Eurocall ' 99
Université de Franche-Comté, Besançon, France
September 15-18, 1999
Understanding, using and creating web-enabled databases
Wednesday, September 15 from 09:30 to 17:00
Room 27, PropŽdeutique, 3rd floor

Conceptualizing web-enabled databases

What is a Web-Enabled Database?

Databases are a perfect medium for managing information (Ashenfelter, 1999, p. 6). Web-enabled databases can be used for a) dynamic publishing, b) information transactions, and c) data storage and analysis. A web-enabled database is a database that can be accessed through a web page. The information stored in a database can be searched, updated, and displayed in a web browser on the fly. Hence, HTML pages generated dynamically with the help of a database will display the most current information available. Moreover, when the layout needs to be modified, there is no need to modify a huge number of web pages. Only one modification will usually be sufficient and the items/data displayed will have the new look you want.

A web-enabled database requires three essential components: A Database, A Web Server, and an Application Server.


Terminology:

What is a Database?

A database is a software program used for the collection of organized data.

Examples: Oracle, Microsoft Access, FileMaker Pro, Paradox

What is a Web Server?

A web server is hardware and software used to manage client requests (usually from a web browser) and to return documents (usually web pages) to the client.

Examples: Apache, Internet Information Server (IIS), O'Reilly, NCSA Server, WebStar , FileMaker Pro

What is a Web Application Server?

An application server is primarily used to manage client connections and direct traffic for incoming client requests to database resources.

Examples: Tango, Lasso, Cold Fusion, ASP

What is SQL?

SQL is a syntax for developing database queries.

What is ODBC?

While SQL provides a common syntax for query building, there still needs to be a protocol that can take that standard syntax and translate it into the native procedure calls to actually perform the query. The Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) standard provides an abstraction layer between the application interface and the database, which effectively hides the differences and peculiarities of each specific database. (2)

How things work together?

Browser <--> Web Server <--> CGI <--> FileMaker Pro

A browser submits a request to a web server to fulfill. All a web server does is fetch files from the hard disk. For database calls, it hands it off to a CGI to query the database. Once the results are returned from the database, the CGI then wraps HTML around the results which it then hands off to the web server which ultimately returns the result to the browser. At no point is the CGI talking directly to the browser. If there are page view problems between different browsers, it is usually in the HTML code as defined by the programmer.


References:

1) Database-Driven Websites 03/15/98
http://databases.miningco.com/library/weekly/aa031598.htm?pid=2827&cob=home
Here are the first steps you will need to take in building a database driven website, from your About.com Guide

2) Getting Started with Web Databases by John Paul Ashenfelter Feb. 26, 1999
http://webreview.com/wr/pub/1999/02/26/webdb/index.html
Introducing the WebDB column for Web Review. John Paul discusses the types of databases and some of the more common application servers available to Web developers.

3) SQL Tutorial
http://www.geocities.com/ResearchTriangle/Node/9672/sqltut.html

4) ODBC Primer
http://www.filemaker.com/products/filemakerpro/odbc-overview.html

5) What Do Application Servers Really Do? by Steve Benfield Feb, 1999 http://webreview.com/wr/pub/1999/02/26/appservers/index2.html

6) Opportunities and options for Web-enabled databasees: comparing in choosing the right software for virtual courses and communities by Chong Ho Yu, Ph.D., CNE, MCSE, Arizona State University; Angel Jannasch-Pennell, Ph.D., Arizona State University; Samuel A. DiGangi, Ph.D., Arizona State University
International Journal of Educational Technology (vol 1 no 1)



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