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Weekly Update 6-10-2019: What are Databases?

Posted on June 10, 2019 by Anthony James Founder/CEOAnthony James Founder/CEO

This week, we’re all about databases; what they are, the different types of databases, and how to install them. While we go over what databases are and some of the various types of databases in this blog, we don’t go into how to work with them. To learn how to work with them, we suggest taking our course, Database Essentials, which goes into detail on what we cover in this blog, and also guides you through some hands-on labs where you install various databases like MongoDB, Couchbase, and more in real environments. All are handled safely inside the Linux Academy platform. 

The Importance of Databases

Companies rely heavily on databases to power their applications. For instance, Shutterfly, the popular photo publishing site, uses a non-relational database to help manage their image data. But, at the same time, they also use a relational database to help organize their customers billing information. Without those databases, Shutterfly wouldn’t be able to function. If you didn’t understand the database types mentioned, that’s OK, because we’re here to help you learn about them.
Simply put, databases store a variety of data such as usernames, email addresses, encrypted passwords, and virtually any other type of data that you can imagine. There’s a variety of databases out there. This weekly update specifically covers flat files, non-relational databases, and relational databases.
Flat files are databases that store data in plain files. Each data record is separated by delimiters, such as commas or tabs. The benefit to flat files are their simplicity, but that simplicity comes at the cost of flexibility, which makes them very limiting; similar to spreadsheets, text documents, configuration files, and things like that.
An example of a flat file would look like this:
When building an application, you often need more flexibility, which is where a database management system comes in. Database management systems are software that handle the storage, retrieval, and updating of data. Two common types are:
  • Non-relational database, or NoSQL
  • Relational database, which uses SQL (SQL stands for Structured Query Language which is a language that makes it possible to manage the requested data easily)
So when would you want to use a NoSQL database? As we talked about in the intro, Shutterfly uses NoSQL to store image metadata. This is a good use case because the image data doesn’t necessarily require a lot of structure and can be stored as a key/value pair. Some examples of NoSQL database management systems that are available are:
  • MongoDB
  • Couchbase 
  • Amazon DynamoDB
NoSQL databases are fantastic for certain use cases, but then other instances will require that you use a relational database. That’s why, in our Shutterfly example, Shutterfly uses both types of databases. In the relational database, they might have 3 separate tables:
  1. For the customer’s info
  2. For billing information 
  3. For the images that a user has uploaded
With a relational database, in one SQL command, you’re able to pull information across all of those tables which would not be as easily accomplished with a non-relational database. Some examples of relational database management systems are:
  • Postgre-SQL
  • MS-SQL
  • MySQL
Again, if you would like to learn more about databases, take a look at our new course Database Essentials and take your knowledge to a new level.

What’s New

On top of that new course, we’ve also released 15 new hands-on labs that span over 3 courses! 

And, for those looking for something to listen to, don’t forget about or multiple podcasts!

  • Coder RadioSwift Kick In The UI: We react to Apple’s big news at WWDC, check in with Mike’s explorations of Elixir, and talk some TypeScript. Plus Mike’s battles with fan noise, and why he’s doubling down on the eGPU lifestyle.
  • Linux Action NewsLinux Action News 109: Mozilla’s master strategy becomes clear, CockroachDB surrenders to the software as a service reality, while Microsoft and Oracle link up. Plus Google argues that keeping Huawei on their Android is better for all, and Chris gets sucked into Stadia.
  • LINUX UnpluggedLosing My Religion: Adopting a distro like it’s a religion is stupid. That’s one of many hard lessons we take away from Texas Linux Fest this week; we’ll share some of the best. Plus some old friends visit the show, reading eBooks on Linux, and a new Ryzen handheld.
  • User ErrorMind the Apps: It’s another #AskError special. Meditation and mindfulness, friends making obvious mistakes, and AppImage popularity. Plus cashless society, and hoarding phone apps.

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