relational database management system (RDBMS) definition

This definition is part of our Essential Guide: Guide to NoSQL databases: How they can help users meet big data needs
Contributor(s): Shawn Chin and Orjan Timan

A relational database management system (RDBMS) is a program that lets you create, update, and administer a relational database. Most commercial RDBMS's use the Structured Query Language (SQL) to access the database, although SQL was invented after the development of the relational model and is not necessary for its use.

The leading RDBMS products are Oracle, IBM's DB2 and Microsoft's SQL Server. Despite repeated challenges by competing technologies, as well as the claim by some experts that no current RDBMS has fully implemented relational principles, the majority of new corporate databases are still being created and managed with an RDBMS.

This was first published in November 2005

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