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Java Database Best Practices Paperback – 24 May 2003

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About the Author

George Reese has taken an unusual path into business software development. After earning a B.A. in philosophy from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, George went off to Hollywood where he worked on television shows such as "The People's Court" and ESPN's "Up Close". The L.A. riots convinced him to return to Maine where he finally became involved with software development and the Internet. George has since specialized in the development of Internet-oriented Java enterprise systems and the strategic role of technology in business processes. He is the author of Database Programming with JDBC and Java, 2nd Edition and the world's first JDBC driver, the mSQL-JDBC driver for mSQL. He currently lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife Monique and three cats, Misty, Gypsy, and Tia. He makes a living as the National Practice Director of Technology Strategy for digital@jwt in Minneapolis.

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Chapter 2 - Relational Data Architecture

Good sense is the most evenly shared thing in the world, for each of us thinks that he is so well endowed with it that even those who are the hardest to please in all other respects are not in the habit of wanting more than they have. It is unlikely that everyone is mistaken in this. It indicates rather that the capacity to judge correctly and to distinguish true from false, which is properly what one calls common sense or reason, is naturally equal in all men, and consequently the diversity in our opinions does not spring from some of us being more able to reason than others, but only from our conducting our thoughts along different lines and not examining the same things.
—René Descartes

Discourse on the Method
Database programming begins with the database. A well-performing, scalable database application depends heavily on proper database design. Just about every time I have encountered a problematic database application, a large part of the problem sat in the underlying data model. Before you worry too much about writing Java code, it is important to lay the proper foundation for that Java code in the database.

Relational data architecture is the discipline of structuring databases to serve application needs while remaining scalable to future demands and usage patterns. It is a complex discipline well beyond the scope of any single chapter. We will focus instead on the core data architecture needs of Java applications—from basic data normalization to object-relational mapping.

Though knowledge of SQL (Structured Query Language) is not a requirement for this chapter, I use it to illustrate some concepts. I provide a SQL tutorial in the tutorial section of the book should you want to dive into SQL now. You will definitely need it as we get further into database programming.

Relational Concepts
Before we approach the details of relational data architecture, it helps to establish a base understanding of relational concepts. If you are an experienced database programmer, you will probably want to move on to the next section on normalization. In this section, we will review the key concepts behind relational databases critical to an in-depth understanding of relational data architecture.

The Relational Model
A database is any collection of related data. The files on your hard drive and the piles of paper on your desk all count as databases. What distinguishes a relational database from other kinds of databases is the mechanism by which the database is organized —the way the data is modeled. A relational database is a collection of data organized in accordance with the relational model to suit a specific purpose.

Relational principles are based on the mathematical concepts developed by Dr. E. F. Codd that dictate how data can be structured to define data relationships in an efficient manner. The focus of the relational model is thus the data relationships. In short, by organizing your data according to the relational model as opposed to the hierarchical principles of your filesystem or the random mess of your desktop, you can find your data at a later date much easier than you would have had you stored it some other way. A relationship in relational parlance is a table with columns and rows.* A row in the database represents an instance of the relation. Conceptually, you can picture a table as a spreadsheet. Rows in the spreadsheet are analogous to rows in a table, and the spreadsheet columns are analogous to table attributes. The job of the relational data architect is to fit the data for a specific problem domain into this relational model.

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