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Kinds of Models

Software developers use a wide variety of models in practice, including the following:

  • Structural models—models of data structures and relationships.

  • State-transition models—models of stimuli that occur and a system's response to them (time-related behavior).

  • Functional models—models of the computation to be performed.

Of the various kinds of models, structural models are the most helpful for database applications, and hence the only kind of model I discuss. From now on, the term model will denote a structural model.

I have seen some people model the functionality of an application and then try to devise a database. A functional approach can be helpful for programming applications, but it is poorly suited for designing databases. You cannot discover deep issues of structure and relationships by merely thinking about process. A database application revolves about a database; so, too, should your model. Once you have a structural model in place, it is of course helpful and appropriate to test the model by thinking about functionality.

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