Databases are omnipresent – in fact, it’s impossible to imagine a modern system landscape that doesn’t feature them as core components. Traditional relational databases specialize in managing clearly structured data. BaseX is the name of an open source, native XML database system developed in a research project at the University of Constance. The Steinbeis Transfer Center for Processing, Querying and Visualization of Very Large Datasets provides services based on BaseX for data-related problems.
Traditional solutions often have their limits, especially in highly dynamic business fields where business processes and data frequently change and need to be updated. XML has established itself as a data exchange format; using it removes the need to constantly update the architecture of cumbersome database systems in response to changing conditions and data formats. Short for Extensible Markup Language, XML is a simple and extremely flexible text format suitable for storing a wide variety of data in a form that both people and computer programs can read and edit. When business processes change, it is common practice to read out data from relational databases then edit and update it in XML format. Together with the fact that XML is a platform-independent data exchange format, this has led to an enormous rise in its use in companies. Software systems output their results in XML by default and expect input in the same format. Clearly in cases like these, the best database solutions are those that can work directly with data in XML, without needing to convert it first.
One example of this type of native XML database system is BaseX, which traces its roots back to the chair for Databases and Information Systems at University of Constance, headed by Prof. Dr. Marc H. Scholl. Spurred on by the challenge of providing optimal XML support in a database context and overcoming the various hurdles that semi-structured data like XML entails, the project team developed BaseX into a full product which now enjoys popularity around the world. During product development, the team focused on lean architecture and maximum efficiency combined with high user-friendliness – a rare quality for database systems. The project was started in 2007 by Dr. Christian Grün and since then has been driven by a dedicated development team. The overall system comprises the robust database kernel, the interactive user interface, multiple programming interfaces, plus comprehensive documentation. The basic idea behind BaseX was not to invent a new technology per se, but to leverage the findings from decades of research into traditional relational databases and apply them to XML. So the hierarchical tree structure inherent to all types of XML exists in BaseX as a relational representation. But instead of taking a superficial approach to the problem and using a relational database for storage, BaseX instead employs a special type of coding that allows XML query languages to work efficiently. The query language recommended for XML by the W3C is Xquery, and BaseX is one of the few implementations that supports all of XQuery’s official features and extensions.
XML databases are set to experience a new renaissance as part of the NoSQL movement. Many application domains are still clinging to relational database systems and forcing semi-structured (XML) data into a relational format. More and more, solutions like these are emerging as inflexible. The aim of BaseX is to standardize these processes. The team of experts at the Steinbeis Transfer Center provide professional consultation, tailored programming, system integration and training relating to BaseX and XML.