Have You Designed a Database from Scratch?

One of the things that I try to regularly promote is the #SQLNewBlogger project from Ed Leighton-Dick (and #SQLNewBlogger hashtag on Twitter). In keep a column open scanning for the tag and try to respond to those that post. I also write a series of posts under that tag, mainly beginner type posts, that showcase things I think are good, basic topics that I’d want a DBA or developer to know about SQL Server. These are exactly the types of posts that you write for your next resume (or next hiring manager).

I saw recently someone begin their blogging journey with a new post about designing a database. What struck me was this person with a lot of experience noted they had never designed a database from scratch. I’m sure that most of you have worked with a database, and have even modified various objects inside of a schema. Certainly you’ve changed the code of stored procedures or functions. I’m even sure many of you have modified tables, adding columns where you need them. After all, that’s a favorite first technique for many people that need a place to store data.

Probably the majority of you have built tables, at least temporary tables. I’m sure you spent a few minutes thinking about the columns, datatypes, etc. I’d also hope that most of you have added indexes and constraints to tables. Those are certainly skills that more people should better understand, especially the developers that work on software powered  by SQL Server. Above all, please learn how to index OLTP tables.

However, have you designed a database from scratch? Not a standalone database, but a database the actually has an API or application built against it. Have you tried to use the database and found places where your modeling was lacking? Did others complain about your design?

I know that lots of school coursework requires people to design parts of a database, but what about a full, complete database. One that fulfills the requirements to actually manage a set of data well? I’ve done a few, though admittedly, with input and help from other DBAs and developers. I am better for that, and I think that a good design requires some interaction and input from others.

With that in mind, whether you’ve built one or now, what about tackling this as a project for your own blog? Certainly there are some good problem sets out there, but I’d actually give you a new one if you’d like. The SQL Saturday site for PASS has a database behind it. How would you design a database, given the requirements that you need to support that site, and actually generate out the XML feed for the Guidebook app? Maybe that would be a fun, multi-part series that looks at your decisions for the various entities required. You’d learn something and get lots of feedback.

If you’re like to publish a series here at SQLServerCentral, let us know. We’d love to have some design series on databases that back applications, especially if you have a side project with an application.

Steve Jones

The Voice of the DBA Podcast

Listen to the MP3 Audio ( 3.2MB) podcast or subscribe to the feed at iTunes and LibSyn.

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2 Responses to Have You Designed a Database from Scratch?

  1. rsterbal says:

    A nice way to document a database can be found in the mediawiki build scripts: https://phabricator.wikimedia.org/diffusion/MW/browse/master/maintenance/mssql/tables.sql


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