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The Web - MySQL

With most of the services on the web being powered by web database applications, it becomes important for any web developer to know how bring together the web and databases to build applications. This article gets you started. It is excerpted from chapter one of the book Web Database Applications with PHP and MySQL, written by Hugh E. Williams & David Lane (O'Reilly, 2004; ISBN: 0596005431).

  1. Database Applications and the Web
  2. The Web
  3. HTTP: the Hypertext Transfer Protocol
  4. Thickening the Client in the Three-Tier Model
  5. Web Scripting with PHP
  6. Introducing PHP5
  7. The Database Tier
  8. Why use a database server?
  9. The MySQL server
By: O'Reilly Media
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September 15, 2005

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When you browse the Web, you use your web browser to request resources from a web server and the web server responds with the resources. You make these requests by filling in and submitting forms, clicking on links, or typing URLs into your browser. Often, resources are static HTML pages that are displayed in the browser. Figure 1-1 shows how a web browser communicates with a web server to retrieve this bookís home page. This is the classic two-tier or client-server architecture used on the Web.

Figure 1-1.  A two-tier architecture where a web browser makes a request and the web server responds

A web server is not sophisticated storage software. Complicated operations on data, done by commercial sites and anyone else presenting lots of dynamic data, should be handled by a separate database. This leads to a more complex architecture with three-tiers: the browser is still the client tier, the web server becomes the middle tier, and the database is the third or database tier. Figure 1-2 shows how a web browser requests a resource thatís generated from a database, and how the database and web server respond to the request.

Figure 1-2.  A three-tier architecture where a web browser requests a resource, and a response is generated from a database

Three-Tier Architectures

This book shows you how to develop web database applications that are built around the three-tier architecture model shown in Figure 1-3. At the base of an application is the database tier, consisting of the database management system that manages the data users create, delete, modify, and query. Built on top of the database tier is the middle tier, which contains most of the application logic that you develop. It also communicates data between the other tiers. On top is the client tier, usually web browser software that interacts with the application.

The three-tier architecture is conceptual. In practice, there are different implementations of web database applications that fit this architecture. The most common implementation has the web server (which includes the scripting engine that processes the scripts and carries out the actions they specify) and the database management system installed on one machine: itís the simplest to manage and secure, and itís our focus in this book. With this implementation on modern hardware, your applications can probably handle tens of thousands of requests every hour.

For popular web sites, a common implementation is to install the web server and the database server on different machines, so that resources are dedicated to permit a more scalable and faster application. For very high-end applications, a cluster of computers can be used, where the database and web servers are replicated and the load distributed across many machines. Our focus is on simple implementations; replication and load distribution are beyond the scope of this book.

Describing web database applications as three-tier architectures makes them sound formally structured and organized. However, it hides the reality that the applications must bring together different protocols and software, and that the software needs to be installed, configured, and secured. The majority of the material in this book discusses the middle tier and the application logic that allows web browsers to work with databases.

Figure 1-3.  The three-tier architecture model of a web database application

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