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Recommended Data Modeling Tools? 58

dnxthx asks: "After performing a fairly comprehensive web search (including Slashdot) I came to the (possibly incorrect) conclusion that there were no high-visibility sites that comprehensively reviewed and compared data modeling tools such as ER/Studio, ERWin, DeZign for Databases, System Architect, or Visio for Enterprise Architects. Since some of these tools can be quite expensive (ERWin is about $4K US it seems), I was wondering what the Slashdot community's experiences were with data modeling tools such as these, or some that our group has overlooked."
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Recommended Data Modeling Tools?

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  • by hotgazpacho ( 573639 ) on Friday December 05, 2003 @10:18PM (#7644788) Homepage Journal

    $60 USD for the download version. I used it for my last Database design project (first on MySQL, then moving that model to Postgres), and it was great. Made my life a lot easier. Available on Linux, Windows, and OS X.
  • Some options.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by maunleon ( 172815 ) on Friday December 05, 2003 @10:44PM (#7644937)
    I assume that you are working with relational databases, although you don't mention it.. (data modeling could mean a lot of things)

    Some DBMSs have some decent, albeit limited graphical design tools (MSSQL, Access..)

    together [] from borland does entity relationship diagramming, and so much more. (great tool)

    I believe IBM's rational rose [] may also do it.

    Since my job includes SQL design as a subset of my duties (i'm a developer/architect, not a DBA) these two tools are significantly more valuable than ERWin.

    I just wish I could get my boss to buy them. :)

  • dia & tedia2sql (Score:5, Informative)

    by szap ( 201293 ) on Friday December 05, 2003 @10:57PM (#7645010)
    We have been using dia [] and tedia2sql [] for many of our projects. This includes a project involving about a hundred tables, with foriegn keys all over, and a number of user defined functions (aka Stored Procedures) and aggregate functions.

    How it's done is, roughly, for a few related tables:

    1. Create tables using dia's UML's classes.
    2. Join the tables using UML Association to establish foreign keys.
    3. Set dia to autofit diagram into a number of pages.
    4. Add comments, draw pictures, whatever dia can draw.
    5. Save as an uncompressed XML file, chuck it into CVS. CVS likes text, so don't compress it.
    6. Optional: Print out pretty diagrams to printer. Dia's autofit is nice.
    Repeat above if you can't fit your tables into a set of nice looking pages.
    1. Create a Makefile to convert .dia to .sql using tedia2sql, and .dia to .eps using dia. (Left as an excerise to the reader). Bonus: autogen .eps to .pdf.
    2. Set up tedia2sql config to generate to your favourite rdbms. Or change Makefile to generate SQLs for each of Oracle, PostgreSQL, MySQL.
    3. Type 'make'.
    1. 5. Profit!

    Congrats! You have have fully printable, documentated, usable SQLs, and have version control on the schemas too. (Missing step is "4. Debug")

    P.S. tedia2sql is written in easily hackable perl.

  • Visio (Score:3, Informative)

    by Ty_Webb ( 729466 ) on Friday December 05, 2003 @11:13PM (#7645128)
    Been using Visio for quite some time now.

    -Fairly resource-intensive program
    -Takes time to find all the features and figure out all the tricks and shortcuts to operating it
    -An abundance of features

    -Allows for creativity in customizing tools/settings/functions for personal use
    -Covers many business modelling themes/motifs
    -An abundance of features
  • I work for an Oracle partner company, and we tend to use the Oracle stack. I've found Oracle Designer to be quite adecuate for the task. We use it both for logical and physical data model, and for the script generation. In fact, we also use the tool for frontend generation in some cases. It also has some pretty good code repository tools, with versioning, multibranches, dependency and impact analysis and so forth.
    A bit quirky, not to cheap (its part of a bundle of dev tools) but quite a nice thing for Oracl
  • I used to love Rational Rose... and nowadays my bloat of choice is indeed Visio. I can't say much about either as I'm a lowly developer and rarely stress them, but Visio has proved useful in some more obscure tasks now and then...
  • by Randolpho ( 628485 ) on Saturday December 06, 2003 @12:55AM (#7645616) Homepage Journal
    Perhaps it might have been better to list what feature's you're looking for in a data modeler, that way we can point you in the right direction. Still, I'll blather on about my fave...

    I use DBDesigner4 []. It's free/GPL, so the price is at least a feature you're looking for. It's also available on Windows, & KDE/Gnome (not sure what widget toolkit it uses), so that's a plus (or minus depending on your religion ;)).

    It's also fully optimized for MySQL if that's your platform, but it can support any ODBC database, Oracle, or MSSQL. It has a very intuitive (and pretty, IMO) graphical interface, with great, easy-to-use tools for visualizing, grouping, and relating your data. It also features a graphical Query Builder that lets you point/click your way through complex queries, returning SQL you can insert into your code. It allows reverse engineering of any database it can connect to, as well as synchronization so you don't have to do the setup work after you model, like you might with, say, Visio.

    It's not UML; it's really designed specifically *for* relational databases, so if you're just looking for a UML data diagram builder for internal data representation, this is probably not the tool for you.

    But if you are using a relational database, I don't think you can go wrong with it. It's at least worth a download.
  • If you really really need ERWin, you cannot afford not to have it. But I dont think most people need it, and CA aint exactly the most customer centric company out there.

    ER/Studio is a close second on functionality, and wins IMO on value delivered and ease of use. It does quite a lot.

    Visio...might seem to work ok at first, but will likely end up pissing you off. I came to this conclusion for both it's data modeling capabilities and the rather hamstrung UML additions.

  • by anthony_dipierro ( 543308 ) on Saturday December 06, 2003 @01:17AM (#7645734) Journal

    And personally I find them to be about as useful as a pen and paper, and much more expensive. Of course, I felt the same way about our DBA (she was about as useful as a pen and paper, and much more expensive).

  • by superyooser ( 100462 ) on Saturday December 06, 2003 @01:25AM (#7645775) Homepage Journal
    See the 2nd Annual Builder Readers' Choice Awards [].

    The results for Best Modeling Tool (scroll to last chart) are:

    Eight other products are on the chart.
  • I used DeZign at a contract position this summer and have used Visio Professional in the past. I would not recommend DeZign unless your budget is very tight; it was much less featured than Visio Professional (and couldn't compare to Visio for Enterprise Architects).

    The question always boils down to: what is your budget and what is your target market? If you are in the sub $500 market I would recommend Visio Professional as the tool has several other uses besides plain data modelling. Likewise, if your cu
  • by Future Shock ( 634657 ) on Saturday December 06, 2003 @03:49AM (#7646294) Journal
    If you are SERIOUS about your data modeling, ERWin is probably the best way to go. Many professional DBAs probably couldn't do their jobs without it. I would also consider Rational Rose to be on a par with ERWin, but it's ownership by IBM has rendered it "partisian" in some DBAs minds, as is Oracle's product. Erwin has the advantage of not being owned by any company that sells a database, generates code for all of them equally, and is mostly transparent across all of them, especially when transitioning between logical and physical designs. This especially makes it a favorite of consulting companies that have to move from client to client...ERWin also has an excellent tutorial on HOW to do data modeling, which can at least serve as an entry point for someone new to it's practice

    On a side note, ERWin is NOT as object model-centric as Rose and some others, as it is old enough to have been developed before object modeling became cool. But that is a minor quibble.

    I also find a good set of 3x5 filecards (taped up to a whiteboard or large construction paper) an excellent starting point for my models, particularly when trying to model those main logical entities that end up driving the entire design. They have the advantage over whiteboards of being at least partially on paper should someone erase the board...
    • by dubl-u ( 51156 ) *
      I also find a good set of 3x5 filecards (taped up to a whiteboard or large construction paper) an excellent starting point for my models, particularly when trying to model those main logical entities that end up driving the entire design.

      Agreed! Index cards are a highly underrated technology. They're durable, easily manipulated, have a great UI, and can be used collaboratively. Plus, they don't cost $4k per user.

      They have the advantage over whiteboards of being at least partially on paper should someone
  • you need to narrow the field a bit by defining your requirements. do you want uml/high level analysis tools for people who only do analysis and never write code? or do you want something that lives closer to the actual end result, presumably a relational database?

    i assume the later (because i have nothing to say about uml tools). if you do serious design work for medium complexity apps, you can immediately eliminate drawing tools like visio and toys like access.

    visio is simply a clip art tool for dia

  • I've used Sybase Power Designer [] (an older version) before. It's not too bad and a lot cheaper then erwin. Works with lots of database servers, and prints purty wall-sized pictures assuming you've got a plotter or don't mind pasting together a bunch of sheets. Also generates SQL for building/altering databases -- typical stuff.

    The only thing to look out for is which 'version' you get -- this is one of those products where you pay extra for specific features, so you'll pay anywhere from $800 or so to over $3
  • ONE VERY IMPORTANT ISSUE: How well does X software import DDL from Y database and generate DDL for Z database. This is important. This shouldn't be an issue but sometimes it can be. If you have to import data from an Excel spreadsheet, existing database (like mSQL, MySQL), or some exotic ODBC datasource, can X software handle it. Frankly, that's something a professional magazine has to test. That's were downloading said software in trial mode (should be fully-functional) becomes really important. T
  • ...make a pretty diagram in Xfig.

    Yes, Xfig. It will let you place all the arrows and boxes with names, but it will never pretend that it understand what you are doing, and you will still have to understand your data structures, as you should.
  • Well, if you're designing a model that needs to be implemented across several databases (rather rare) then I'd go with ERwin. It's the tool of choice for consultants who work with many databases -- say data warehouse folk.

    On the other hand, if you're working with Oracle you really want to go with Designer. It's not being terribly actively maintained, and will likely be replaced at some later point by JDeveloper, but at this point it is unsurpassed for functionality. You want to generate audit columns (c

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