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Practical Issues in Database Management: A Reference for the Thinking Practitionerby Fabian Pascal
The computer industry--and its database sector in particular--resembles the fashion industry: It is driven by fads. And more often than not, vendors profit from the accelerated obsolescence on which fads are predicated. It's the users, however, not the vendors, who pay through the nose. The vendors, helped by the trade media, can profitably exploit ignorance and obscure serious product deficiencies and the questionable practices they induce by simply luring users to the next fad--the Internet being just the latest one.
The Internet is as much a panacea for database management as the PC, SQL, client/server, object orientation, "universal" and multidimensional DBMS, data warehousing, and mining were before it. Java virtual machines, application servers, and browser-based development tools are in the application, not database, domain, and problems caused by an unsound database foundation cannot and should not be resolved at the application level. Moreover, ad hoc DBMS support for Web pages, Microsoft Word documents, spreadsheets, and the like-- also referred to as "complex data types" and "unstructured data"--adds serious complications and problems of its own (see Appendix 1D for an Internet example). Sound database technology should be a foundation for the Internet, not the other way around. But sadly, the database field is in disarray, if not in outright regression.
Many, if not most, difficulties in database management are due to the persistent failure by both DBMS vendors and database users to educate themselves and rely on a sound, scientific foundation in their respective practices. The ad hoc, cookbook approach to database management that results is due in large part to the general business culture, and particularly to the way in which practitioners are introduced to the field. A large majority are self-taught and become DBAs, application developers, database consultants, and even DBMS designers via work with some specific DBMS software. Unexposed to database concepts, principles, and methods, practitioners are unaware of the field's fundamentals, or assume they know them already. But fundamentals are not product- or vendor-specific--and intentionally so: Their generality is precisely what makes them useful. Fundamentals are deemed "theory" and, therefore, not practical. Under industry pressures, even academic programs are becoming increasingly vocational in character, focusing on product training, rather than on database educa-tion. For example:
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