Can relational alegbra perform bulk operations?

From: Banana <Banana_at_Republic.com>
Date: Tue, 29 Sep 2009 11:23:29 -0700
Message-ID: <h9tjb3$r5q$1_at_news.eternal-september.org>



I'm new to relational theory, having read a C.J. Date's book but I worry that I may have picked up mistaken impression about the relational theory and thus want to validate whether my understanding is accurate or not.

Prior to reading the book, I've always had understood that anything we did in realm of relational algebra (or calculus) would be set-oriented and to lesser extent sames applies to the SQL implementation, at least in the theory (as not all vendors necessarily are consistent in the implementation). Given that any kind of update operation is logically all at once, I was quite concerned with the manners of updating itself.

Given two relvars, r and s, containing some numbers of attributes, sharing a common attribute (or in more general parlance, s relvar contains a foreign key to relvar r's candidate key), and we wish to evalulate an expression upon the relvar r and s. Assume the evaluate will include restrict, project and join, though we need not restrict to only those three operators.

Relational algebra, like ordinary algebra, can be employed in help us re-formulate the expression into a even simpler expression, with the net result that we can reduce the numbers of tuples to be evaluated as we process the expression. This can be done by examining the operators' properties such as joins having the commutative property and thus choosing the smaller relvar and evaluate its tuples against the bigger relvar's tuples. So far, so good. We can see how much relational algebra/calculus can help us optimize any kind of queries by transforming the expression.

But... I don't see any means within the relational algebra that provides a way of evaluating multiple tuples in one go. Considering that a relation is essentially a collection of propositions conforming to a given predicate, it seems necessary to evaluate each tuples to determine whether they should participate in the join or not, satisfy the restrict condition and other things. For a lack of better terms, there is no "sieve" we can employ to evaluate a set of tuples in one go.

Is the preceding paragraph accurate?

TIA. Received on Tue Sep 29 2009 - 13:23:29 CDT

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