Browse Definitions:

database abstraction layer

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore, Mark Whitehorn

A database abstraction layer is a simplified representation of a database in the form of a written description or a diagram.

Abstraction, in general, is the process of taking away or removing characteristics from something in order to reduce it to a set of essential characteristics. Database abstraction layers facilitate the design of flexible databases. 

The three formal abstraction layers:

  • User model: An informal representation of how the user describes the database.
  • Logical model: More formal, with more detail and often rendered as an entity relationship model (ERM).
  • Physical model: More detail added such as indexing and data types.

The alternative to abstraction layers is hard-coding rules and metadata into the database during development.  In that case, coding also establishes how business terms, definitions, rules, and other information are defined on behalf of the applications that access the database.

Hard-coding is fine for those applications that are originally planned to access the database. However, that approach makes it much more complicated for other applications with different requirements to communicate with the database.  A data abstraction layer allows for maximum flexibility and guarantees that when additional business applications need to access the database, it isn’t necessary to make significant changes to support them. 

This was last updated in June 2014

Continue Reading About database abstraction layer

Start the conversation

Send me notifications when other members comment.

By submitting you agree to receive email from TechTarget and its partners. If you reside outside of the United States, you consent to having your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States. Privacy

Please create a username to comment.


File Extensions and File Formats


  • risk map (risk heat map)

    A risk map, also known as a risk heat map, is a data visualization tool for communicating specific risks an organization faces. A...

  • internal audit (IA)

    An internal audit (IA) is an organizational initiative to monitor and analyze its own business operations in order to determine ...

  • pure risk (absolute risk)

    Pure risk, also called absolute risk, is a category of threat that is beyond human control and has only one possible outcome if ...


  • cloud ecosystem

    A cloud ecosystem is a complex system of interdependent components that all work together to enable cloud services.

  • cloud services

    Cloud services is an umbrella term that may refer to a variety of resources provided over the internet, or to professional ...

  • uncloud (de-cloud)

    The term uncloud describes the action or process of removing applications and data from a cloud computing platform.


  • federated identity management (FIM)

    Federated identity management (FIM) is an arrangement that can be made among multiple enterprises to let subscribers use the same...

  • cross-site scripting (XSS)

    Cross-site scripting (XSS) is a type of injection security attack in which an attacker injects data, such as a malicious script, ...

  • firewall

    In computing, a firewall is software or firmware that enforces a set of rules about what data packets will be allowed to enter or...




  • bad block

    A bad block is an area of storage media that is no longer reliable for storing and retrieving data because it has been physically...

  • all-flash array (AFA)

    An all-flash array (AFA), also known as a solid-state storage disk system, is an external storage array that uses only flash ...

  • volume manager

    A volume manager is software within an operating system (OS) that controls capacity allocation for storage arrays.


  • hybrid hard disk drive (HDD)

    A hybrid hard disk drive is an electromechanical spinning hard disk that contains some amount of NAND Flash memory.