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Chris Date releases free book chapter

June 18, 2005

Chris Date, co-founder of the relational database model has just released a free chapter from his latest book "Database In Depth" by O'Reilly:

Back in the 1970's when Codd and Date first developed the rules of normalization, disk was very expensive and the goal of relational demoralization was the elimination of redundancy.  Today, disk is a cheap commodity, and many of the original rules of normalization no longer apply because redundancy is cheaper than the run-time performance overhead of joining tables together unnecessarily. 

Also, vendors such as Oracle have extended their relational offerings by offering data structures that violates Dates original rules of normalization:

1 - The ability to create non-first-normal-form tables (i.e. tables with repeating groups via PL/SQL varray data types).

2 - The ability to hard-link rows via pointers, using constructs such as Oracle nested tables and stored arrays of pointers (Object ID's).

3 - The ability to incorporate physical storage rules into the structures, such as the APPEND hint, and the Oracle cluster table structure, where related table rows can be placed on adjacent data blocks, and index organized tables, where the table data is stored inside the index tree structure.

In the sample chapter, Date notes that his relational model condemns these practices:

The fact that the relational model says nothing about physical storage is deliberate, of course. The idea was to give implementers the freedom to implement the model in whatever way they chose—in particular, in whatever way seemed likely to yield good performance—without compromising on data independence.

The sad fact is, however, that SQL vendors seem mostly not to have understood this point; instead, they map base tables fairly directly to physical storage,* and (as noted in the previous section) their products therefore provide far less data independence than relational systems are theoretically capable of.





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