What the Future Holds

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The manner in which databases are used has evolved immensely in the past several years. There came a time when many organizations began to realize that there was a lot of useful information that could be gathered from data they stored in various relational and nonrelational databases. This prompted them to question whether there was a way to mine the data for useful analytical information that they could then use to make critical business decisions. Furthermore, they wondered if they could consolidate and integrate their data into a viable knowledgebase for their organizations. Indeed, these would be difficult questions to answer.

IBM proposed the idea of a data warehouse, which, as originally conceived, would allow organizations to access data stored in any number of nonrelational databases. They were unsuccessful in their first attempts at implementing data warehouses, primarily because of the complexities and performance problems associated with such a task. It has been only recently that the possibility of implementing a data warehouse has become more viable and practical. Bill Inmon, widely regarded as the father of the data warehouse, is a strong and vocal advocate of the technology and has been instrumental in its evolution. Data warehouses are now becoming more commonplace as companies move to leverage the vast amounts of data they've stored in their databases over the years.

The Internet has had a great influence on the way organizations use databases. Many companies and businesses are using the Web to expand their consumer base, and much of the data they share with and gather from these consumers is stored in a database. The Internet has even spawned a potentially viable solution to the problem of consolidating data from various relational and nonrelational systems. eXtensible Markup Language (XML) is quickly becoming a de facto data transfer standard for sharing data across heterogeneous systems. It is platform- and system-agnostic, so a database system that can write to and read from an XML document can share data with other systems that can do the same. As the Internet continues to become a dominant force in the world of business and commerce, more and more database vendors are rushing to incorporate XML capabilities into their products.


I've really only pricked the surface of XML; it does far more than I've suggested in this brief introduction.

A Final Note

RDBMSs now have a long history, and they continue to play a huge role in the way people, businesses, and organizations interact with their data. Their role is constantly expanding and evolving as data becomes more accessible via the Internet and businesses move at an ever-increasing pace to gain a presence on the Web. Numerous organizations are heavily invested in their relational database systems, and they are not likely to disappear anytime soon.


Part II: The Design Process