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Practical Issues in Database Management: A Reference for the Thinking Practitioner [Paperback]

Fabian Pascal
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 2, 2000 0201485559 978-0201485554 1
Databasics clearly explains the key concepts users and database professionals need to understand in order to build well-designed databases that answer business questions accurately and efficiently. Fabian Pascal, one of the industry's leading experts, identifies ten critical, recurring issues that both database users and vendors often fail to address appropriately. Pascal demonstrates why understanding these fundamentals is so important, providing detailed examples and solutions designed to help users escape the key pitfalls of database development. Among the topics covered: unstructured data and complex data types; business rules and enforcing data integrity; keys; duplicates; normalization; entity subtypes and supertypes; data hierarchies and recursive queries; redundancy; quota queries; and how to handle missing information. Along the way, Pascal offers no-holds-barred assessments of how well current SQL implementations and commercial products address each issue. Databasics, in short, is a complete guide to building databases right the first time, so they don't have to be rebuilt later. For all DBAs, developers, managers, and end-users that need to understand the best ways to design and implement database systems.

Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

"The aim of this book is to provide a correct and up-to-date understanding of--and appreciation for--the practical aspects of crucial, yet little-understood core database issues. It identifies and clarifies certain fundamental concepts, principles, and techniques that persistently trouble users and vendors. It assesses the treatment of those issues in SQL (both the standard and commercial implementations) and gives specific guidance and practical advice on how to deal with them (and how not to). It covers, carefully and thoroughly, several particularly tricky and misunderstood topics--complex data types, missing information, data hierarchies, quota queries, and so forth--in a succinct and concise form for the busy database practitioner."

--C. J. Date

Three decades ago relational technology put the database field on a sound, scientific foundation for the first time. But the database industry--vendors, users, experts, and the trade press--has essentially flouted its principles, focusing instead on a "cookbook," product-specific approach, devoid of conceptual understanding. The consequences have been costly: DBMS products, databases, development tools, and applications don't always perform up to expectation or potential, and they can encourage the wrong questions and provide the wrong answers.

Practical Issues in Database Management is an attempt to remedy this intractable and costly situation. Written for database designers, programmers, managers, and users, it addresses the core, commonly recurring issues and problems that practitioners--even the most experienced database professionals--seem to systematically misunderstand, namely:

  • Unstructured data and complex data types
  • Business rules and integrity enforcement
  • Keys
  • Duplicates
  • Normalization and denormalization
  • Entity subtypes and supertypes
  • Data hierarchies and recursive queries
  • Redundancy
  • Quota queries
  • Missing information
Fabian Pascal examines these critical topics thoroughly, comparing the severe costs of mishandling them to the practical benefits of implementing the correct solutions. With an emphasis on both principles and practice, Practical Issues in Database Management employs real-world examples to provide an assessment of current technology--SQL and the DBMS products based on it--and, whenever possible, offers concrete recommendations and workarounds. With the insight provided by Practical Issues in Database Management , you will be in a far better position to evaluate specific products, exploit their capabilities, and avoid their deficiencies.


About the Author

Fabian Pascal is an independent industry analyst, consultant, author, and lecturer specializing in database management. He is the author of two previous books, Understanding Relational Databases and SQL and Relational Basics, and has contributed extensively to many industry publications.


Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional; 1 edition (June 2, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0201485559
  • ISBN-13: 978-0201485554
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 7.3 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #789,586 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
By A.M.
Contains discussions on widely misunderstood, but vitally important, database issues. Considers how things should be according to relational theory, what goes wrong in practice due to failing to understand these fundamental concepts, and provides practical recommendations/workarounds where possible. A bridge between theory and practice. A concise and straightforward read, although to gain maximum benefit you should already have a reasonable understanding of relational databases.
Some of the main points are as follows. Relational databases can support data types of arbitrary complexity ("objects") - but we need DBMS vendors to implement the means to provide such support. Use declarative integrity constraints when possible. Avoid tables that allow duplicate rows - ensure all tables have a primary key (may require a surrogate key). Avoid redundant data. Ensure your database is normalized - avoids numerous problems. Resist the temptation to denormalize. Recognise entity supertypes/subtypes and how to implement as tables. Minimize use of nulls whenever possible. Also discusses climbing trees and quota queries. Separate chapters discuss all these points in detail.
A constant theme throughout the book is how poorly SQL and commercial DBMSs support relational concepts, and the numerous problems this causes. Personally, I believe there is little that most application/database developers can do about this, other than suffer what gets "inflicted" upon us. Pascal urges us to pressurise DBMS vendors to provide better relational support.
This book is firmly of the view that "relational is right". If you agree, you will probably like this book. Most of the references are to C.J Date's writings.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Flabby and lacking clarity February 9, 2006
I came to this book with high hopes after having read much of Fabian Pascal's writing on the Web, which is very specific in calling out the many weaknesses of contemporary database practice and much less specific when it comes to strategies for dealing with those weaknesses. Unfortunately, the writing in this book is much like his writings online.

Pascal is clearly a seasoned professional and also someone who understands the relational model well. However, his frustration with the current state of the art bleeds over into this book, and is unhelpful. I now very clearly understand that SQL is incapable of dealing with a truly relational view of data, and that SQL (and by extension almost all contemporary DBMSes) is flawed and illogical in many ways, but there's only so much that I, as a database designer and software developer, can do with that information. In many cases, only a change in phrasing would have been necessary: I think the book would have been much more useful if it had been written prescriptively, as a "style guide" or best practices manual (DON'T use NULL. DO normalize your relations to at least 3NF) with his impassioned critiques of current technology provided as rationales for his guidelines.

Also, there's more than a whiff of the amateur to the presentation in this book. Aside from the baffling reprints of web pages included as appendices to the first chapter, he recycles exhortations across chapters and reuses the same examples over and over (down to the same explanatory text), without necessarily explaining what's different about this usage from all the others. Add to that a large, wide text face and the book, not particularly long at 256 pages, starts to feel significantly padded.

Most interested parties would be much better served by C.J.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Informative, padded, flabby, sloppy. August 22, 2007
This is a decent book to read within the first year of your dealing with relational databases. Most chapters (particularly the ones on normalization and subtypes) are at least in some way informative and will improve your clarity of thought. Whether the book is really practical is open for discussion, since it deliberately stays away from real products, pointing to their deficiencies and suggesting you should demand improvement from the vendors. OK, I'll send letters to Gates and Ellison today. But it _is_ practical in the sense of improving your thinking on the more fundamental level. Which is nothing to sneeze at, of course.

That said, the book has a strong unprofessional taste to it in terms of overall delivery: it's really half a dozen blog entries, padded with endless recaps, intros, and even a strange assemblage of web pages whose connection to the main body of text is tenuous at best (some of them aren't even referred to! Why is this junk inserted in the book? To achieve the obligatory two-hundred-page volume?) A pile of quotes from online posts, attributionless excerpts from 'trade magazines' supposedly illustrating all-pervading imbecility of the database constituency, and so on. The points the author makes are correct, but he belabours them way too much. Where one quote would suffice he gives you five.

A fair number of typos -- nothing terrible, something like the following: say, there's a picture of a table with fields, and then in the text the fields' names are different -- no big deal, but this is a technical book and small discrepancies like that really slow you down. A couple of openly ungrammatical statements (copy editing, anyone?
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars This Book Is Terrible
I don't know where they came up with the "Practical Issues" part of the title. This book is painfully theoretical. Read more
Published on July 4, 2006 by Matthew T. Brelje
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential book
This book has been essential in my work as a consultant and developer in the database application field. Read more
Published on July 29, 2005 by Christian Bauer
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Primer for Fundamental Database Issues
This may be the most practical database book I will ever read. While it is not wriiten for the complete novice, I would say it is important as a good second book to read (an... Read more
Published on July 9, 2004 by David Wilbur
2.0 out of 5 stars Understanding Relational Databases, once again
Giving this book only 2 starts only because of its title. It is not what it claims to be.
This book title should be "Understanding Relational Databases, once again"... Read more
Published on May 19, 2003 by "null2"
5.0 out of 5 stars On the money...
Fabian is on the money. Jeff Unsel (above), you're a perfect example of the problem. Get out of IT and try selling cars or something.
Published on April 17, 2003 by John B Bullock
5.0 out of 5 stars Could be better, but not much
Ever wondered why is it so difficult to put rich data into the relational model, or why so much of database logic keeps being badly manipulated by application programs instead of... Read more
Published on February 7, 2003 by Leandro G. F. DUTRA
1.0 out of 5 stars Not professional
No disrespect to this gentleman Fabian Pascal, he might be a nice guy, but he probably needed some quick cash badly enough that he put this book together by using C.J. Read more
Published on August 28, 2002 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply the best database book for professionals
There are hundreds of relational database books available that either address theory or design or a specific vendor application. Read more
Published on August 28, 2002 by Wayne Hiner
5.0 out of 5 stars It tells you how to use DBMS features wisely
I have been an IT professional for 5 years and have read dozens of books about relational database(ok, 60% of them are about Oracle so they are about relational database products). Read more
Published on March 22, 2002 by simin liu
4.0 out of 5 stars Clear thinking but SQL whining
This book offers clear but challenging thinking about some important issues in relational database design, rules of integrity, and normalization. Read more
Published on January 2, 2002 by Gary Sprandel
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