database management system (DBMS)

A database management system (DBMS), sometimes just called a database manager, is a program that lets one or more computer users create and access data in a database. The DBMS manages user requests (and requests from other programs) so that users and other programs are free from having to understand where the data is physically located on storage media and, in a multi-user system, who else may also be accessing the data. In handling user requests, the DBMS ensures the integrity of the data (that is, making sure it continues to be accessible and is consistently organized as intended) and security (making sure only those with access privileges can access the data). The most typical DBMS is a relational database management system (RDBMS). A standard user and program interface is the Structured Query Language (SQL). A newer kind of DBMS is the object-oriented database management system (ODBMS).

A DBMS can be thought of as a file manager that manages data in databases rather than files in file systems. In IBM's mainframe operating systems, the nonrelational data managers were (and are, because these legacy application systems are still used) known as access methods.

A DBMS is usually an inherent part of a database product. On PCs, Microsoft Access is a popular example of a single- or small-group user DBMS. Microsoft's SQL Server is an example of a DBMS that serves database requests from multiple (client) users. Other popular DBMSs (these are all RDBMSs, by the way) are IBM's DB2, Oracle's line of database management products, and Sybase's products.

IBM's Information Management System (IMS) was one of the first DBMSs. A DBMS may be used by or combined with transaction managers, such as IBM's Customer Information Control System (CICS).

Contributor(s): Simon Christiansen
This was last updated in September 2005
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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