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As you have seen so far in this chapter, a program can access an SQL database by using embedded SQL and SQL client modules. In embedded SQL, SQL statements are inserted directly into the host programming language. For SQL client modules, the host program calls modules that contain executable SQL statements. The statements are separate from the host language. SQL provides yet another method for accessing SQL data from within a programming language the call-level interface, or CLI. A CLI is an application programming interface (API) that supports a set of predefined routines that allow a programming language to communicate with an SQL database. The programming language calls the routines, which then connect to the database. The routines access data and status information from the database, as required, and return that information to the program. Figure 17-3 provides an overview of how a CLI allows a program to communicate with an SQL database. The program invokes CLI routines through the use of functions. When calling a function, the program must specify values for the function s arguments. These values define what actions to take and what data to access. The function passes the values to the designated routine, which acts as an interface between the program and the SQL database. The CLI, in effect, hides the details of accessing the database from the program, making it possible for the program to access databases in different management systems. One of the most well-known implementations of the CLI model is Microsoft s Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) API, although other vendors have released CLI-like products that support similar types of database access. In addition, new generations of data access APIs are gaining popularity, such as Microsoft s OLE-DB, which is more efficient than ODBC and supports access to SQL data sources and other types of data sources. For Java programmers, there is a similar API called JDBC. You ll also find that such products as ActiveX Data Object (ADO) provide an object-oriented interface between scripting languages or object-oriented languages and the OLE-DB API. Many development tools also make accessing an SQL data source easier than ever. For example, Visual Studio .NET allows you to build data-driven applications in such languages as Visual Basic, C++, and C#. By using the built-in ADO.NET tools, you can create applications that can access a variety of data sources, such as SQL Server and Oracle.
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Using a CLI to access data in an SQL database
NOTE
Although Microsoft is generally given credit for ODBC, it was developed by Microsoft in partnership with Simba Technologies, and is based on CLI specifications from the SQL Access Group, X/Open (now part of The Open Group), and the ISO/IEC.
The key to all these products is to provide a uniform method of database access from within the programming language. The CLI specifications in SQL:2006 standardize the database access interface by providing a set of predefined CLI functions that allow your program to connect to a database, modify and retrieve data, pass information to and from the database, and obtain status information about statement execution. In this section, we ll look at several CLI functions and how they can be used in a programming language to access SQL data.
NOTE
Despite how extensively the SQL:2006 standard has defined the CLI model, applications can vary greatly in the methods they use to access a data source. As a result, you ll find that you ll want to use a data access method that is supported in your environment. For example, if you re developing a C application that connects to a data source via ODBC, the specifics of data access described in this section will be very useful to you. However, if you re developing a C# application or an Active Server Pages (ASP) application using VBScript and you re connecting to a data source via ADO, you ll want to refer to documentation related to that particular technology as well as reviewing the information in this section.
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