What Is The Relational Model? - ITU Online

What Is the Relational Model?

Definition: Relational Model

The relational model is a framework used primarily for database management where data is stored in tables known as relations. Originally introduced by Edgar F. Codd in 1970, this model organizes data into one or more tables (or “relations”) of columns and rows, with a unique key identifying each row. Rows represent records and columns can be considered as attributes of the data.


The relational model forms the basis of relational databases, which are pervasive in enterprise and internet software systems where efficient, scalable, secure data management and query handling are paramount. This model is highly favored for its simplicity and robustness in handling data integrity and complex queries. The approach uses Structured Query Language (SQL), a powerful tool for data manipulation and querying.

Features of the Relational Model

Data Structure

In the relational model, data is structured in table format. Each table, which represents an entity in the database, consists of rows and columns. Each row (tuple) represents a unique record, and each column represents an attribute of that record. Tables are defined by their schema, which describes the structure of data including data types and constraints.

Data Manipulation

SQL enables users to perform various operations such as inserting, updating, and deleting records within databases. This manipulation is conducted through straightforward commands, making the model accessible to users with various levels of expertise.

Data Integrity

The model supports data integrity rules and constraints, including primary keys, foreign keys, and unique, check, and null constraints. These ensure the accuracy and consistency of data within the database.

Data Independence

One of the foundational advantages of the relational model is data independence, which shields applications from changes in the physical storage and access strategies. This means that changes to the schema of a database do not necessitate changes to all applications that access this database.

Transaction Management

The relational model supports transactions, which are sequences of operations performed as a single logical unit of work. Transactions ensure data integrity by making sure that either all operations in the transaction are completed without error, or none are. They adhere to properties known as ACID (Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, Durability).

Benefits of the Relational Model


The use of tables is intuitively easy to understand and use. Most users can interact with relational databases through simple queries without knowing much about the underlying technologies.


Databases based on the relational model can easily be extended with new data without requiring major modifications to existing applications.

Scalability and Performance

Relational database management systems (RDBMS) are known for their capability to handle large volumes of data. Systems like Oracle, MySQL, and Microsoft SQL Server provide extensive functionality designed to manage complex queries and vast datasets efficiently.


Relational databases offer robust security features, including user authentication and authorization down to the column level. This ensures that sensitive information is protected from unauthorized access.

Use Cases of the Relational Model

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)

Relational databases are fundamental in ERP systems for managing company-wide data that includes inventory, payroll, accounting, and more.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

CRM systems utilize relational databases to manage information about customers, including contact details, interactions, and transaction histories.

E-commerce Platforms

Online stores leverage relational databases to manage product catalogs, customer orders, and inventory.

Health Care Systems

Patient records, treatment histories, and insurance information are managed securely and efficiently in relational databases within healthcare settings.

Frequently Asked Questions Related to Relational Model

What is a primary key in the relational model?

A primary key is a unique identifier for each record in a table. It must contain unique values and cannot contain null values.

How does the relational model ensure data integrity?

It ensures data integrity through primary keys, foreign keys, and other constraints that maintain consistency and accuracy of the data.

What is SQL and how is it used in relational databases?

SQL, or Structured Query Language, is a standard programming language used to manage and manipulate relational databases.

Can the relational model handle big data?

While relational databases are designed for structured data, modern RDBMS have been enhanced to handle large-scale data efficiently.

What are transactions in relational databases?

Transactions are a series of operations that are executed as a single unit to maintain database integrity.

How do relational databases manage concurrent data access?

They use locking and concurrency control mechanisms to ensure data consistency and prevent conflicts during concurrent data access.

What is data normalization?

Data normalization is a process used to reduce data redundancy and improve data integrity within relational databases.

Are there alternatives to the relational model?

Yes, other database models like NoSQL have been developed to handle unstructured data and real-time web applications.

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