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JDBC: An introduction

A detailed introduction to the JDBC API and how to use it for accessing virtually any kind of tabular data.

This excerpt is from JDBC API Tutorial and Reference (3rd edition), written by Maydene Fisher, Jon Ellis, and Jonathan Bruce and published by Addison-Wesley. Read the entire chapter here.

What Is the JDBC API?

The JDBC API is a Java API for accessing virtually any kind of tabular data. (As a point of interest, JDBC is a trademarked name and is not an acronym; nevertheless, JDBC is often thought of as standing for "Java Database Connectivity." Originally, JDBC was the only trademarked name for the data source access API, but more recently, Java DataBase Connectivity has been added as a second trademarked name.) The JDBC API consists of a set of classes and interfaces written in the Java programming language that provide a standard API for tool/database developers and makes it possible to write industrial-strength database applications entirely in the Java programming language.

The JDBC API makes it easy to send SQL statements to relational database systems and supports all dialects of SQL. But the JDBC API goes beyond SQL, also making it possible to interact with other kinds of data sources, such as files containing tabular data.

The value of the JDBC API is that an application can access virtually any data source and run on any platform with a Java Virtual Machine. In other words, with the JDBC API, it isn't necessary to write one program to access a Sybase database, another program to access an Oracle database, another program to access an IBM DB2 database, and so on. One can write a single program using the JDBC API, and the program will be able to send SQL or other statements to the appropriate data source. And, with an application written in the Java programming language, one doesn't have to worry about writing different applications to run on different platforms. The combination of the Java platform and the JDBC API lets a programmer "write once and run anywhere." We explain more about this later.

The Java programming language, being robust, secure, easy to use, easy to understand, and automatically downloadable on a network, is an excellent language basis for database applications. What is needed is a way for Java applications to talk to a variety of different data sources. The JDBC API provides the mechanism for doing this.

The JDBC API extends what can be done with the Java platform. For example, the JDBC API makes it possible to publish a web page containing an applet that uses information obtained from a remote data source. Or, an enterprise can use the JDBC API to connect all its employees (even if they are using a conglomeration of Windows, Macintosh, and UNIX machines) to one or more internal databases via an intranet. With more and more programmers using the Java programming language, the need for easy and universal data access from the Java programming language continues to grow.

MIS managers like the combination of the Java platform and JDBC technology because it makes disseminating information easy and economical. Businesses can continue to use their installed databases and access information easily even if it is stored on different database management systems or other data sources. Development time for new applications is short. Installation and version control are greatly simplified. A programmer can write an application or an update once, put it on the server, and then everybody has access to the latest version. And for businesses selling information services, the combination of the Java and JDBC technologies offers a better way of distributing information updates to external customers.

We will discuss various ways to use the JDBC API in more detail later.

What Does the JDBC API Do?

In simplest terms, a JDBC technology-based driver ("JDBC driver") makes it possible to do three things:

  1. Establish a connection with a data source
  2. Send queries and update statements to the data source
  3. Process the results

The following code fragment gives a simple example of these three steps:

Connection con = DriverManager.getConnection(
"jdbc:myDriver:wombat", "myLogin", "myPassword");
Statement stmt = con.createStatement();
ResultSet rs = stmt.executeQuery("SELECT a, b, c FROM Table1");
while ( {
int x = rs.getInt("a");
String s = rs.getString("b");
float f = rs.getFloat("c");

Read the entire chapter here.


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