Database Applications and the Web

With the growth of the Web over the past decade, there has been a similar growth in services that are accessible over the Web. Many new services are web sites that are driven from data stored in databases. Examples of web database applications include news services that provide access to large data repositories, e-commerce applications such as online stores, and business-to-business (B2B) support products.

Database applications have been around for over 30 years, and many have been deployed using network technology long before the Web existed. The point-of-service systems used by bank tellers are obvious examples of early networked database applications. Terminals are installed in bank branches, and access to the bank's central database application is provided through a wide area network. These early applications were limited to organizations that could afford the specialized terminal equipment and, in some cases, to build and own the network infrastructure.

The Web provides cheap, ubiquitous networking. It has an existing user base with standardized web browser software that runs on a variety of ordinary computers. For developers, web server software is freely available that can respond to requests for both documents and programs. Several scripting languages have been adapted or designed to develop programs to use with web servers and web protocols.

This tutorial is about bringing together the Web and databases. Most web database applications do this through three layers of application logic. At the base is a database management system (DBMS) and a database. At the top is the client web browser used as an interface to the application. Between the two lies most of the application logic, usually developed with a web server-side scripting language that can interact with the DBMS, and can decode and produce HTML used for presentation in the client web browser.

We begin by discussing the three-tier architecture model used in many web database applications. We then introduce the nature of the Web and its underlying protocols and then discuss each of the three tiers and their components in detail. Alexa and Dave's Online Wines, our case study application, is introduced at the end of this tutorial.