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Jargon Buster of Oracle

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Whether you're an Oracle database administrator or a SQL database designer, you talk the same talk to a large degree because nearly all databases follow ANSI (American National Standards Institute). Consider this list your first lesson in general database jargon, with more to follow when we get to the DB2 and SQL sections later.

Database server-Typically used as a synonym for RDBMS or DBMS. This term may also refer to the main machine or set of machines on which the database server software and your company's data reside.

Database client-Typically, any computers running software that accesses the database server.The software might be a generic productivity package like Crystal Reports or an application specific front end, such as an order entry system.

Table-A set of information about a specific data object in a database. RDBMS tables are composed of rows and columns of data, similar to the tables you may have constructed in HTML or a word processor. For example, you might have a Customer table that contains information, such as Customer ID, Customer Name, Customer Billing Street Address, Customer Sales Contact, and Last Purchase Date about each of your company's customers. When doing logical database design, these tabular sets of data are often called entities.

View-A logical grouping of information from a database, which may include a subset of rows and/or columns from a single table or from a combination of multiple tables. For example, a database might contain a Customer table and a New Customer view, which is defined as all the rows from Customer that were added on 1/1/2000 or later.

Column-A type of information stored in a table. For example, Customer ID, Customer Name, Last Purchase Date, and so on would each be columns in the customer table. Each of those individual pieces of information, such as Customer ID, would be contained in one column. A column is assigned a specific data type, such as character, integer, or floating point number, and all rows' data in that column must be of the assigned type. In logical database design lingo, a column is often referred to as an attribute.

Row-A specific occurrence of a set of data in a table. For example, one customer's data represents one row in the Customer table. In logical database design lingo, a specific row of a table is also known as an instance.

Relationship-An association between two tables, which is described by connecting one or more fields (called a foreign key) in one table with one or more fields that are the primary key of another table. Relationships can be 1 to 1 (for each row in this table, there is one corresponding row in the other table), 1 to many (for each row in this table, there are one or more corresponding rows in the other table), or many to many (for each row in this table, there are zero or more corresponding rows in the other table and for each row in the other table, there are zero or more corresponding rows in the first table).

Key-Identifier of a record in a table and/or a means of linking a field in one table to a field in another table. The two main types of keys are primary keys and foreign keys. A primary key is a unique identifier for one particular row of a particular table. A foreign key is a link from one row of one table to another row in another table.
Index-A list of pointers to individual records (or records themselves) in a table, which are sorted in a specific order for quick retrieval in that order. For example, a customer table that contains customer ID, customer name, customer street address, customer city, customer state, and customer zip might have an index on customer zip, so that customer data can be retrieved quickly in zip code order.

Transaction-A logical unit of work in a database system that generally consists of multiple modifications to the database (either multiple tables or multiple records in a table or both). Most large system databases, such as DB2 and Oracle, have excellent support for transaction processing. If a transaction is started, and fails, it rolls back to the original state.

Additional Resources

These following sections provide you with some additional information about database administration and design, including related terminology, books, and newsgroups.


A look at the shelves in your local bookstore will convince you that Oracle must be a popular database. It is second only to Microsoft's database platforms in terms of the number of available reference and tutorial books, which range from introductory level to relatively advanced. Some available books include:

Beginner Book Titles

Hernandez, Michael J. Database Design for Mere Mortals: A Hands-On Guide to Relational Database Design. Addison-Wesley, 1997. ISBN 0201694719.

Harrington, Jan L. Relational Database Design Clearly Explained. Morgan-Kaufmann Publishers, 1998. ISBN 0123264251.

Advanced Books

Devraj,Venkat S.,and Ravi Balwada. Oracle 24x7 Tips and Techniques. McGraw-Hill (Oracle Press), 1999. ISBN 0072119993.

Allen, Christopher, Jason S. Couchman, and Lakshmana N. Rao. Oracle Certified Professional Application Developer Exam Guide. Osborne/McGraw-Hill, 1999. ISBN 0072119756.

Niemiec, Rich, Joe Trezzo, Richard J. Niemiec, and Bradley D. Brown. Oracle Performance Tuning Tips and Techniques. Osborne/McGraw-Hill, 1999. ISBN 0078824346.

Snowdon, Nick.Oracle Programming with Visual Basic. Sybex, Inc, 1998. ISBN 0782123228.

Ault, Michael R. Oracle8 Black Book.The Coriolis Group, 1998. ISBN1576101878.

Self-Study Options

As with most technology training, self-study is a viable option for those who cannot, for one reason or another, attend formal classes. First and foremost, get your hands on the product. If you do not currently have access to the Oracle RDBMS, you can download trial versions of many Oracle products from Oracle s Web site at, acquire an introductory Oracle book or two (some of these are mentioned in this article in the "Books" section) and perhaps a certification study guide. Review the Web sites mentioned in this article (and any others you might find through links at these sites) for specific information as you use the product, study, and run into questions.
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