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

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Object and Object-Relational Databases

In this chapter, we discuss the features of object-oriented data models and show how some of these features have been incorporated in relational database systems.


Object, Object-Relational, and XML: Concepts, Models, Languages, and Standards


Chapter 11

Object and Object-Relational Databases



In  this  chapter, we  discuss  the  features  of  object-oriented data models and show how some of these features have been incorporated in relational database systems. Object-oriented databases are now referred to as object databases (ODB) (previously called OODB), and the database systems are referred to as object data management systems (ODMS) (formerly referred to as ODBMS or OODBMS). Traditional data models and systems, such as relational, network, and hierarchical, have been quite successful in developing the database technologies required for many traditional business database applications. However, they have certain shortcomings when more complex database applications must be designed and implemented—for example, databases for engineering design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM and CIM1), scientific experiments, telecommunications, geographic information systems, and multimedia. These newer applications have requirements and characteristics that differ from those of traditional business applications, such as more complex structures for stored objects; the need for new data types for storing images, videos, or large textual items; longer-duration transactions; and the need to define nonstandard application-specific operations. Object databases were pro-posed to meet some of the needs of these more complex applications. A key feature of object databases is the power they give the designer to specify both the structure of complex objects and the operations that can be applied to these objects.


Another reason for the creation of object-oriented databases is the vast increase in the use of object-oriented programming languages for developing software applications. Databases are fundamental components in many software systems, and traditional databases are sometimes difficult to use with software applications that are developed in an object-oriented programming language such as C++ or Java. Object databases are designed so they can be directly—or seamlessly—integrated with software that is developed using object-oriented programming languages.


Relational DBMS (RDBMS) vendors have also recognized the need for incorporating features that were proposed for object databases, and newer versions of relational systems have incorporated many of these features. This has led to database systems that are characterized as object-relational or ORDBMSs. The latest version of the SQL standard (2008) for RDBMSs includes many of these features, which were originally known as SQL/Object and they have now been merged into the main SQL specification, known as SQL/Foundation.


Although many experimental prototypes and commercial object-oriented database systems have been created, they have not found widespread use because of the popularity of relational and object-relational systems. The experimental prototypes included the Orion system developed at MCC, OpenOODB at Texas Instruments, the Iris system at Hewlett-Packard laboratories, the Ode system at AT&T Bell Labs, and the ENCORE/ObServer project at Brown University. Commercially available systems included GemStone Object Server of GemStone Systems, ONTOS DB of Ontos, Objectivity/DB of Objectivity Inc., Versant Object Database and FastObjects by Versant Corporation (and Poet), ObjectStore of Object Design, and Ardent Database of Ardent. These represent only a partial list of the experimental proto-types and commercial object-oriented database systems that were created.


As commercial object DBMSs became available, the need for a standard model and language was recognized. Because the formal procedure for approval of standards normally takes a number of years, a consortium of object DBMS vendors and users, called ODMG, proposed a standard whose current specification is known as the ODMG 3.0 standard.


Object-oriented databases have adopted many of the concepts that were developed originally for object-oriented programming languages. In Section 11.1, we describe the key concepts utilized in many object database systems and that were later incorporated into object-relational systems and the SQL standard. These include object identity, object structure and type constructors, encapsulation of operations and the definition of methods as part of class declarations, mechanisms for storing objects in a database by making them persistent, and type and class hierarchies and inheritance.


Then, in Section 11.2 we see how these concepts have been incorporated into the latest SQL standards, leading to object-relational databases. Object features were originally introduced in SQL:1999, and then updated in the latest version (SQL:2008) of the standard. In Section 11.3, we turn our attention to “pure” object database standards by presenting features of the object database standard ODMG 3.0 and the object definition language ODL. Section 11.4 presents an overview of the database design process for object databases. Section 11.5 discusses the object query language (OQL), which is part of the ODMG 3.0 standard. In Section 11.6, we discuss programming language bindings, which specify how to extend object-oriented programming languages to include the features of the object database standard. Section 11.7 summarizes the chapter. Sections 11.5 and 11.6 may be left out if a less thorough introduction to object databases is desired.

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