ADO.NET Overview

ADO.NET is an evolution of the ADO data access model that directly addresses user requirements for developing scalable applications. It was designed specifically for the web with scalability, statelessness, and XML in mind.

ADO.NET uses some ADO objects, such as the Connection and Command objects, and also introduces new objects. Key new ADO.NET objects include the DataSet, DataReader, and DataAdapter.

The important distinction between this evolved stage of ADO.NET and previous data architectures is that there exists an object -- the DataSet -- that is separate and distinct from any data stores. Because of that, the DataSet functions as a standalone entity. You can think of the DataSet as an always disconnected recordset that knows nothing about the source or destination of the data it contains. Inside a DataSet, much like in a database, there are tables, columns, relationships, constraints, views, and so forth.

A DataAdapter is the object that connects to the database to fill the DataSet. Then, it connects back to the database to update the data there, based on operations performed while the DataSet held the data. In the past, data processing has been primarily connection-based. Now, in an effort to make multi-tiered apps more efficient, data processing is turning to a message-based approach that revolves around chunks of information. At the center of this approach is the DataAdapter, which provides a bridge to retrieve and save data between a DataSet and its source data store. It accomplishes this by means of requests to the appropriate SQL commands made against the data store.

The XML-based DataSet object provides a consistent programming model that works with all models of data storage: flat, relational, and hierarchical. It does this by having no 'knowledge' of the source of its data, and by representing the data that it holds as collections and data types. No matter what the source of the data within the DataSet is, it is manipulated through the same set of standard APIs exposed through the DataSet and its subordinate objects.

While the DataSet has no knowledge of the source of its data, the managed provider has detailed and specific information. The role of the managed provider is to connect, fill, and persist the DataSet to and from data stores. The OLE DB and SQL Server .NET Data Providers (System.Data.OleDb and System.Data.SqlClient) that are part of the .Net Framework provide four basic objects: the Command, Connection, DataReader and DataAdapter. In the remaining sections of this document, we'll walk through each part of the DataSet and the OLE DB/SQL Server .NET Data Providers explaining what they are, and how to program against them.

The following sections will introduce you to some objects that have evolved, and some that are new. These objects are:
Connections. For connection to and managing transactions against a database.
Commands. For issuing SQL commands against a database.
DataReaders. For reading a forward-only stream of data records from a SQL Server data source.
DataSets. For storing, remoting and programming against flat data, XML data and relational data.
DataAdapters. For pushing data into a DataSet, and reconciling data against a database.


Note When dealing with connections to a database, there are two different options: SQL Server .NET Data Provider (System.Data.SqlClient) and OLE DB .NET Data Provider (System.Data.OleDb). In these samples we will use the SQL Server .NET Data Provider. These are written to talk directly to Microsoft SQL Server. The OLE DB .NET Data Provider is used to talk to any OLE DB provider (as it uses OLE DB underneath).


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