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Jesse Davis: Has JDBC Kept up with Enterprise Requirements?

Posted by editor on February 23, 2010 at 5:42 AM PST

Prior to a few days ago, when I thought about JDBC, I thought I was thinking about a problem that has been solved. Our latest java.net article, Has JDBC Kept up with Enterprise Requirements? by Jesse Davis, has eliminated that kind of thinking for me.

It shouldn't be a surprise that, as technology advances, problems that were "solved" may eventually become new unsolved problems. But... with JDBC, I just thought the solution that had evolved into JDBC Type 4 was a kind of permanent, at least a rather enduring, solution for the problem of abstracting applications from the details of underlying databases.

Well, yes, it's true that JDBC Type 4 performs that abstraction. The problem, however, is performance and frameworks. Today, we as developers often don't directly access JDBC settings, because we often work with frameworks that apply their own implementations of JDBC. So, when it comes to performance, we face a dilemma: live with the framework's implementation of JDBC (which may not be ideally tuned for the application we're developing), or make our own custom version of the framework (and have to copy in our changes every time a new version of the framework is released). Umm.. no good choice there!

Here's how Jesse describes it:

While superior to other JDBC driver architecture types, most Type 4 drivers come with glaring limitations that make them impractical for today's Java-based enterprise application environments. Most, for instance, require changes in an application's JDBC code in order to be tuned for performance. Doing this for each unique application deployment scenario is unmanageable and impractical. When you throw an ORM (object-relational mapping) on top, if you must have a vendor-specific statement method, you'll be unable to do that casting without modifying the code of the ORM. So unless you want to be modifying, let's say, a Hibernate implementation, you need to make sure that those JDBC drivers are clean--that is, that they adhere to the standard while yet executing things in a flexible manner.

So, is there any way out of this dilemma? Well, yes. But, for it to happen, further evolution of JDBC drivers is required. Jesse Davis is a member of the JDBC Expert Group. He's been thinking about the problems with Type 4 JDBC drivers for quite a while. In Has JDBC Kept up with Enterprise Requirements? Jesse concludes by outlining the requirements that a "Type 5" JDBC driver should offer:

  • Unrestricted performance: Data throughput is maximized regardless of the runtime environment or data access model.
  • Codeless enhancement: Features and functionality can be added, configured, or tuned for any application without changing application code, regardless of runtime or data access model.
  • Resource efficiency: Use of application runtime CPU and memory resources is minimized and can be tuned as needed to fit specific runtime environment parameters or limits.
  • All-in-one deployment: A single driver JAR file that maximizes the data access simplicity for any Java environment or application.
  • Streamlined standard: No proprietary extensions to the JDBC specification are required for any supported data source--a "clean" spec implementation.

It's not a tiny task, this evolution of JDBC that Jesse suggests. However, as he concludes:

Such "Type 5" JDBC drivers would truly enable modern data-driven Java applications to take advantage of years of innovation in database features, data access models, and virtualization technologies--in many cases without requiring code changes.

Can't beat that!


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Our new java.net Feature Articles is Has JDBC Kept up with Enterprise Requirements? by Jesse Davis; in the article, Jesse invites us to look beyond Type 4 architecture to address the latest requirements of the enterprise Java ecosystem. We're also featuring Adhir Mehta's Java Tech article, Web Service Simulatino Using Servlets; and Maven Repository Managers for the Enterprise, by John Smart.


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