The Future of ODBC

Though its name begins with open, implying that it is not tied to a single vendor or even to a subset of RDBMS vendors, ODBC is controlled by a single vendor - Microsoft. Microsoft defines the specification of the API and supplies the basic driver manager software used on Microsoft operating systems. This control has some good aspects and some bad for the future of ODBC.

The Good (Moves towards Openness)

Microsoft has made reasonable, useful extensions to the original SQL Access Group, SAG, definitions in creating ODBC. Later releases have refined those extensions. Microsoft has committed to bringing Version 3.0 and future versions of ODBC more in line with SAG's specifications and with existing standards.

The Bad (Sidetracking the Openness)

On the negative side, Microsoft is too often using ODBC as a tool of their overall marketing campaign. Starting with Version 2.0 of ODBC, they have controlled and restricted distribution and have changed the specification for the sole purpose of furthering the goals of Microsoft. These actions have certainly severely injured the openness of ODBC.

One of the attacks that MS has made on ODBC is with the OLE DB initiative. This is discussed in the next section.

Other actions by Microsoft injurious to ODBC are:


In a major strike against ODBC, Microsoft is touting their OLE DB facility as a replacement for ODBC. OLE DB could be viewed as an object layer placed on top of ODBC, but Microsoft is likely to provide direct OLE DB drivers for their database products and to de-emphasize and perhaps discontinue ODBC drivers for their products. OLE DB is not open nor portable except between Microsoft OSs, which will become only a single OS - NT, in the next few years.

Because of Microsoft's total control of the specification and arbitrary complexities in the facility, OLE DB will not be supported by other Operating Systems - OS/2, MAC OS and various flavors of UNIX. ODBC, and Embedded SQL to a lesser degree, will remain as the only open and portable interfaces for SQL accessable databases. Unfortunately, the fate of ODBC is completely under the control of Microsoft.

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