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One of the most straightforward combinations of XML and database technology is to use XML as a format for SQL query results. Query results have a structured tabular format that can easily be translated into an XML representation. Consider this simple query from the sample database:
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SELECT ORDER_NUM, MFR, PRODUCT, QTY, AMOUNT FROM ORDERS WHERE CUST = 2103; ORDER_NUM --------112963 112983 113027 112987 MFR --ACI ACI ACI ACI PRODUCT ------41004 41004 41002 4100Y QTY ---28 3 54 11 AMOUNT ---------$3,276.00 $702.00 $4,104.00 $27,500.00
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If the DBMS is instructed to output the query results in XML format instead, here is the output that might result:
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SELECT ORDER_NUM, MFR, PRODUCT, QTY, AMOUNT FROM ORDERS WHERE CUST = 2103; < xml version="1.0" > <queryResults> <row> <order_num>112963</order_num> <mfr>ACI</mfr> <product>41004</product> <qty>28</qty> <amount>3276.00</amount> </row> <row> <order_num>112983</order_num> <mfr>ACI</mfr> <product>41004</product> <qty>3</qty> <amount>702.00</amount> </row> <row> <order_num>113027</order_num> <mfr>ACI</mfr> <product>41002</product> <qty>54</qty> <amount>4104.00</amount> </row> <row> <order_num>112987</order_num> <mfr>ACI</mfr> <product>4100Y</product> <qty>11</qty> <amount>27500.00</amount> </row> </queryResults>
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This is typical of the output you could actually receive from some of the popular DBMS products that currently support XML output. The query results are a well-formed, selfcontained XML document. If you submit the results to an XML parser (parsers are described in the Large Objects and Parsers section later in this chapter), the parser will correctly interpret them as having One root element, queryResults Four row subelements beneath the root Five subelements beneath each row element, and in this case, all five subelements appear for every row element, and in the same order
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PART VI
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SQL Today and Tomorrow
While the preceding example of an XML document generated directly from the database is ideal, support varies widely from one implementation to another. For example, Microsoft participated in the development of the SQL/XML specification in the ANSI/ISO SQL standard; they later chose not to implement it and instead developed a proprietary solution. In SQL Server, a FOR XML clause is supported that directs the DBMS to output the results in XML format. While the generated results do not include well-formed XML documents, they do include valid XML elements that can be easily incorporated into XML documents. Here is the previous example run in SQL Server:
SELECT FROM WHERE FOR ORDER_NUM, MFR, PRODUCT, QTY, AMOUNT ORDERS CUST = 2103 XML AUTO; PRODUCT="41004" QTY="28" PRODUCT="41004" QTY="6" PRODUCT="4100Y" QTY="11" PRODUCT="41002" QTY="54"
<ORDERS ORDER_NUM="112963" MFR="ACI" AMOUNT="3276.0000" /> <ORDERS ORDER_NUM="112983" MFR="ACI" AMOUNT="702.0000" /> <ORDERS ORDER_NUM="112987" MFR="ACI" AMOUNT="27500.0000" /> <ORDERS ORDER_NUM="113027" MFR="ACI" AMOUNT="4104.0000" />
Having XML-formatted query output can be a significant advantage. For further processing, the output can be sent directly to programs that accept XML documents as input. The output can be sent across a network to another system, and because of its XML format, its elements are self-describing every receiving system or application will interpret the query results in the same way as four rows of five elements each. Because the output is in pure text format, it won t be misinterpreted because of differences in binary data representations between sending and receiving systems. Finally, if the XML is transmitted over an HTTP link using the Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) standards, the XMLformatted message can typically move through corporate firewalls and link an originating application in one company with a receiving application in a different company. The XML-formatted output also has some disadvantages. One is the raw size of the data. About four times as many characters are in the XML-formatted results as in the tabular format. If the XML form is being stored on disk, it requires four times the storage. If it s being sent to another computer system over a network, it will take four times as long to transmit, or it will require a network with four times the bandwidth to preserve the same transmission time. These aren t serious problems for the small amount of data in the example, but they can be very significant for results with thousands or tens of thousands of rows, multiplied by hundreds of applications in an enterprise data center. This simple XML output format also loses some information about the data. The currency symbol that appeared in the tabular display has disappeared, so it s impossible to determine, from the XML content itself, whether the data has a currency type and what kind of currency it is. The XML Schema capability provides a way to gain back this information, as described later in the XML Schema section, but at the expense of still more increase in the size of the query results text.
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