In this definition...
Database software, also known as a database management system (DBS), is a program used to create, manage and maintain databases hosted on hardware servers or in the cloud. It’s primarily used for storing, modifying, extracting and searching for information within a database. Database software is also used to implement cybersecurity measures to protect against malware, viruses and other security threats.
Most database software includes a graphical user interface (GUI) consisting of structured fields and tabular forms that give users a centralized view of the data present in a database and the tools to manipulate and query it. Structured Query Language (SQL) commands are also typically used to interact with databases through the software. Administrators input SQL queries to prompt the system to perform an action, such as retrieving a specific set of data. However, there are also databases that use other means for retrieving information in addition to SQL.
The most widely-used databases consist of a basic set of columns and rows that display information retrieved using SQL. However, more complex software has been developed in recent years to accommodate the massive amounts of unique data collected by organizations, especially enterprises. These tools are multi-layered, use a variety of query languages and support more storage formats, such as XML.
Database software is available both as a commercial product and open source software. Commercial options often have the advantage of vendor support. While open source software may lack this support, they make up for it with more customization and free downloads.
Charles W. Bachman developed what is considered to be the first database software management system in 1960. At the time it was called the Integrated Database system. IBM quickly saw the value of a program that could easily access and pull information from a database and set out to make their own. Soon after, they developed the IBM IMS (information management system). These two programs are largely considered to be the forerunners of modern database management software.
As more companies tried to follow suit, the market became flooded with general use databases that lacked standard functionality. As a result, Bachman formed the Database Task Group in the early 1970s to create a standard for this software that manifested as the Common Business Oriented Language (COBOL). However, these systems were still complex and required substantial training to manage.
In the 1980s, relational databases hit the market. These tools offered a much simpler system that could be implemented by a variety of organizations without the need for database experts. This quickly became the industry standard. These first relational databases used SQL for database interaction. One drawback of SQL is that its complexity meant slow slow performance, especially when it came to scaling up databases.
The largest leap in database software technology after the creation of relational databases came about in the early 2000s. At this time, large web companies, such as Google and Yahoo required high scalability and performance to deliver their products to users. The answer was to build distributed, non-relational databases that used NoSQL. These databases were designed for enterprise-scale storage and high-performance data processing.
Because of cloud computing, cloud-based database software in the form of software-as-a-service (SaaS) has become a popular option. It offers more scalability to handle massive amounts of data required by modern organizations and frees up company resources because it is typically managed by the service provider.
Part of what allows database software to improve efficiency and maintain security is the ability to assign roles to users that authorize or restrict access to certain portions of a network. This ensures that users only have access to the assets they need to do their job. The primary roles include the following:
Database software can be delivered in two ways depending on an organization’s infrastructure. On-premise software is deployed at an organization’s physical location on hardware-based servers. It’s typically managed by the company’s internal IT department. On-premise database software generally allows for more customization.
The other option is cloud-hosting delivered as SaaS. One large benefit depending on an organization’s resources is that the software is typically maintained by the service provider, freeing up IT teams to focus on other efforts. It is also more scalable than on-premise software, as it’s not limited by hardware.
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There are multiple different types of database software that are typically broken down into six categories:
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Database software is used for a number of reasons across many industries. Because they have so many uses, there are dozens of database software programs available. Here are a few of the most popular:
Microsoft SQL Server: Microsoft’s SQL server is one of the oldest players in the game, first released in 1989. It’s mainly used for Windows-based systems but also supports Linux operating systems (OS).
Oracle RDBMS: This tool is one of the most popular database software options for enterprise organizations as it can support large databases but maintains good performance. It can support Windows, Linux and UNIX systems
IBM DB2: IBM DB2 was also an early contender in the database software space, introduced in 1983. It’s praised for its simple deployment, installation and operation. It also supports Windows, Linux and UNIX systems.
Altibase: This is an open source database software solution but is also a high performing, enterprise-grade tool. It uses an in-memory database to offer high speeds and is one of the few solutions that provides scale-out technology and sharding.
MySQL: MySQL is an open source relational database tool. It’s common for web hosting providers to bundle MySQL with their offerings making it a popular tool for web developers. It can handle robust sets of data but its relatively simple deployment and management make it a good option for smaller organizations and independent web developers as well.
AmazonRDS: As an offering from Amazon Web Services (AWS), Amazon Relational Database Service (AmazonRDS) is a cloud-based database-as-a-service (DBaaS). It offers high scalability, dedicated secure connections and it creates and stores backups automatically.
Knack: Released in 2010, Knack is a relatively new database software tool. It’s another DBaaS offering that is easy to use. It allows users to structure, connect and extend data without the need for any coding. It’s already gained a notable portfolio of clients, such as Spotify, Capital One and Intel.
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UPDATED: This article was updated April 2, 2021 by Web Webster.