such as images, html files, database
connections and network resources. [8]

I hope this is a good overview of the topic.  If you have any
questions about how either of our databases might fit in to your
organization, don't hesitate to give me a call at the number below.


[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RDBMS
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MaxDB
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MySQL
[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LAMP_(software_bundle)
[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firefox
[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transport_Layer_Security
[7] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Model-view-controller
[8] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operating_System

<cjcollier@mysql.com>, MySQL/( AB|, Inc\.)/
Support Manager MaxDB
Phone: +1 206 226 5809 
, ,

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