Translating SQL Queries into Relational Algebra
In practice, SQL is the query language that is used in most commercial RDBMSs. An SQL query is first translated into an equivalent extended relational algebra expression—represented as a query tree data structure—that is then optimized. Typically, SQL queries are decomposed into query blocks, which form the basic units that can be translated into the algebraic operators and optimized. A query block contains a single SELECT-FROM-WHERE expression, as well as GROUP BY and HAVING clauses if these are part of the block. Hence, nested queries within a query are identified as separate query blocks. Because SQL includes aggregate operators—such as MAX, MIN, SUM, and COUNT—these operators must also be included in the extended algebra, as we discussed in Section 6.4.
Consider the following SQL query on the EMPLOYEE relation in Figure 3.5:
SELECT Lname, Fname
WHERE Salary > ( SELECT MAX (Salary)
WHERE Dno=5 );
This query retrieves the names of employees (from any department in the company) who earn a salary that is greater than the highest salary in department 5. The query includes a nested subquery and hence would be decomposed into two blocks. The inner block is:
SELECT MAX (Salary)
WHERE Dno=5 )
This retrieves the highest salary in department 5. The outer query block is:
SELECT Lname, Fname
WHERE Salary > c
where c represents the result returned from the inner block. The inner block could be translated into the following extended relational algebra expression:
and the outer block into the expression:
The query optimizer would then choose an execution plan for each query block. Notice that in the above example, the inner block needs to be evaluated only once to produce the maximum salary of employees in department 5, which is then used—as the constant c—by the outer block. We called this a nested query (without correlation with the outer query) in Section 5.1.2. It is much harder to optimize the more complex correlated nested queries (see Section 5.1.3), where a tuple variable from the outer query block appears in the WHERE-clause of the inner query block.
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