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What is ADO.NET?

ADO.NET is a software library in Microsoft’s .NET framework that helps provide both connected and disconnected access to database information for applications. It is broken into two parts; DataSet, which is used to organize and manipulate data, and .NET framework data providers, which control the dataflow between DataSet and Web-based applications.

For businesses whose sites rely on Windows-based applications developed using Microsoft’s .NET framework, an important part of the “behind the scenes” code on their hosted server is a component of the .NET framework known as ActiveX Data Object (ADO).NET. This software library assists developers by providing a connection framework and data manipulation capabilities that improve the performance of applications (such as galleries, database “middleware,” or interactive forms) that rely on databases to serve content.

ADO.NET is embedded in the .NET framework, and is itself broken out into two major components: DataSet, which is used to manipulate, store and transfer data, and .NET framework data providers, which are used to control the ways in which data moves between DataSet and the applications being served. Altogether, ADO.NET is composed of a set of classes that comes with the Microsoft .NET framework. ADO.NET facilitates data access from managed languages.

ADO.NET was launched long ago as part of the .NET framework and it provides a comprehensive and complete set of libraries for data access. Of the many benefits of ADO.NET is the enablement of access between applications and various types of data using the same methodology. What that means is that if you were to use ADO.NET to access data in a Microsoft SQL Server Database, then that same method applies to access on any other kind of database such as Microsoft Access or Oracle with the usage of a different set of classes. ADO.NET benefits the developer by providing two models for data access. One is a connected model where the connection with the database and the ability to perform data access is maintained. The other is a method to all the pertinent data in ADO.NET objects ahead of time, enabling the execution of data access on disconnected objects.

Where is ADO.NET today?

There are many development shops that still use ADO.NET because despite its age, it is extremely powerful and efficient. Many developers and development shops have shifted over to Object Relational Mapping (ORM) approaches to data access. ORMs have taken off because they are quick to ramp up at launch and they don’t require as much repeated rewriting of data access code as ADO.NET does. However, .NET developers are faced with little better data access options than ADO.NET provides and many prefer the granular control granted to them by this approach. They also look at the raw performance that ADO.NET affords the developer. In addition to performing well under general circumstances, ADO.NET includes a SQL Server Data Provider that is highly optimized for interaction with SQL Server. Once again the name of the game is speed, and ADO.NET uses SQL Server’s own Tabular Data Stream (TDS) format for exchanging information.

Native tools are typically the fastest and SQL’s TDS format is hard to beat. ADO.NET also supports XML which delivers a number of advantages, both to the framework and to the programmer utilizing the class library. The DataSet class, a component of ADO.NET works in a disconnected operation model, which makes for efficient, modular and scalable architecture. ADO.NET is built on a rich object model, meaning that logical inheritance makes customization easy to perform and the interface is simple to integrate.

So, for example, if you’ve developed a media player application for your Windows-based website that relies on MS SQL databases (MS SQL is Microsoft's version of the Structured Query Language (SQL) database management application) to store information, DataSet would be used in the code to manipulate the information (video library, customer preferences, account information and remaining credits), and .NET framework data providers would be used to control the data flow between these separate, but related, databases on your server.

Another way to visualize ADO.NET’s role is this: if your application was a restaurant, your data would be your meal, DataSet would be your chef, and .Net framework data providers would be the maitre d', the waitstaff and the kitchen crew.

As a standard component of the .NET framework, ADO.NET is supported by default on most Windows-based servers, and should not affect your monthly hosting fees

ADO.NET Frequently Asked Questions

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