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2.3. JDBC Drivers

Before you can use a driver, the driver must be registered with the JDBC DriverManager. This is typically done by loading the driver class using the Class.forName() method:

try {
  Class.forName("sun.jdbc.odbc.JdbcOdbcDriver");
  Class.forName("com.oracle.jdbc.OracleDriver");
} 
catch (ClassNotFoundException e) { 
  /* Handle Exception */ 
}

One reason most programs call Class.forName() is that this method accepts a String argument, meaning that the program can store driver selection information dynamically (e.g., in a properties file).

Another way to register drivers is to add the driver classes to the jdbc.drivers property. To use this technique, add a line like the following to ~/.hotjava/properties (on Windows systems this file can be found in your Java SDK installation directory):

jdbc.drivers=com.oracle.jdbc.OracleDriver:foo.driver.dbDriver:com.al.AlDriver;

Separate the names of individual drivers with colons and be sure the line ends with a semicolon. Programs rarely use this approach, as it requires additional configuration work on the part of end users. Every user needs to have the appropriate JDBC driver classes specified in his properties file.

JDBC drivers are available for most database platforms, from a number of vendors and in a number of different flavors. There are four categories of drivers:

Type 1 JDBC-ODBC Bridge Drivers

Type 1 drivers use a bridge technology to connect a Java client to an ODBC database system. The JDBC-ODBC Bridge from Sun and InterSolv is the only extant example of a Type 1 driver. Type 1 drivers require some sort of non-Java software to be installed on the machine running your code, and they are implemented using native code.

Type 2 Native-API Partly Java Drivers

Type 2 drivers use a native code library to access a database, wrapping a thin layer of Java around the native library. For example, with Oracle databases, the native access might be through the Oracle Call Interface (OCI) libraries that were originally designed for C/C++ programmers. Type 2 drivers are implemented with native code, so they may perform better than all-Java drivers, but they also add an element of risk, as a defect in the native code can crash the Java Virtual Machine.

Type 3 Net-protocol All-Java Drivers

Type 3 drivers define a generic network protocol that interfaces with a piece of custom middleware. The middleware component might use any other type of driver to provide the actual database access. BEA's WebLogic product line (formerly known as WebLogic Tengah and before that as jdbcKona/T3) is an example. These drivers are especially useful for applet deployment, since the actual JDBC classes can be written entirely in Java and downloaded by the client on the fly.

Type 4 Native-protocol All-Java Drivers

Type 4 drivers are written entirely in Java. They understand database-specific networking protocols and can access the database directly without any additional software. These drivers are also well suited for applet programming, provided that the Java security manager allows TCP/IP connections to the database server.

When you are selecting a driver, you need to balance speed, reliability, and portability. Different applications have different needs. A standalone, GUI-intensive program that always runs on a Windows NT system will benefit from the additional speed of a Type 2, native-code driver. An applet might need to use a Type 3 driver to get around a firewall. A servlet that is deployed across multiple platforms might require the flexibility of a Type 4 driver.

A list of currently available JDBC drivers is available at http://java.sun.com/products/jdbc/jdbc.drivers.html.

2.3.1. JDBC URLs

A JDBC driver uses a JDBC URL to identify and connect to a particular database. These URLs are generally of the form:

jdbc:driver:databasename

The actual standard is quite fluid, however, as different databases require different information to connect successfully. For example, the Oracle JDBC-Thin driver uses a URL of the form:

jdbc:oracle:thin:@site:port:database

while the JDBC-ODBC Bridge uses:

jdbc:odbc:datasource;odbcoptions

The only requirement is that a driver be able to recognize its own URLs.

2.3.2. The JDBC-ODBC Bridge

The JDBC-ODBC Bridge ships with JDK 1.1 and the Java 2 SDK for Windows and Solaris systems. The bridge provides an interface between JDBC and database drivers written using Microsoft's Open DataBase Connectivity (ODBC) API. The bridge was originally written to allow the developer community to get up and running quickly with JDBC. Since the bridge makes extensive use of native method calls, it is not recommended for long-term or high-volume deployment.

The bridge is not a required component of the Java SDK, so it is not supported by most web browsers or other runtime environments. Using the bridge in an applet requires a browser with a JVM that supports the JDBC-ODBC Bridge, as well as a properly configured ODBC driver and data source on the client side. Finally, due to different implementations of the native methods interface, the bridge does not work with some development environments, most notably Microsoft Visual J++.

The JDBC URL subprotocol odbc has been reserved for the bridge. Like most JDBC URLs, it allows programs to encode extra information about the connection. ODBC URLs are of the form:

jdbc:odbc:datasourcename[;attribute-name=attribute-value]*

For instance, a JDBC URL pointing to an ODBC data source named companydb with the CacheSize attribute set to 10 looks like this:

jdbc:odbc:companydb;CacheSize=10


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