Since the 1970’s Developers, Analysts and DBAs have been able to represent concepts and relations in the form of data through the use of generic symbols. But what is data modeling? The first time I actually heard this term I could not understand why anyone would want to display a computer on a fashion show runway. Hey, what do you expect? At that time I was a freshman in community college, and obviously this was a long time ago. I have since had the chance to learn what data modeling truly is through using it.
Data modeling is a process of breaking down information and/or requirements in to common categories called objects. Once objects start being defined then relationships start to form based on dependencies found amongst other existing objects. Currently, there are several tools on the market that help data designer actually map out objects and their relationships through the use of symbols and lines. These diagrams allow for designs to be review from several perspectives so that designers can ensure that they have the optimal data design for their project and that the design is flexible enough to allow for potential changes and/or extension in the future. Additionally these basic models can always be further refined to show different levels of details depending on the target audience through the use of three different types of models.
- Conceptual Data Model(CDM)
Conceptual Data Models include all key entities and relationships giving a viewer a high level understanding of attributes. Conceptual data model are created by gathering and analyzing information from various sources pertaining to a project during the typical planning phase of a project.
- Logical Data Model (LDM)
Logical Data Models are conceptual data models that have been expanded to include implementation details pertaining to the data that it will store. Additionally, this model typically represents an origination’s business requirements and business rules by defining various attribute data types and relationships regarding each entity. This additional information can be directly translated to the Physical Data Model which reduces the actual time need to implement it.
- Physical Data Model(PDMs)
Physical Data Model are transformed Logical Data Models that include the necessary tables, columns, relationships, database properties for the creation of a database. This model also allows for considerations regarding performance, indexing and denormalization that are applied through database rules, data integrity.
Further expanding on why we actually use models in modern application/database development can be seen in the benefits that data modeling provides for data modelers and projects themselves,
Benefits of Data Modeling according to Applied Information Science
- Abstraction that allows data designers remove concepts and ideas form hard facts in the form of data. This gives the data designers the ability to express general concepts and/or ideas in a generic form through the use of symbols to represent data items and the relationships between the items.
- Transparency through the use of data models allows complex ideas to be translated in to simple symbols so that the concept can be understood by all viewpoints and limits the amount of confusion and misunderstanding.
- Effectiveness in regards to tuning a model for acceptable performance while maintaining affordable operational costs. In addition it allows systems to be built on a solid foundation in terms of data.
I shudder at the thought of a world without data modeling, think about it? Data is everywhere in our lives. Data modeling allows for optimizing a design for performance and the reduction of duplication. If one was to design a database without data modeling then I would think that the first things to get impacted would be database performance due to poorly designed database and there would be greater chances of unnecessary data duplication that would also play in to the excessive query times because unneeded records would need to be processed. You could say that a data designer designing a database is like a box of chocolates. You will never know what kind of database you will get until after it is built.