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8: Introducing ADO.NET 9: Understanding Data Binding 10: Working with Data Grids 11: Using Templates 12: Using SQL Server with ASP.NET 13: Advanced Data Binding and XML
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Introducing ADO.NET
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Overview
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As more and more companies are coming up with n-tier client/server and Web-based database solutions, Microsoft with its Universal Data Access (UDA) model, offers highperformance access to diverse data and information sources on multiple platforms. Also, UDA provides an easy-to-use programming interface that works with practically any tool or language, leveraging the technical skills developers already have. The Microsoft UDA model is a collection of Data Access Components, which are the key technologies that enable Universal Data Access. The Data Access Components include ActiveX Data Objects (ADO), Remote Data Service (RDS), formerly known as Advanced Data Connector (ADC), Object Linking and Embedding Database (OLE DB), and Open Database Connectivity (ODBC). Microsoft is targeting many more such Data Access components that offer easy-tomaintain solutions to organizations. Such solutions are aimed at allowing organizations use their own choice of tools, applications, and data sources on the client, middle tier, or server. One of the emerging components within the UDAs collection is ADO.NET. This chapter introduces you to ADO.NET.
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Microsoft ADO.NET is the latest improvement after ADO. ADO.NET provides platform interoperability and scalable data access. In the .NET Framework, data is transmitted in the Extensible Markup Language (XML) format. Therefore, any application that can read the XML format can process data. It is not necessary for the receiving component to be an ADO.NET component at all. The receiving component might be a Microsoft Visual Studio based solution or any application running on any other platform. Although ADO.NET preserves some of the primary concepts from previous ADO models, it has been chiefly stretched to provide access to structured data from diverse sources. ADO.NET provides access to diverse data sources by using a consistent and standardized programming model. ADO.NET is upgraded to offer several advantages over previous versions of ADO and over other data access components. ADO.NET builds the foundation of data-aware .NET applications. ADO.NET brings together all the classes that allow data handling. Such classes represent data container objects that feature typical database capabilities indexing, sorting, and views. While ADO.NET offers a solution for .NET database applications, it presents an overall structure that is not as database-centric as the ADO model. The ADO model uses the concept of recordsets, which are the ADO representation of tables and views from a database. Although these recordsets are very flexible to use and
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allow access to data even when disconnected from data sources, they suffer from a major drawback. In the case of distributed and Web applications, data needs to be exchanged among different components at different tiers, which might be running on variety of platforms. Of course, the format of the data being exchanged should be understood by all components. This transmission of data requires the conversion of data types of values to some data types that are recognized by the receiving components. This conversion is called COM marshalling. Thus, the interoperability is limited when using ADO recordsets. So, the concept of ADO recordsets fails when we look at the Internet interoperability. Like ADO, ADO.NET also allows you to access data when disconnected from actual data sources. However, unlike ADO, ADO.NET uses XML as the data format. Because XML is a universal data format being used, ADO.NET expands the boundaries of interoperability to the Internet. In addition, instead of recordsets, ADO.NET uses the DataSet and DataReader objects to access and manipulate data. You'll learn about these objects later in the chapter. Thus, ADO.NET is designed to perform better and be more flexible than ADO. However, to support ADO objects, the corresponding equivalents exist in ADO.NET. Note Data container objects are the objects that contain data to be transmitted to the receiving components. To take full advantage of ADO.NET, you should put some effort into understanding the concept itself, rather than simply figuring out the fastest way to port your code. Whatever .NET programming model you might choose Windows Forms, Web Forms, or Web Services ADO.NET will be there to help you with data access issues. The workings of ADO.NET are shown in Figure 8-1. Let us now look at the key features offered by ADO.NET.
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Figure 8-1: The workings of ADO.NET Interoperability The ADO.NET model is designed to take maximum advantage of the flexibility provided by the large industry acceptance of XML. ADO.NET uses XML for transmitting datasets among components and across tiers. Any component that is capable of reading the XML format can process the data. It is not necessary for the receiving component to be an ADO.NET component. The component that is sending or transmitting the dataset can simply transmit the dataset to its destination without bothering with how the receiving component is implemented. The component asking for the dataset, the destination component, can be implemented as a Visual Studio application or any other application. However, the important point to be considered is that the receiving component should be capable of accepting the XML file formatted as a dataset.
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Maintainability After an application is deployed, there might be a need for changes in the application. For example, the application might need substantial architectural changes to improve its performance. As the performance load on a deployed application server grows, system resources can become inadequate, resulting in higher response times. As a solution to these problems, the application might need to undergo architectural changes by adding tiers. Here, the problem is not the multitier application design, but rather the problem lies in increasing the number of tiers after an application is deployed. This transformation becomes easier if the original application is implemented in ADO.NET using datasets. In ADO.NET, the communication between tiers is relatively easy, because the tiers can transmit data through XML-formatted datasets. Programmability The ADO.NET model uses typed programming to manipulate objects. In typed programming, the programming environment or programming language itself recognizes the types of things that are important to users. To take full advantage of typed programming, you must know the things that are of interest to programmers and to end users. Consider the following code using typed programming in ADO.NET: If TotalQty > DataSet1.ProductInfo("Baby Food").QtyAvailable This code is equivalent to a line using non-typed programming and is easier to read by end users. An end user who has little or no programming experience can easily grasp the meaning of the condition being tested. Also, in non-typed programming, if the developer makes a spelling mistake by chance (for example, ProductInfo is spelled as ProdcutInfo), a run-time error will get generated. On the other hand, in typed datasets, errors in the syntax caused by misspellings are detected at compile time rather than at run time. Performance In ADO, while transmitting data across tiers using COM marshalling in the form of disconnected RecordSets, the values must be converted to data types that are recognized by COM. This results in poor performance. On the other hand, ADO.NET is designed to use disconnected data architecture, which in turn is easier to scale because it reduces the load on database (does not require any data type conversions). Thus, in the ADO.NET model, everything is handled at the client side, which in turn improves performance. Scalability The Web-based, data-centric applications require multiple users to access data simultaneously. This increases the demand on data to be accessed, making scalability one of the most critical features. Applications that use resources, such as database connections and database locks, cannot support more users to access data simultaneously, because eventually the user demand for the limited resources will exceed their supply. Because ADO.NET uses disconnected data access, applications do not retain database locks or active database connections for long durations. Hence, ADO.NET accommodates scalability by encouraging programmers to conserve limited resources, and allows more users to access data simultaneously.
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