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Chapter: Fundamentals of Database Systems : Object, Object-Relational, and XML: Concepts, Models, Languages, and Standards : Object and Object-Relational Databases

Object Database Conceptual Design

1. Differences between Conceptual Design of ODB and RDB 2. Mapping an EER Schema to an ODB Schema

Object Database Conceptual Design


Section 11.4.1 discusses how object database (ODB) design differs from relational database (RDB) design. Section 11.4.2 outlines a mapping algorithm that can be used to create an ODB schema, made of ODMG ODL class definitions, from a conceptual EER schema.


1. Differences between Conceptual Design of ODB and RDB


One of the main differences between ODB and RDB design is how relationships are handled. In ODB, relationships are typically handled by having relationship proper-ties or reference attributes that include OID(s) of the related objects. These can be considered as OID references to the related objects. Both single references and collections of references are allowed. References for a binary relationship can be declared in a single direction, or in both directions, depending on the types of access expected. If declared in both directions, they may be specified as inverses of one another, thus enforcing the ODB equivalent of the relational referential integrity constraint.


In RDB, relationships among tuples (records) are specified by attributes with matching values. These can be considered as value references and are specified via foreign keys, which are values of primary key attributes repeated in tuples of the referencing relation. These are limited to being single-valued in each record because multivalued attributes are not permitted in the basic relational model. Thus, M:N relationships must be represented not directly, but as a separate relation (table), as discussed in Section 9.1.


Mapping binary relationships that contain attributes is not straightforward in ODBs, since the designer must choose in which direction the attributes should be included. If the attributes are included in both directions, then redundancy in storage will exist and may lead to inconsistent data. Hence, it is sometimes preferable to use the relational approach of creating a separate table by creating a separate class to represent the relationship. This approach can also be used for n-ary relationships, with degree n > 2.


Another major area of difference between ODB and RDB design is how inheritance is handled. In ODB, these structures are built into the model, so the mapping is achieved by using the inheritance constructs, such as derived (:) and extends. In relational design, as we discussed in Section 9.2, there are several options to choose from since no built-in construct exists for inheritance in the basic relational model. It is important to note, though, that object-relational and extended-relational systems are adding features to model these constructs directly as well as to include operation specifications in abstract data types (see Section 11.2).


The third major difference is that in ODB design, it is necessary to specify the operations early on in the design since they are part of the class specifications. Although it is important to specify operations during the design phase for all types of data-bases, it may be delayed in RDB design as it is not strictly required until the implementation phase.


There is a philosophical difference between the relational model and the object model of data in terms of behavioral specification. The relational model does not mandate the database designers to predefine a set of valid behaviors or operations, whereas this is a tacit requirement in the object model. One of the claimed advantages of the relational model is the support of ad hoc queries and transactions, whereas these are against the principle of encapsulation.


In practice, it is becoming commonplace to have database design teams apply object-based methodologies at early stages of conceptual design so that both the structure and the use or operations of the data are considered, and a complete specification is developed during conceptual design. These specifications are then mapped into relational schemas, constraints, and behavioral artifacts such as trig-gers or stored procedures (see Sections 5.2 and 13.4).

2. Mapping an EER Schema to an ODB Schema


It is relatively straightforward to design the type declarations of object classes for an ODBMS from an EER schema that contains neither categories nor n-ary relation-ships with n > 2. However, the operations of classes are not specified in the EER dia-gram and must be added to the class declarations after the structural mapping is completed. The outline of the mapping from EER to ODL is as follows:


Step 1. Create an ODL class for each EER entity type or subclass. The type of the ODL class should include all the attributes of the EER class.38 Multivalued attributes are typically declared by using the set, bag, or list constructors. If the values of the multivalued attribute for an object should be ordered, the list constructor is chosen; if duplicates are allowed, the bag constructor should be chosen; otherwise, the set constructor is chosen. Composite attributes are mapped into a tuple constructor (by using a struct declaration in ODL).


Declare an extent for each class, and specify any key attributes as keys of the extent. (This is possible only if an extent facility and key constraint declarations are avail-able in the ODBMS.)


Step 2. Add relationship properties or reference attributes for each binary relation-ship into the ODL classes that participate in the relationship. These may be created in one or both directions. If a binary relationship is represented by references in both directions, declare the references to be relationship properties that are inverses of one another, if such a facility exists. If a binary relationship is represented by a reference in only one direction, declare the reference to be an attribute in the refer-encing class whose type is the referenced class name.


Depending on the cardinality ratio of the binary relationship, the relationship properties or reference attributes may be single-valued or collection types. They will be single-valued for binary relationships in the 1:1 or N:1 directions; they are collection types (set-valued or list-valued) for relationships in the 1:N or M:N direction. An alternative way to map binary M:N relationships is discussed in step 7.


If relationship attributes exist, a tuple constructor (struct) can be used to create a structure of the form <reference, relationship attributes>, which may be included instead of the reference attribute. However, this does not allow the use of the inverse constraint. Additionally, if this choice is represented in both directions, the attribute values will be represented twice, creating redundancy.

Step 3. Include appropriate operations for each class. These are not available from the EER schema and must be added to the database design by referring to the original requirements. A constructor method should include program code that checks any constraints that must hold when a new object is created. A destructor method should check any constraints that may be violated when an object is deleted. Other methods should include any further constraint checks that are relevant.


Step 4. An ODL class that corresponds to a subclass in the EER schema inherits (via extends) the type and methods of its superclass in the ODL schema. Its specific (noninherited) attributes, relationship references, and operations are specified, as discussed in steps 1, 2, and 3.


Step 5. Weak entity types can be mapped in the same way as regular entity types. An alternative mapping is possible for weak entity types that do not participate in any relationships except their identifying relationship; these can be mapped as though they were composite multivalued attributes of the owner entity type, by using the set<struct<... >> or list<struct<... >> constructors. The attributes of the weak entity are included in the struct<... > construct, which corresponds to a tuple constructor. Attributes are mapped as discussed in steps 1 and 2.


Step 6. Categories (union types) in an EER schema are difficult to map to ODL. It is possible to create a mapping similar to the EER-to-relational mapping (see Section 9.2) by declaring a class to represent the category and defining 1:1 relationships between the category and each of its superclasses. Another option is to use a union type, if it is available.


Step 7. An n-ary relationship with degree n > 2 can be mapped into a separate class, with appropriate references to each participating class. These references are based on mapping a 1:N relationship from each class that represents a participating entity type to the class that represents the n-ary relationship. An M:N binary relationship, especially if it contains relationship attributes, may also use this mapping option, if desired.


The mapping has been applied to a subset of the UNIVERSITY database schema in Figure 8.10 in the context of the ODMG object database standard. The mapped object schema using the ODL notation is shown in Figure 11.10.

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