Database Architecture

An early proposal for a standard terminology and general architecture for database systems was produced in 1971 by the DBTG (Data Base Task Group) appointed by the Conference on Data Systems and Languages (CODASYL, 1971). The DBTG recognized the need for a two level approach with a system view called the schema and user views called subschema. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Standards Planning and Requirements Committee (SPARC) produced a similar terminology mid architecture in 1975 (ANSI 1975). ANSI-SPARC recognized the need for a three level approach with a system catalog.

There are following three levels or layers of DBMS architecture:

  • External Level
  • Conceptual Level
  • Internal Level

Objective of the Three Level Architecture 

The objective of the three level architecture is to separate each user’s view of the database from the Way the database is physically represented. There are several reasons why this separation is desirable: 

  • Each user should be able to access the same data, but have a different customized view of the data. Each user should be able to change the way he or she views the data, and this change should not affect other users.
  • Users should not have to deal directly with physical database storage details, such as indexing or hashing. In other words a user’s interaction with the database should be independent of storage considerations.
  • The Database Administrator (DBA) should be able to change the database storage structures without affecting the user’s views.
  • The internal structure of the database should be unaffected by changes to the physical aspects of storage, such as the changeover to a new storage device.
  • The DBA should be able to change the conceptual structure of the database without affecting all users.

External Level or View level 

It is the users’ view of the database. This level describes that part of the database that is relevant to each user. External level is the one which is closest to the end users. This level deals with the way in which individual users vie\v data. Individual users are given different views according to the user’s requirement.

A view involves only those portions of a database which are of concern to a user. Therefore same database can have different views for different users. The external view insulates users from the details of the internal and conceptual levels. External level is also known as the view level. In addition different views may have different representations of the same data. For example, one user may view dates in the form (day, month, year), while another may view dates as (year, month, day).

Conceptual Level or Logical level 

It is the community view of the database. This level describes what data is stored in the database and the relationships among the data. The middle level in the three level architecture is the conceptual level. This level contains the logical structure of the entire database as seen by the DBA. It is a complete view of the data requirements of the organization that is independent of any storage considerations. The conceptual level represents:

  • All entities, their attributes, and their relationships;

An Entity is an object whose information is stored in the database. For example, in student database the entity is student. An attribute is a characteristic of interest about an entity.

For example, in case of student database Roll No, Name, Class, Address etc. are attributes of entity student.

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  • The constraints on the data;
  • Semantic information about the data;
  • Security and integrity information.

The conceptual level supports each external view, in that any data available to a user must be contained in, or derivable from, the conceptual level. However, this level must not contain any storage dependent details. For instance, the description of an entity should contain only data types of attributes (for example, integer, real, character) and their length (such as the maximum number of digits or characters), but not any storage considerations, such as the number of bytes occupied. Conceptual level is also known as the, logical level.

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