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SQL Anywhere Studio 9.0 Reviewed

  • August 29, 2003
  • By Nancy Nicolaisen
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SQL Anywhere Studio 9.0 targets small to medium size business database needs, mobile database applications and the embedded database market with a comprehensive set of tools for developing, managing and synchronizing databases. Perhaps the most compelling features of this new version of SQL Anywhere are its tools for creating web services and its support for small handheld devices. Long known for its reliability and ease of administration, version 9 builds on that reputation, with improved and expanded administration tools and full transaction processing support across the toolset.

SQL Anywhere Studio 9.0 aggregates four database technologies, providing scalable support across a range of platforms and operating systems:

Adaptive Server Anywhere is a compact, self-managing relational database aimed at desktops, laptops, handhelds and thin client hosts. It provides strong, complete SQL vocabulary and runs on Windows, Windows CE, Linux, NetWare and many UNIX variants.

UltraLite is a tiny but powerful database tool for handheld, palmtop and embedded devices. It runs on Palm OS, PocketPC and Java based systems. Engineered to meet the demands of memory and power constrained systems, it has a footprint of less than 100K, yet still includes support for sophisticated features like transaction processing and remote database synchronization.

MobiLink enables integration and synchronization of physically and spatially distributed databases, aggregating them into a single, coherent virtual data store.

Strong>SQL Remote enables message-driven synchronization, supporting both client and server initiated database reconciliation. SQL Remote supports synchronization processing over email, dial up and FTP links.

.NET Gains For Web Services

SQL Anywhere Version 9 has made its most noticeable gains in the areas of .NET and web services infrastructure. This version boasts a full integration of web server and database server, providing flexible data access through a powerful interface that enables storage and retrieval of data in XML format. Designed specifically to work seamlessly with Microsoft's .NET, Adaptive Server version 9 introduces an ADO.NET provider for integration with Microsoft's Visual Studio.NET and MobiLink supports .NET scripting of synchronization. The Ultralite.NET component rounds out support for .NET integration in small and embedded devices.

Adaptive Server supports database access over HTTP, HTTPS, most client server network protocols and accepts SOAP requests. A redesign of cache management functionality improves concurrency for large numbers of simultaneous users; with query performance is dramatically improved in this release.

Let's Get Small

Computing in general seems to be most vibrant at the edges these days. At the high end, we are witnessing the dawn of grid and utility computing. At the opposite extreme of size, we are seeing embedded systems penetrate ever more deeply into daily life at home, in the car and in the office. iAnywhere Solutions has been an active player in the embedded systems business for over a decade, so its both reassuring and predictable that they are driving the development of embedded database development technologies with features like the ones we see in this product. Perhaps the most striking thing is the variety and ease of use of the tools available to embedded systems developers.

You can now develop UltraLite embedded database applications with PocketIE and JavaScript, Visual Basic and ActiveX components, the .NET Compact Framework components paired with C# or Visual Basic, or target the native Java interpreter. And of course, there's good ol' C++ for diehards, with new enhancements that allow applications to support multi user concurrent access to embedded databases.

If you've had some experience with embedded databases, you appreciate that the real problems aren't usually related to acquiring or storing data. It's delivering the data to a repository, on time and error free, that turns out to be the headbanger. The reasons for this are many: often embedded sensors collect data in a format that has to be converted before it is forwarded; redundant embedded sensors make it necessary to filter data and eliminate duplications before collating; and — my favorite — the Byzantine generals problem. What if you have a sensor that drifts out of calibration and starts telling subtle lies? If you have a lot of redundancy, these errors can be corrected statistically. If not, you need to regress curves or use hind casting to resolve the discrepancy. The best place to validate data is at the sensor, but up until now this has been a mostly ad hoc process. SQL Anywhere's UltraLite is an evolutionary leap forward because it provides the SQL powertools to do real, industrial strength data handling on embedded devices, and its companion MobiLink provides fine control over how, when and how much data is transferred from an embedded database to the central data store. Couple this with embedded transaction processing features, and the stage is set for a new level of reliability and sophistication in embedded database apps.

Database Talk



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Power consumption and memory demands place some physical limits on what its practical to do on a really small device, so if you want to party on mass quantities of data, you'll probably be doing that on the Adaptive Server side of the partnership. SQL Anywhere version 9 introduces some impressive data manipulation syntax, including OLAP ROLLUP queries, set operations including INTERSECT and EXCEPT, and recursive unions that build the sort of tree structures you'd use to do a bill of materials report. Powerful stuff.

Database applications are generally some of the most effort intensive applications for administrators and sysdocs. One great, widely acknowledged strength of the SQL Anywhere lineage is ease of administration. This version brings important manageability and reliability enhancements to administrators, with an improved and expanded suite of tools for optimizing database performance. The new Index Consultant tool aids administrators in choosing database indices that yield best query performance. Combined with the new cache management scheme, admins get real power to improve quality of service.

Conclusions

There are quite a few nice new features in this version of the SQL Anywhere Studio, but the area in which it really claims new territory is in its support for embedded apps and the synchronization of distributed databases. These are both distinguishing achievements, and they occupy a market space that is increasingly important. These new features, combined with this product's scalability and reputation for reliability, make it a top contender for small to medium sized enterprise database apps.

About the Reviewer

Nancy Nicolaisen is a software engineer who has designed and implemented highly modular mobile products that include features such as full remote diagnostics, CE-side data compression, dynamically constructed user interface, automatic screen size detection, entry time data validation. In addition to writing for Developer.com, she has written several books including Making Win 32 Applications Mobile.

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