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he early IBM relational database prototypes pioneered the embedded SQL technique for programmatic access to SQL-based databases, which was widely adopted by mainstream SQL products. However, several major DBMS products, led by Sybase s first SQL Server implementation, took a very different approach. Instead of trying to blend SQL with another programming language, these products provide a library of function calls as an application programming interface (API) for the DBMS. To pass SQL statements to the DBMS, an application program calls functions in the API, and it calls other functions to retrieve query results and status information from the DBMS. For many programmers, a SQL API is a very straightforward way to use SQL. Most programmers have some experience in using function libraries for other purposes, such as string manipulation, mathematical functions, file input/output, and screen forms management. Modern operating systems, such as UNIX and Windows, extensively use API suites to extend the core capabilities provided by the OS itself. The SQL API thus becomes just another library for the programmer to learn. Over the last decade or so, SQL APIs have become very popular, equaling if not surpassing the popularity of the embedded SQL approach for new applications development. This chapter describes the general concepts used by all SQL API interfaces. It also describes specific features of some of the proprietary APIs used by popular SQL-based DBMS systems, and both the ANSI/ISO SQL Call-Level Interface (CLI) standard and Microsoft s Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) standard on which the ANSI/ISO CLI is based. Finally, this chapter describes JDBC, which is the API standard for SQL access from programs written in Java, and is used by most of the popular Internet application servers.
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When a DBMS supports a function call interface, an application program communicates with the DBMS exclusively through a set of calls that are collectively known as an application programming interface, or API. The basic operation of a typical DBMS API is illustrated in Figure 19-1. The program begins its database access with one or more API calls that connect the program to the DBMS and often to a specific database or schema. To send a SQL statement to the DBMS, the program builds the statement as a text string in a buffer (often stored as a host language variable) and then makes an API call to pass the buffer contents to the DBMS. The program makes API calls to check the status of its DBMS request and to handle errors. If the request is a query, the program uses API calls to retrieve the query results into the program s buffers. Typically, the calls return data a row at a time or a column at a time. The program ends its database access with an API call that disconnects it from the DBMS.
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Using a SQL API for DBMS access
FIGURE 19-2 An SQL API in a client/server architecture
A SQL API is often used when the application program and the database are on two different systems in a client/server architecture, as shown in Figure 19-2. In this configuration, the code for the API functions is located on the client system, where the application program executes. The DBMS software is located on the server system, where the database resides. Calls from the application program to the API take place locally within the client system, and the API code translates the calls into messages that it sends to and receives from the DBMS over a network. A SQL API offers particular advantages for a client/server architecture because it can minimize the amount of network traffic between the API and the DBMS. The early APIs offered by various DBMS products differed substantially from one another. Like many parts of SQL, proprietary SQL APIs proliferated long before there was an attempt to standardize them. In addition, SQL APIs tend to expose the underlying capabilities of the DBMS more than the embedded SQL approach, leading to even more differences. Nonetheless, all of the SQL APIs available in commercial SQL products are based on the same fundamental concepts illustrated in Figures 19-1 and 19-2. These concepts also apply to the ODBC API and to more recent ANSI/ISO standards based on it.
The dblib API (SQL Server)
The first major DBMS product to emphasize its callable API was SQL Server, in versions from both Sybase and Microsoft. For many years, the SQL Server callable API was the only interface offered by these products. Both Microsoft and Sybase now offer embedded SQL capabilities and have added newer or higher-level callable APIs, but the original SQL Server API remains a very popular way to access these DBMS brands. The SQL Server API also provided the model for much of Microsoft s ODBC API. SQL Server and its API are also an excellent example of a DBMS designed from the ground up around a client/server architecture. For all of these reasons, it s useful to begin our exploration of SQL APIs by examining the basic SQL Server API. The original SQL Server API, which is called the database library or dblib, consists of about 100 functions available to an application program. The API is very comprehensive, but a typical program uses only about a dozen of the function calls, which are summarized in Table 19-1. The other calls provide advanced features, alternative methods of interacting with the DBMS, or single-call versions of features that otherwise would require multiple calls.
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