Saturday, December 31, 2011

The State of Data Modeling Tools (MySQL Workbench)

Background
I have only begun using MySQL and trying out the WorkBench tools from Oracle was the next logical step. This product was originally DBDesigner 4 from fabForce.net before it's developer was hired by MySQL AB to create a new set of MySQL GUI tools. This application has grown from a physical database designer for MySQL to include additional query and managment features. It is much closer to SQL Server Management Studio than it is to ERwin.


Stability
I was using a relatively small (< 50 table) model to work with and the system would crash after about on hour of use. The crashing was more frequent on the Mac side of things than it was when running on the PC but neither were very stable.


Price
MySQL Workbench: ~$00.00

Features
Common Checklist


  • Logic Modeling: No
  • Physical Modeling: Yes
  • Reverse Engineering: Yes
  • Forward Engineering: Yes *
    • * Note: Does NOT compare to existing schema. It will make fresh. new objects!
  • Sub Models: No
The auto-arrange does a terrible job distributing the tables, many were overlapping. The relationship lines are not adjustable, they go where the app assigns them to be.


The GUI makes me think of Eclipse, which is clearly not native on any platform and it generally works as expected.  The notation can be changed to fit your conventions and the automatic screen refreshing worked flawlessly (not something to take for granted after using ERwin).


Conclusion
This is a very good tool for visually showing developers how a few objects are related to each other and firmly belongs in the MySQL suite of tools.


Unfortunately, this application is just a bit too primitive to use for anything other than the most basic data modeling. The lack of a Logical Model is less than ideal, but not a deal breaker. I did find the crashing, lack of sub-models, minimal control of the relationship lines and the poor forward engineering very frustrating. I recommend using a piece of graph paper instead.

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