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Quality Software Products for the PL/B Community

Data Access History

Sunbelt's History of Data Access

To understand our latest product, you must first know our history regarding data access. Originally, our PL/B products provided flat file support with separate index files for quick access. This combination provides the PL/B language with performance unmatched even today. Even then Sunbelt lead the way among the various PL/B vendors by employing operating system standard text files. This was at a time when most language vendors opted for proprietary file formats to implement data compression and indexing techniques. At Sunbelt we understood that keeping a file in a standard format allowed applications written in other languages to easily access the data. This ability to share data with other applications is a hallmark of all Sunbelt products.

As our Index Sequential Access Methods (ISAM) and unique Associative Access Method (AAM) routines evolved, we found that programmers using other languages such as C and Visual Basic were wanting to take advantage of our file access routines to simplify and enhance their programs. Sunbelt launched an ambitious effort to package our sequential, ISAM, and AAM routines and make them available to the world. SunAccess was the result of this effort and continues in use today by many customers.

As personal computers and local area networks evolved, small database products began to appear. Previously, only large mini-computers or mainframes could serve as a database server but now even a personal computer could reap the benefits afforded by a database. As many unique and proprietary database products became available, programmers were faced with have to support a multitude of products or limit their support. At this point, the industry came together to produce an application programming interface called Open Database Connectivity (ODBC). This specification did not define a database but merely provided a standard interface that each database provider could implement. This standard interface meant that application developers could write a single standard set of routines to access any number of databases. Any database that supported ODBC could be used by the application. As this standard took root, Sunbelt joined the movement and quickly provided language features that enabled a PL/B application to connect ODBC compliant databases.

In keeping with the tradition of making data easily accessible, Sunbelt next introduced SunODBC. This product provided an ODBC interface to our operating system standard flat files and proprietary ISAM and AAM indexes. Now other applications such as Microsoft's Excel or Word that allowed connection to ODBC databases could directly access data files that are maintained by PL/B programs. This product completed the ODBC suite. The ODBC language features originally implemented allow PL/B programs to access information in other databases and the SunODBC product allows non-PL/B applications access to PL/B data files.

In the world of software, it is normal to have several groups begin work on a specific idea. Each will generally take a different approach but over time one will emerge as the leader and become a defacto standard. As an outsider, it is generally wise to stand on the sideline until a clear leader emerges. This recently occurred with small database engines. These small yet robust engines provide Structured Query Language (SQL) support and many features found in larger database engines. These products are not designed as standalone products but are meant to be included in application programs in much the same was as our SunAccess product. By including the engine, applications can make use the database features without depending on an external database, a network connection, or even a database administrator.

In recent years, the SQLite database engine has emerged as a clear leader in this field. Employed by thousands of applications, SQLite is both efficient and feature rich. At Sunbelt, we recently added the SQLite database engine to our PL/B products. The engine is accessed using the same PL/B verbs originally implemented to access ODBC databases. With this addition, PL/B application designers can choose to store data in our traditional flat files or in an SQLite database. And since SQLite provides an ODBC interface, other applications can easily access the data.

One benefit that a database affords that is not available with flat files is that the database contains a hierarchical structure defining its contents. Data is stored in a database that is composed of tables that in turn have rows divided into named columns. This organizational information allows applications to access the data without having to know the internal structure. They simply request a field and the data is returned. With flat files, the application must know that a field starts at a particular position and extends for a specific length.

And now today, Sunbelt announces the next step in this evolutionary process - SQLIO. This language enhancement provides access to data in SQLite, MySql, or SqlServer databases using the PL/B language verbs originally designed for flat file support. Now the thousands of PL/B application programs that currently access files by performing Opens, Reads, Writes, Updates, and Deletes can quickly be transformed into database applications without having to be rewritten. There also is no requirement for the programmer to learn the Structured Query Language that is commonly used to access a database. SQLite provides the necessary translation for a verb such as READ to a database SQL SELECT statement. Sales opportunities previously missed because application packages did not store the data in acceptable database are now easily in reach of the PL/B programmer.

With the addition of SQIO, Sunbelt has provided still more capabilities to the PL/B language community. While other language products may provide one or two of the access methods described above, none compare to the suite offered by Sunbelt. The SQLIO product is unique in that it provides a simple method to transition a program from flat files to a database without the need to redesign the application or modify thousands of lines of code.

Install Sunbelt's PL/B Language products and give SQLIO a try with your applications. You will be amazed at how simple the whole process really is.

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Last modified April 09 2012 21:49 by