Tuesday, March 31, 2009


JDBC versus ODBC and other APIs :
At this point, Microsoft's ODBC (Open DataBase Connectivity) API is probably the most widely used programming interface for accessing relational databases. It offers the ability to connect to almost all databases on almost all platforms. So

why not just use ODBC from Java ?

The answer is that you can use ODBC from Java, but this is best done with the help of JDBC in the form of the JDBC-ODBC Bridge, which we will cover shortly. The question now becomes, "Why do you need JDBC?" There are several answers to this question:

  1. ODBC is not appropriate for direct use from Java because it uses a C interface. Calls from Java to native C code have a number of drawbacks in the security, implementation, robustness, and automatic portability of applications.
  2. A literal translation of the ODBC C API into a Java API would not be desirable. For example, Java has no pointers, and ODBC makes copious use of them, including the notoriously error-prone generic pointer "void *". You can think of JDBC as ODBC translated into an object-oriented interface that is natural for Java programmers.
  3. ODBC is hard to learn. It mixes simple and advanced features together, and it has complex options even for simple queries. JDBC, on the other hand, was designed to keep simple things simple while allowing more advanced capabilities where required.
  4. A Java API like JDBC is needed in order to enable a "pure Java" solution. When ODBC is used, the ODBC driver manager and drivers must be manually installed on every client machine. When the JDBC driver is written completely in Java, however, JDBC code is automatically installable, portable, and secure on all Java platforms from network computers to mainframes.
In summary, the JDBC API is a natural Java interface to the basic SQL abstractions and concepts. It builds on ODBC rather than starting from scratch, so programmers familiar with ODBC will find it very easy to learn JDBC. JDBC retains the basic design features of ODBC; in fact, both interfaces are based on the X/Open SQL CLI (Call Level Interface). The big difference is that JDBC builds on and reinforces the style and virtues of Java, and, of course, it is easy to use.

More recently, Microsoft has introduced new APIs beyond ODBC: RDO, ADO, and OLE DB. These designs move in the same direction as JDBC in many ways, that is, in being an object-oriented database interface based on classes that can be implemented on ODBC. However, we did not see compelling functionality in any of these interfaces to make them an alternative basis to ODBC, especially with the ODBC driver market well-established. Mostly they represent a thin veneer on ODBC. This is not to say that JDBC does not need to evolve from the initial release; however, we feel that most new functionality belongs in higher- level APIs such as the object/relational mappings and embedded SQL mentioned in the previous section.


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