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Understanding Lean ERP
Part 3 of 6

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Lean Manufacturing, Basics, Principles, Techniques

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The Relational Database Management System (RDBMS)

The relational database model now dominates the ERP systems market. Where information systems were once made up of flat files that were modified and updated by programs developed from the ground up, the RDBMS can be defined as "a system of data storage and retrieval that is based upon the relational theory of consistency, redundancy, and derivability, and that generally includes advanced database management features such as security and recovery support, transactional processing, query capability, and an advanced programming environment."

We believe that the strategic qualifiers for RDBMS technology are reliability, scalability, and ease of administration.

RDBMS systems have become popular because they embed the advanced data management features such as security and crash recov­ery within the RDBMS product. Since.today's ERP. systems are both mission-critical and deployed enterprise-wide, the information systems manager does not want to be at the mercy of programmers or help desk personnel to maintain their critical applications. Security and system maintenance functions need to be well documented, proven, and well tested.

Transactions have a specific meaning in the RDBMS environment. Transaction processing gives the RDBMS the ability to "back out" of a transaction in the event of a system interrupt. In a very real-world en­vironment, this means, for example, that if the automated teller ma­chine goes down before giving you your money but after deducting that amount from your account, the RDBMS provides the ability to back out your transaction. Programmatically this is handled by record­ing both a "before image" and an "after image" of the database as each event within the transaction is processed. If the database goes down, then the imaging file is rolled back to the point of the last completed transaction. This is a very powerful processing tool, but it also requires considerable computing.

From a user perspective, the promise of a relational database is that you need to enter the data once and only once. Common RDBMS fea­tures such as the data dictionary and built-in data validation routines take over the monitoring of data integrity. Compliance with "open stan­dards" (such as ODBC) allows the RDBMS to communicate and share data with other applications. In addition, many of today's advanced RDBMS environments offer very sophisticated yet user-friendly tools for development.

In summary, advanced database management systems provide a highly reliable environment in which to manage large, transaction-in-tensive, and mission-critical applications, coupled with an easy-to-use system management and applications development environment. It is clear that the RDBMS model is one of the most viable technologies available.

The durability of an RDBMS is best defined by its scalability—the ability to support both single and multiuser implementations, as well as support deployment on both large and small networks and distrib­uted environments. A highly scalable RDBMS means that, not only will your technology investment be protected as your grow, but your RDBMS can be leveraged for control and development of other appli­cations across your organization, not just for your ERP system.

When considering an investment in RDBMS technology, you should take into account the complexity and administrative support required (there are many people making a lot of money as "database adminis­trators"), the transaction processing power required, and the ease of use of the development environment. Some databases are better at some aspects than others. It all depends on your specific needs.

To Be Continued


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