T-SQL Tuesday #131: Data Analogies, or: Explain Databases Like I’m Five!

Words: 906

Time to read: ~ 5 minutes

Welcome to T-SQL Tuesday! This month’s host is Rob Volk (blog|twitter) and the topic is Data Analogies.

Analogies

Come in! Come in, my boy!
Now, your father sent you to me to explain what I used to do.
Well, I was a DBA, my boy!
What do you mean “what does that do”? I took care of the databases! I made sure that they were looked after, that they had vim and vigour, and that they didn’t go down.

What? No, I don’t mean “down-down”, it’s not a direction! I mean that they didn’t go offline. No, not “off-off”, well not quite… It was my duty to ensure that they were available. Got it? No?

Database Administration

Well, let’s take that whiskey cabinet over there Jas…Jaeysin. Let us say that the whiskey cabinet is our database, and it is our job to see that it is never empty. We do that by lots of ways; by checking on it and making sure that nothing is alarming, like empty bottles. We check that there is space if someone wants to add more whiskey and that anyone who wants something from it, can get it. Like me, hehe.

What? You don’t understand how that’s like being a DBA? Well think about it my boy, I would check on the databases, make sure nothing was alarming, and that the data was always available for whoever wanted it.

Security

What’s that? You want some? Ho ho, my boy, you are one for jests. I tell you what, try opening the cupboard door on the left. Yes, the one where you can see all the sticks and cherries through the glass. Not a problem for you, was it? Put back the cherry, please. And wipe your hands…NOT ON THE GLASS!
Nevermind, my boy, nevermind, I shouldn’t have put the soda water in a dangerous place like that…inside a cupboard…away from the ledge. Try and open the right cupboard door now. Yes, the one with the fancy bottles and the shiny lights. Yes, I’m aware it’s locked. Now see, you cannot open that door but I can because I have permission to open that door.
That was another part of my job, making sure that people had the right permission to get what they wanted, and that people without permission could not.

What’s that? Who decides on the permissions? Well, back then, it was a business decision. Where those higher up in standing would pick, and I would have to follow their instructions. Now, I’m in charge.

What do you mean that’s not what your father says? Right, well, I’ll be having a few words with him, and we’ll see more about this “under his partner’s thumb” business. No, I can’t open it either. Because I don’t have the key. Yeah well, I may be db_owner, but not sysadmin… Nevermind.

Performance

What else did I do? Well, I made sure those who wanted data from the database knew where they could get the data and could get the data promptly.
Well, do you see the whiskey cabinet? Yes, the one on the right. Yes, the one you’re not allowed open. Yes, you’re allowed to look…oi! Quit your cheek, or I’ll add that to the list of things I’ll have to talk to your father about.
Now, if someone were to go to that cabinet wanting a nice Scotch, they only have to reach into the middle shelf, and they would have a whole choice of Scotch to choose from. I know that because I know that my middle shelf is only for Scotch.
Same with the databases; I helped people to create tables to hold their similar data the same way I choose that shelf to have my Scotch.

And see the way that the bottles get fancier as you scan your eyes from left to right. I ordered that shelf, so the most expensive bottles were all the way over there on the right. And, the least expensive bottles are all over to the left.
Same with the databases; I would create indexes so that people could go to what they wanted, whether that be the “expensive bottles” or not.
No more looking through the entire table for what they want, they knew exactly where to go and knew when they could stop looking as well.

What? Indexes, my boy, an index. No, it hasn’t nothing to do with your finger! Wait! You may be on to something there. Tell me, have you ever run your index finger down a phone book? A phone book. You’ve never heard of it? Hold on…this thing? Ever seen this? Big yellow book, lots of information? Yes, I know we have Google, nevermind.

Redundancy

Was that it? No lad, that was not it. The world of data is vast and open. So much more than what an analogy using a whiskey cabinet can provide. But I will leave you with one more analogy; Redundancy. It’s always essential to have a redundant copy of your data, a recovery plan if a disaster were ever to strike.
Open that desk drawer for me, my boy. Yes, it’s another bottle of whiskey. A redundant backup, if you would. Now I believe I see your father pull into the drive, so it is time for you to leave. I shall go see if my backup can still be restored.

Goodbye, you little disaster.