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Data Modeling Tools

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data modeling tools

Data Modeling tools assist in creating a data model. Data Modeling was initially the process of creating a framework within a database that allowed data to be stored and researched using the data’s relationships. However, the term “Data Modeling” has expanded to include software engineering. A well-designed database (or app) makes the system more efficient, reduces human error, and minimizes internal conflicts.

It is important to note that data being gathered, or coming in, must be transformed into a specific format before being stored in the database. The data model must include a tool that will convert differing formats into the one used by the database. The transformation of data to a single format is key to avoiding the loss of crucial information and streamlining the system as it works.

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Data Modeling tools help to make Data Modeling quick and efficient. Many of these tools can automatically build a database framework and can reverse engineer an existing database into a model. These tools help in creating a high-performance database, generating useful reports, and developing a Data Definition Language (DDL).

Software Development Using Data Modeling Tools 

Every software application relies on using stored data. It may be a simple list of the user’s preferences or a complicated database with several relationships and tables. If an application uses only a list of the user’s preferences, database modeling tasks are simple and minimal. But when the application is working with a database having hundreds of tables, Data Modeling becomes a critical task

In modern software development there are three main ways of storing data:

  • Relational databases use entity models: Made from tables (or tabular data), they use software solutions that include MySQL and PostgreSQL.
  • Object databases use NoSQL: Made up of value pairs and lacking a strict schema, they use several solutions that include Amazon DynamoDB, Firebase, and MongoDB.
  • Graph databases use a Tree model: Often used within social networks, a graph database uses nodes and edges, and solutions include Dgraph, Grakn.ai, and Neo4j.

The Need for Data Modeling Tools

Data has been described as an extremely valuable asset for the majority of modern businesses. As a consequence, the database a business uses to store that data has become quite important. The use of data analytics to support strategic business decisions requires having a database design that supports the business’s goals. A database design is based on Data Modeling and is created using Data Modeling tools. 

Data Modeling tools are software applications that help in creating a database structure (often from diagrams), making it easier to form an efficient data structure that fits the organization’s needs. The right tools can help with:

  • Providing easy data mapping throughout the organization
  • Providing infographics 
  • Creating data visualizations
  • Ensuring data is accurately represented
  • Developing flowcharts
  • Designing the database
  • Creating diagrams
  • Identifying missing and redundant data
  • Improving communications between app developers and business intelligence teams

The Challenges of Data Modeling Tools

Data Modeling tools are an important part of creating a functional database and developing software. This is because the intelligent use of data is necessary for the growth and success of any modern business. Whether the goal is understanding customer behavior or making smarter marketing decisions, Data Management has become an important part of modern business. Understanding and investing in useful Data Modeling tools is crucial. 

There are several Data Modeling tools available. Some have evolved significantly, offering dashboards and useful reports, but the majority have significant limitations, such as not being able to share data or provide simultaneous collaboration between app developers. In some cases, reverse engineering is not included.

If the modeling tools are not used intelligently, inefficiency and chaos can result. A badly designed database has the following problems:

  • Related data is spread over several tables, and updates must be made in multiple locations 
  • Data is inconsistent
  • The database is unnecessarily complicated and contains several ad hoc solutions 
  • There is “hidden” information in the database
  • The database is slow, clumsy, and inflexible 

Selecting the Best Tools

After determining the organization’s needs, it’s time to choose from the various Data Modeling tools that are available. Be sure to understand the key features of the various tools and how well they integrate with the current database.

Make a list of Data Modeling tools and their features, and compare them to find the best fit. (Some advisors have suggested a pen and paper are important Data Modeling tools at this stage.) When selecting tools, there are some basic features that should be included:

  • Scalability: As a project develops, its needs change. This often requires scalable storage and a scalable usage of computing power. It is important to select a Data Modeling tool that supports this kind of expansion. 
  • Integration: While some Data Modeling tools may use a proprietary format, others do not, instead using a generic format. Research the modeling tool carefully and establish that the tool is compatible with the organization’s computer system.
  • User community: The majority of tools have a supporting user community, which provides answers to your questions. A tool that isn’t isolated and comes with a large support community can be quite helpful.

Popular Tools to Explore

Data Modeling tools may share certain features, such as forward and reverse engineering, but there may also be features unique to the specific modeling tool, such as metadata management. The tools selected should be compatible with your system and user-friendly. Listed below are some of the more popular Data Modeling tools: 

Vertabelo: Focuses on visual modeling by creating flowcharts. The database can be represented from a variety of perspectives, and the visual models can be shared easily. It offers reverse engineering, and a free selection of educational articles and videos on database development.  

Lucidchart: A web-based platform, requiring no download, that focuses on diagrams, and allows its users to collaborate with other team members on drawing, reviewing, and sharing diagrams and flowcharts. Because it is cloud-based, scalability is not a concern.

SQL Server Database Modeler: A popular database design tool that can be used to redesign a database by importing the current, existing database. It offers both forward engineering and reverse engineering. This tool is easy to use and is useful for both small and large businesses. It offers color in its flowcharts.

DeZign for Databases: Described as easy to use and robust, plus provides customizable model reports. It includes a pan and zoom window during the design process and can compare the real database with the database model. 

Erwin Data Modeler: A well-rounded and very popular Data Modeling tool. It is used to standardize data. It also supports visualizing, designing, and gathering data from a variety of sources. The Erwin Data Modeler is used by many industries, including government, health care, finance, and retail. It can work with structured and unstructured data from cloud and data warehouses.

Aqua Data Studio ER Modeler: This tool has a focus on entity-relationship modeling. It comes with a feature used to create models for a relational database management system. It offers forward and reverse engineering for converting data into SQL Scripts. The Aqua Data Studio ER Modeler also provides support for multiple languages and databases.

DbWrench: A database design and synchronization tool. It supports a variety of databases and operating systems and is used for creating and modifying databases. It streamlines several common database tasks. DbWrench can be used to produce better database designs and to visualize existing database designs. It has a feature providing forward and reverse engineering of the databases. 

HeidiSQL: An open-source and free Data Modeling tool that is designed to be user-friendly. Being free is its primary attraction, and it lacks any noteworthy unique features. Additionally, it has some stability issues, though with no adverse effects, and it can be restarted to correct the problem. (If your needs are simple, this free tool might be useful.)

Archi: Open-sourced and free. It is a Data Modeling toolkit that supports several models, including those useful for small and medium-sized businesses. The toolkit includes ArchiMate, a visual notation language used to explain complex systems. 

Image used under license from Shutterstock.com

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