Features and capabilities of DBMS

One can characterize a DBMS as an "attribute management system" where attributes are small chunks of information that describe something. For example, "colour" is an attribute of a car. The value of the attribute may be a color such as "red", "blue" or "silver".

Alternatively, and especially in connection with the relational model of database management, the relation between attributes drawn from a specified set of domains can be seen as being primary. For instance, the database might indicate that a car that was originally "red" might fade to "pink" in time, provided it was of some particular "make" with an inferior paint job. Such higher arity relationships provide information on all of the underlying domains at the same time, with none of them being privileged above the others.

Throughout recent history specialized databases have existed for scientific, geospatial, imaging, document storage and like uses. Functionality drawn from such applications has lately begun appearing in mainstream DBMSs as well. However, the main focus there, at least when aimed at the commercial data processing market, is still on descriptive attributes on repetitive record structures.

Thus, the DBMSs of today roll together frequently-needed services or features of attribute management. By externalizing such functionality to the DBMS, applications effectively share code with each other and are relieved of much internal complexity. Features commonly offered by database management systems include: