8: ABAP Data Dictionary in Software

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8: ABAP Data Dictionary
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The ABAP dictionary is the central workbench repository utility providing the data definitions and the information relationships that are later used in all the business applications within R/3. This chapter deals with those aspects of the ABAP dictionary which are most useful and can have more interest for system administrators and developers. In any case, in order to fully exploit the possibilities within the ABAP dictionary, users must understand such topics as What is a data dictionary, and what is it used for What is a relational model What is the data dictionary in the SAP R/3 environment What objects does the ABAP dictionary handle, and how are objects defined How does the dictionary treat versions The ABAP dictionary can be seen as a logical representation or a superior layer over the physical underlying database. As has been previously mentioned, the supported database engines must comply with the relational data model. This model is strictly followed by the ABAP dictionary, and therefore it is important to know the basic concepts of relational databases: what functionality they provide, how they establish the relations between the different objects and elements, and what operations can be performed on the objects. Once the concepts of the relational data model are clear, those general terms should be projected over the topic of interest in this chapter: how the relational theory fits with the ABAP dictionary.
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Definition of Data Dictionary
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A data dictionary in computing terms is the source of information in which the system data is defined in a logical way. The data dictionary is the centralized and structured source of information for business applications. The data dictionary is the core of a well structured development environment. Around a data dictionary, you can assemble other components of a development environment as a programming language, of context sensitive editors (CASE type), screen painters and handlers, and so forth. The elements that make up a dictionary are known as metadata. Metadata is the computing term for the data whose function is to describe other data. Actually, the data of the dictionary is not the operational data which tells a customer's address or an article price, but rather is a type of data whose function is to define the semantic or syntactic properties of the operational data, such as the type, length, and relationships. Currently, the relational databases and the transactional systems in general, all have and all use a data dictionary as the system core. An advantage of having a data dictionary is avoiding inconsistencies when defining data types that will later be used in different parts of an application; this avoids redundancies and considerably decreases the cost of maintenance.
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Utility of a Data Dictionary When a type of data is defined in the dictionary, it is available to any program or function module in the application. A change in the definition of a type of data in the dictionary automatically affects any other data, module, function, or program which has data or variables defined using that modified data type. This can be quite useful when you want to modify all related data types, but at the same time and for the same reason, you must be extremely careful not to negatively affect other system parts (other types or programs) using those data types.
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Utility of a Data Dictionary
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The data dictionary allows the user to create, modify, or delete data definitions (data types). At the same time, it's a great source of information, not only for the development environment but also for the user it is a fast and efficient way to answer questions such as which entries exist in a table of the database; what the structure of this table is; this view; and what the relation between two different dictionary objects is.
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