Edgar F. Codd at IBM invented the relational database in 1970. Referred to as RDBMS, the relational model extended two previous database systems, the hierarchical and the network models. After Codd’s development, “prototype RDBMS were developed at IBM and UC-Berkeley, and several vendors were offering relational database products shortly thereafter.”
The relational model is based on the structure of a database. A database is simply a collection of one or more relations or tables with columns and rows. The use of set theory allows for data to be structured in a series of tables that has both columns and rows. Each column corresponds to an attribute of that relation, while each row corresponds to a record that contains data values for an entity.
The main elements of RDBMS are based on Ted Codd’s 13 rules for a relational system, the concept of relational integrity, and normalization. The three fundamentals of a relational database are that all information must be held in the form of a table, where all data are described using data values. The second fundamental is that each value found in the table columns does not repeat. The final fundamental is the use of Standard Query Language (SQL).
Benefits of RDBMS are that the system is simple, flexible, and productive. Because the tables are simple, data is easier to understand and communicate with others. RDBMS are flexible because users do not have to use predefined keys to input information. Also, RDBMS are more productive because SQL is easier to learn. This allows users to spend more time inputting instead of learning. More importantly, RDBMS’s biggest advantage is the ease with which users can create and access data and extend it if needed. After the original database is created, new data categories can be added without the existing application being changed.
Today, the relational model is the dominant data model as well as the foundation for the leading DBMS products, which include IBM’s DB2 family, Informix, Oracle, Sybase, Microsoft’s Access and SQLServer, as well as FoxBase and Paradox. RDBMS represent close to a multibillion-dollar industry alone.