Relational Data Model: Back to the roots

Some thoughts on how or why to compare Relational data model with other data models

8 minute read

Back to the roots

Recently, I realized that the associative, semiotic, hypergraph, or in short the R3DM/S3DM, technology framework we propose to be adopted in database management systems can be considered in many ways an extension to Codd’s Relational Model. I am aware that this is a big claim and certainly this is not the place or the time to lay down my arguments, suffice it to say how this occurred to me.

I have partially implemented TRIADB technology twice on top of two different data stores and I noticed that those add and get operations we defined are closely related to Codd’s relational algebra operations, while data sets, i.e. domains, and a user defined type system match the sets defined in mathematics and relational theory. Coincidentally Codd’s Relational logic goes back to Aristotle and the corner stone of our technology, which is the computational semiotic triangle, goes back to Aristotle too. I will briefly mention that one basic difference is that both the heading set and the body tuples of the Relation, in fact everything, are transformed and uniformly represented with numerical key references. Therefore it can also be called Reference Database Management System (RDBMS). All these are simply good indications. I believe we are on the right track.

The truth is, and I will quote Chris Date here, that:

if you are proposing to replace technology A by technology B first is counted on you to understand technology A and then it is counted on you that there is some problem that technology A does not solve and technology B does solve

Chris Date - Relational Theory for computer professionals (workshop)

And the best person I have found to teach me Relational database technology, so that I can acquire an in-depth understanding, is Chris Date himself. The following video is a clip from an excellent, illuminating workshop that explains Codd’s Relational Theory to computer professionals, but most importantly, he shows what a real relational product would be like, and how and why it would be so much better than what’s currently available.

Relational model vs Other data models

That said, allow me to have my doubts about whether many of the proponents of other database technologies, including those in SQL databases and those in NoSQL databases, have understood what are really the differences with respect to Relational model and at what abstraction level they occur. Again this is not the place or time to elaborate on this. Instead, I am inviting you to ponder on the architectural design of modern database management systems.

You see in practice, it is too difficult to make a very clean separation between the physical, logical and conceptual levels of information. From an engineer’s point of view it is hard to separate theoretical from practical purposes. Moreover, many of these NoSQL DBMS, that are in fashion nowadays, are suited to solve a particular type of problem and this is why you often hear that big corporations and large companies have many different kinds of DBMS at the back-end. Not to mention that nowadays there is the trend to market many DBMS as multi-model database systems. And that made me also to realize that:

there has to be a distinction between those problems that one solves at the physical level e.g. physical layout, partition and availability and those that apply more at the logical-conceptual level e.g. integrity and data modeling. Therefore, I foresee that in the future systems will have to use a combination of these two levels that somehow will have to be tuned and made to work harmonically independent of each other

Athanassios I. Hatzis, LinkedIn, March 2018

Our perspective

This is our perspective towards the architectural design of modern database management systems that fully justifies our choice of marketing TRIADB as a middleware. We are focusing to provide an efficient and effective solution at the logical and conceptual level using an existing implementation of the database physical layer. Relational modeling theory applies here too, from what I understand it was the implementation details at the physical level and perhaps other naive simplifications that made many to depart from the original Relational model. So it’s time to return back to the roots and make some real progress.

In case you, as a reader, have the same feelings and see some truth on my writing, I would be more than happy to discuss with you about the progress we are making with TRIADB and associative, semiotic, hypergraph technology and definitely exchange ideas and share some common thoughts on these database topics. Stay tuned.

Cross-References

R3DM Project Posts

2018

Relational Data Model: Back to the roots
Important design and implementation principle arising from studying relational data model theory
Important design and implementation principle arising from studying relational data model theory

Build valuable relations; establish effective communications
A post that explains our philosophy and goals behind HEALIS products
A post that explains our philosophy and goals behind HEALIS products

TRIADB at Connected Data London
My speech at Connected Data London conference and demos of TRIADB implementation on Intersystems Cache DBMS
My speech at Connected Data London conference and demos of TRIADB implementation on Intersystems Cache DBMS

2017

The wizards of stored computer program and the next generation of programmers
The fundamental aspect that software pioneers have been missing when they invented new programming languages or new nosql databases
Have you noticed that what ever the model and data structure in databases we cannot escape from the fundamental principle of managing data allocation space with references, i.e. pointer based logic, memory addressing ?

Associative Semiotic Hypergraph API in Mathematica for Next-Generation BI Systems
European Wolfram Technology Conference 19-20 June 2017 in Amsterdam
My speech at European Wolfram Technology Conference 2017 about a new data modeling framework R3DM/S3DM that is implemented on top of OrientDB graph database and coded in Wolfram Mathematica

Are our old data model standards out of shape ?
An overview of critical points to consider when modeling with R3DM/S3DM
Both Topic Maps and RDF/OWL exhibit signs of aging. These signs do not indicate maturity levels but on the contrary they signal a re-examination of the data modeling, information representation problem

The three dimensions of AI and a fourth one as the key to unlock them
Comments on a review of AI by John Launchbury, special assistant to DIRO, DARPA
Although there has been significant progress with first and second generation AI systems in reasoning, learning and perceiving, abstraction has not been part of the game. The mechanism of abstraction can unify these other three processes.

Associative Data Modelling Demystified: Part 6/6
Demonstration of a new data model framework that transforms OrientDB into a HyperGraph Database
Demonstration of a new data model framework that transforms OrientDB into a HyperGraph Database

Data Modelling Topologies of a Graph Database
Definition and Classification of Graph Databases into Three Categories
The associative data graph database model is still a heavy hitter, stacking up well against property graphs and triples/quadruples. Expect a comeback.

A Quick Guide on How to Prevail in the Graph Database Arena
A brief discussion on criteria to meet a differentiation strategy for graph databases
A swift introduction to the key factors that influence the performance and unification character of graph databases

Associative Data Modeling Demystified: Part 5/6
Qlik Associative Model
Qlik's competitive advantage over other BI tools is that it manages associations in memory at the engine level and not at the application level. Every data point in every field of a table is associated with every other data point anywhere in the entire schema.

2016

Associative Data Modeling Demystified: Part 4/6
Association in RDF Data Model
In this article we will see how we can define an association in RDF and what are the differences with other data models that we analyzed in previous posts of our series

Do you Understand Many-to-Many Relationships ?
Associative entities are represented differently in various data models
It is 2016 and in my opinion the situation with associative entities has become darn confusing. Edges of a Property Graph data model are bidirectional but RDF links are unidirectional.

Associative Data Modeling Demystified: Part 3/6
Association in Property Graph Data Model
In this article, we continue our investigation with the Property Graph Data model. We discuss how a many-to-many relationship is represented and compare its structure in other data models

Associative Data Modeling Demystified: Part 2/6
Association in Topic Map Data Model
In this post, we demonstrate how Topic Map data model represents associations. In order to link the two, we continue with another SQL query from our relational database

Associative Data Modeling Demystified: Part 1/6
Relation, Relationship and Association
In this article, we introduce the concept of association from the perspective of Entity-Relationship (ER) data model and illustrate it with the modeling of a toy dataset

2015

Plerophoria vs Information
The ancient Greek origin of the word information
The ancient Greek origin of the word information

Towards a New Data Modelling Architecture
Part 2: Atomic Information Resource (AIR)
We introduce the Atomic Information Resource (AIR) unit of R3DM conceptual framework

Towards a New Data Modelling Architecture
Part1 - Relational/ER Constructs in Wolfram Language
We start with terms and constructs that most of us are familiar with from the Relational and Entity-Relationship database management systems

2014

R3DM/S3DM Illustration and Formalization
Old wiki pages and LinkedIn posts ported from neurorganon.org and linkedin.com
Old wiki pages and LinkedIn posts ported from neurorganon.org and linkedin.com

2013

R3DM in TMDM
Old wiki pages on R3DM ported from neurorganon.org, examples of R3DM in TMDM
Old wiki pages on R3DM ported from neurorganon.org, examples of R3DM in TMDM

R3DM Questions and Answers
Old wiki pages on R3DM ported from neurorganon.org
Old wiki pages on R3DM ported from neurorganon.org

URIs for Real-World Objects
The problem of information resources definition, representation and identification
The problem of information resources definition, representation and identification

2012

Ignite Athens 2012 : From WWW To GGG
My first pitch at Ignite Athens on 20th of September 2012 about Neurorganon Upper Level Ontology (NULON)
My first pitch at Ignite Athens on 20th of September 2012 about Neurorganon Upper Level Ontology (NULON)