Better to know some
... than all
An Overview of SQL
SQL is the de facto standard language used to manipulate and retrieve data from these relational databases. SQL enables a programmer or database administrator to do the following:
* Modify a database's structure
* Change system security settings
* Add user permissions on databases or tables
* Query a database for information
* Update the contents of a database
Unfortunately, there is no good substitute for Query. Obviously, Structured Add Modify Delete Join Store Trigger and Query Language (SAMDJSTQL) is a bit cumbersome. In the interest of harmony, we will stay with SQL. However, you now know that its function is bigger than its name.
The most commonly used statement in SQL is the SELECT statement (see Day 2, "Introduction to the Query: The SELECT Statement"), which retrieves data from the database and returns the data to the user. The EMPLOYEE table example illustrates a typical example of a SELECT statement situation. In addition to the SELECT statement, SQL provides statements for creating new databases, tables, fields, and indexes, as well as statements for inserting and deleting records. ANSI SQL also recommends a core group of data manipulation functions. As you will find out, many database systems also have tools for ensuring data integrity and enforcing security (see Day 11, "Controlling Transactions") that enable programmers to stop the execution of a group of commands if a certain condition occurs.
This section introduces some of the more popular implementations of SQL, each of which has its own strengths and weaknesses. Where some implementations of SQL have been developed for PC use and easy user interactivity, others have been developed to accommodate very large databases (VLDB). This sections introduces selected key features of some implementations.
We use Microsoft Access, a PC-based DBMS, to illustrate some of the examples in this text. Access is very easy to use. You can use GUI tools or manually enter your SQL statements.
We use Personal Oracle7, which represents the larger corporate database world, to demonstrate command-line SQL and database management techniques. (These techniques are important because the days of the standalone machine are drawing to an end, as are the days when knowing one database or one operating system was enough.) In command-line RÊl, simple stand+[cedilla]one SQL statements are entered into Oracle's SQL*Plus tool. This tool then returns data to the screen for the user to see, or it performs the appropriate action on the database.
Most examples are directed toward the beginning programmer or first-time user of SQL. We begin with the simplest of SQL statements and advance to the topics of transaction management and stored procedure programming. The Oracle RDBMS is distributed with a full complement of development tools. It includes a C++ and Visual Basic language library (Oracle Objects for OLE) that can link an application to a Personal Oracle database. It also comes with graphical tools for database, user, and object administration, as well as the SQL*Loader utility, which is used to import and export data to and from Oracle.
We chose the Personal Oracle7 RDBMS for several reasons:
* It includes nearly all the tools needed to demonstrate the topics discussed in this book.
* It is available on virtually every platform in use today and is one of the most popular RDBMS products worldwide.
* A 90-day trial copy can be downloaded from Oracle Corporation's World Wide Web server (http://www.oracle.com).
Microsoft Query is a useful query tool that comes packaged with Microsoft's Windows development tools, Visual C++, and Visual Basic. It uses the ODBC standard to communicate with underlying databases. Microsoft Query passes SQL statements to a driver, which processes the statements before passing them to a database system.
ODBC is a functional library designed to provide a common Application Programming Interface (API) to underlying database systems. It communicates with the database through a library driver, just as Windows communicates with a printer via a printer driver. Depending on the database being used, a networking driver may be required to connect to a remote database.
The unique feature of ODBC (as compared to the Oracle or Sybase libraries) is that none of its functions are database-vendor specific. For instance, you can use the same code to perform queries against a Microsoft Access table or an Informix database with little or no modification. Once again, it should be noted that most vendors add some proprietary extensions to the SQL standard, such as Microsoft's and Sybase's Transact-SQL and Oracle's PL/SQL.
You should always consult the documentation before beginning to work with a new data source. ODBC has developed into a standard adopted into many products, including Visual Basic, Visual C++, FoxPro, Borland Delphi, and PowerBuilder. As always, application developers need to weigh the benefit of using the emerging ODBC standard, which enables you to design code without regard for a specific database, versus the speed gained by using a database specific function library. In other words, using ODBC will be more portable but slower than using the Oracle7 or Sybase libraries.
SQL was originally made an ANSI standard in 1986. The ANSI 1989 standard (often called SQL-89) defines three types of interfacing to SQL within an application program:
Module Language-- Uses procedures within programs. These procedures can be called by the application program and can return values to the program via parameter passing.
Embedded SQL--Uses SQL statements embedded with actual program code. This method often requires the use of a precompiler to process the SQL statements. The standard defines statements for Pascal, FORTRAN, COBOL, and PL/1.
Direct Invocation--Left up to the implementor.
Before the concept of dynamic SQL evolved, embedded SQL was the most popular way to use SQL within a program. Embedded SQL, which is still used, uses static SQL--meaning that the SQL statement is compiled into the application and cannot be changed at runtime. The principle is much the same as a compiler versus an interpreter. The performance for this type of SQL is good; however, it is not flexible--and cannot always meet the needs of today's changing business environments. Dynamic SQL is discussed shortly.
The ANSI 1992 standard (SQL-92) extended the language and became an international standard. It defines three levels of SQL compliance: entry, intermediate, and full. The new features introduced include the following:
* Connections to databases
* Scrollable cursors
* Dynamic SQL
* Outer joins
This Site covers not only all these extensions but also some proprietary extensions used by RDBMS vendors. Dynamic SQL allows you to prepare the SQL statement at runtime. Although the performance for this type of SQL is not as good as that of embedded SQL, it provides the application developer (and user) with a great degree of flexibility. A call-level interface, such as ODBC or Sybase's DB-Library, is an example of dynamic SQL.
Call-level interfaces should not be a new concept to application programmers. When using ODBC, for instance, you simply fill a variable with your SQL statement and call the function to send the SQL statement to the database. Errors or results can be returned to the program through the use of other function calls designed for those purposes. Results are returned through a process known as the binding of variables.