Most enterprise-level electronic line-of-business applications require some sort of database access in order to provide complete functionality. Integrated database access is an area that customers need to consider when choosing a networking operating system. Choosing an operating system without sufficient infrastructure to access corporate data has potentially time-consuming and costly ramifications. Review criteria for data access infrastructure include the following:
Support for the industry-standard Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) standard.
An easy-to-use, extensible data access application programming interface (API) that is database provider independent and integrates with the operating system’s distributed component model and other application services.
Solaris 7 provides database access via support for ODBC and the Java Database Connectivity (JDBC) standards. ODBC support is incorporated into the Sun WebServer 2.1 to allow Web-based database access. JDBC is supported for any Java application running on the Solaris 7 server platform. No native database access is implemented within the operating system – all data access must be filtered through the ODBC/JDBC layers.
Windows NT Server 4.0 and Windows 2000 Server Implementation Details
Both Windows NT Server 4.0, with the Windows NT Option Pack, and Windows 2000 Server feature Microsoft Data Access Components (MDAC). Data driven applications can use the MDAC to easily integrate information from a variety of sources, both relational (SQL) and non-relational. MDAC includes the Microsoft ActiveX Data Objects (ADO), OLE DB, and Open Database Connectivity (ODBC).
ADO Implementation Details
ADO is the strategic application-programming interface (API) to data and information on the Windows platform. It provides consistent access to data and supports a variety of development needs, including the creation of front-end database clients and middle-tier business objects that use applications, tools, languages, or Internet browsers. ADO is designed to be the one data interface needed for single and multi-tier client/server and Web-based data-driven solution development. The primary benefits of ADO are ease-of-use, high speed, low memory overhead, and a small disk footprint.
ADO provides an easy-to-use interface to OLE DB, which provides the underlying access to data. It is optimized to provide minimal network traffic in key scenarios and it features a minimal number of layers between the front end and data source. It uses the familiar COM automation interface, available from all leading Rapid Application Development (RAD) tools on the market today.
OLE DB Implementation Details
OLE DB is Microsoft’s strategic system-level programming interface to data across the organization. OLE DB is an open specification designed to build on the success of ODBC by providing an open standard for accessing all kinds of data. Whereas ODBC was created to access relational databases, OLE DB was designed for both relational and non-relational information sources, such as mainframe ISAM/VSAM and hierarchical databases; e-mail and file system stores; text, graphical, and geographical data; custom business objects, and more.
OLE DB defines a collection of COM interfaces that encapsulate various database management system services. These interfaces enable the creation of software components that implement such services. OLE DB components consist of data providers, which contain and expose data, data consumers, which use data, and service components, which process and transport data (such as query processors and cursor engines). OLE DB interfaces are designed to help components integrate smoothly so that OLE DB component vendors can bring high-quality OLE DB components to market quickly. In addition, OLE DB includes a bridge to ODBC to enable continued support for the broad range of ODBC relational database drivers available today. With Windows NT Server 4.0 and Windows 2000 Server, OLE DB providers for all popular databases are shipped standard as part of the operating system.
ODBC Implementation Details
The Microsoft Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) interface is a recognized industry standard and a component of the Microsoft Windows Open Services Architecture (WOSA). The ODBC interface makes it possible for applications to access data from a variety of database management systems (DBMS). ODBC permits maximum interoperability. For example, an application can access data in diverse DBMS through a single interface. Furthermore, that same application will be independent of any DBMS from which it accesses data. Users of the application can add software components called drivers, which create an interface between an application and a specific DBMS. With both Windows NT Server 4.0 and Windows 2000 Server, ODBC drivers are shipped with the operating system for connectivity to all popular databases.
Data Access Summary
For customers seeking to develop data enabled applications, Windows NT Server 4.0 and Windows 2000 Server are the most capable choices of the three systems evaluated. Full support for ODBC, the de-facto industry standard for data access, is provided along with operating system-integrated drivers for all popular databases. Additionally, Microsoft provides ADO – an easy-to-use, high-performance, COM-based API set for data access to virtually any provider - and OLE DB, a high-performance data access interface for most popular databases. With the advent of ADO and OLE DB, Microsoft is providing a comprehensive solution to address virtually any data access need for use against a variety of popular data providers – features that are simply unmatched by Solaris 7.
Solaris 7 data access choices are somewhat limited. ODBC support is provided for a small number of databases through Sun Web Server only. Additional ODBC drivers for the Solaris 7 platform must be acquired from third-party vendors, making database connectivity beyond the limited subset of supported databases a chore. Full support for JDBC is provided when connecting to a variety of databases.