Federated database system

A federated database system is a type of meta-database management system (DBMS), which transparently maps multiple autonomous database systems into a single federated database. The constituent databases are interconnected via a computer network and may be geographically decentralized. Since the constituent database systems remain autonomous, a federated database system is a contrastable alternative to the (sometimes daunting) task of merging several disparate databases. A federated database, or virtual database, is a composite of all constituent databases in a federated database system. There is no actual data integration in the constituent disparate databases as a result of data federation.

Through data abstraction, federated database systems can provide a uniform user interface, enabling users and clients to store and retrieve data from multiple noncontiguous databases with a single query—even if the constituent databases are heterogeneous. To this end, a federated database system must be able to decompose the query into subqueries for submission to the relevant constituent DBMSs, after which the system must composite the result sets of the subqueries. Because various database management systems employ different query languages, federated database systems can apply wrappers to the subqueries to translate them into the appropriate query languages.

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McLeod and Heimbigner[1] were among the first to define a federated database system in the mid 1980s.

A FDBS is one which “define[s] the architecture and interconnect[s] databases that minimize central authority yet support partial sharing and coordination among database systems”.[1] This description might not accurately reflect the McLeod/Heimbigner[1] definition of a federated database. Rather, this description fits what McLeod/Heimbigner called a composite database. McLeod/Heimbigner’s federated database is a collection of autonomous components that make their data available to other members of the federation through the publication of an export schema and access operations; there is no unified, central schema that encompasses the information available from the members of the federation.

Among other surveys,[2] practitioners define a Federated Database as a collection of cooperating component systems which are autonomous and are possibly heterogeneous.

The three important components of an FDBS are autonomy, heterogeneity and distribution.[2] Another dimension which has also been considered is the Networking Environment Computer Network, e.g., many DBSs over a LAN or many DBSs over a WAN update related functions of participating DBSs (e.g., no updates, nonatomic transitions, atomic updates).

A DBMS can be classified as either centralized or distributed. A centralized system manages a single database while distributed manages multiple databases. A component DBS in a DBMS may be centralized or distributed. A multiple DBS (MDBS) can be classified into two types depending on the autonomy of the component DBS as federated and non federated. A nonfederated database system is an integration of component DBMS that are not autonomous. A federated database system consists of component DBS that are autonomous yet participate in a federation to allow partial and controlled sharing of their data.

Federated architectures differ based on levels of integration with the component database systems and the extent of services offered by the federation. A FDBS can be categorized as loosely or tightly coupled systems.

  • Loosely Coupled require component databases to construct their own federated schema. A user will typically access other component database systems by using a multidatabase language but this removes any levels of location transparency, forcing the user to have direct knowledge of the federated schema. A user imports the data they require from other component databases and integrates it with their own to form a federated schema.
  • Tightly coupled system consists of component systems that use independent processes to construct and publicize an integrated federated schema.

Multiple DBS of which FDBS are a specific type can be characterized along three dimensions: Distribution, Heterogeneity and Autonomy. Another characterization could be based on the dimension of networking, for example single databases or multiple databases in a LAN or WAN.

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