Java Platform, Standard Edition (Java SE) version 6 (code name Mustang), is currently in its second beta release and is scheduled to be delivered in October of this year. Java SE 6 includes several enhancements to the Java Database Connectivity (JDBC) API. These enhancements will be released as JDBC version 4.0. The main objectives of the new JDBC features are to provide a simpler design and better developer experience. This article provides an overview of the JDBC 4.0 enhancements and what benefits they offer to enterprise Java developers. We will explore the new JDBC features with the help of a sample loan processing application using Apache Derby as the back-end database.

Java SE 6.0

The Java SE 6.0 release mainly aims at providing compatibility, stability, and quality. There are several interesting enhancements in this release, especially in the areas of monitoring and management (JMX), web services, scripting language support (to integrate JavaScript technology with Java source code using the Rhino scripting engine JSR 223), database connectivity, support for annotations, and security. There are also several new features in the JDBC API ranging from the new RowId support to the additional SQLException subclasses.

JDBC 4.0 Features

Thanks to the Java SE Service Provider mechanism included in Mustang, Java developers no longer need to explicitly load JDBC drivers using code like Class.forName() to register a JDBC driver. The DriverManager class takes care of this by automatically locating a suitable driver when the DriverManager.getConnection() method is called. This feature is backward-compatible, so no changes are needed to the existing JDBC code.

JDBC 4.0 also provides an improved developer experience by minimizing the boiler-plate code we need to write in Java applications that access relational databases. It also provides utility classes to improve the JDBC driver registration and unload mechanisms as well as managing data sources and connection objects.

With JDBC 4.0, Java developers can now specify SQL queries using Annotations, taking the advantage of metadata support available with the release of Java SE 5.0 (Tiger). Annotation-based SQL queries allow us to specify the SQL query string right within the Java code using an Annotation keyword. This way we don't have to look in two different files for JDBC code and the database query it's calling. For example, if you have a method called getActiveLoans() to get a list of the active loans in a loan processing database, you can decorate it with a @Query(sql="SELECT * FROM LoanApplicationDetails WHERE LoanStatus = 'A'") annotation.

Also, the final version of the Java SE 6 development kit (JDK 6)--as opposed to the runtime environment (JRE 6)--will have a database based on Apache Derby bundled with it. This will help developers explore the new JDBC features without having to download, install, and configure a database product separately.

The major features added in JDBC 4.0 include:

  1. Auto-loading of JDBC driver class
  2. Connection management enhancements
  3. Support for RowId SQL type
  4. DataSet implementation of SQL using Annotations
  5. SQL exception handling enhancements
  6. SQL XML support

There are also other features such as improved support for large objects (BLOB/CLOB) and National Character Set Support. These features are examined in detail in the following section.

Auto-Loading of JDBC Driver

In JDBC 4.0, we no longer need to explicitly load JDBC drivers using Class.forName(). When the method getConnection is called, the DriverManager will attempt to locate a suitable driver from among the JDBC drivers that were loaded at initialization and those loaded explicitly using the same class loader as the current application.

The DriverManager methods getConnection and getDrivers have been enhanced to support the Java SE Service Provider mechanism (SPM). According to SPM, a service is defined as a well-known set of interfaces and abstract classes, and a service provider is a specific implementation of a service. It also specifies that the service provider configuration files are stored in the META-INF/services directory. JDBC 4.0 drivers must include the file META-INF/services/java.sql.Driver. This file contains the name of the JDBC driver's implementation of java.sql.Driver. For example, to load the JDBC driver to connect to a Apache Derby database, the META-INF/services/java.sql.Driver file would contain the following entry:

org.apache.derby.jdbc.EmbeddedDriver

Let's take a quick look at how we can use this new feature to load a JDBC driver manager. The following listing shows the sample code that we typically use to load the JDBC driver. Let's assume that we need to connect to an Apache Derby database, since we will be using this in the sample application explained later in the article:

    Class.forName("org.apache.derby.jdbc.EmbeddedDriver");
    Connection conn =
        DriverManager.getConnection(jdbcUrl, jdbcUser, jdbcPassword);

But in JDBC 4.0, we don't need the Class.forName() line. We can simply call getConnection() to get the database connection.

Note that this is for getting a database connection in stand-alone mode. If you are using some type of database connection pool to manage connections, then the code would be different.

Connection Management

Prior to JDBC 4.0, we relied on the JDBC URL to define a data source connection. Now with JDBC 4.0, we can get a connection to any data source by simply supplying a set of parameters (such as host name and port number) to a standard connection factory mechanism. New methods were added to Connection and Statement interfaces to permit improved connection state tracking and greater flexibility when managing Statement objects in pool environments. The metadata facility (JSR-175) is used to manage the active connections. We can also get metadata information, such as the state of active connections, and can specify a connection as standard (Connection, in the case of stand-alone applications), pooled (PooledConnection), or even as a distributed connection (XAConnection) for XA transactions. Note that we don't use the XAConnection interface directly. It's used by the transaction manager inside a Java EE application server such as WebLogic, WebSphere, or JBoss.

RowId Support

The RowID interface was added to JDBC 4.0 to support the ROWID data type which is supported by databases such as Oracle and DB2. RowId is useful in cases where there are multiple records that don't have a unique identifier column and you need to store the query output in a Collection (such Hashtable) that doesn't allow duplicates. We can use ResultSet's getRowId() method to get a RowId and PreparedStatement's setRowId() method to use the RowId in a query.

An important thing to remember about the RowId object is that its value is not portable between data sources and should be considered as specific to the data source when using the set or update methods in PreparedStatement and ResultSet respectively. So, it shouldn't be shared between different Connection and ResultSet objects.

The method getRowIdLifetime() in DatabaseMetaData can be used to determine the lifetime validity of the RowId object. The return value or row id can have one of the values listed in Table 1.

RowId Value Description
ROWID_UNSUPPORTED Doesn't support ROWID data type.
ROWID_VALID_OTHER Lifetime of the RowID is dependent on database vendor implementation.
ROWID_VALID_TRANSACTION Lifetime of the RowID is within the current transaction as long as the row in the database table is not deleted.
ROWID_VALID_SESSION Lifetime of the RowID is the duration of the current session as long as the row in the database table is not deleted.
ROWID_VALID_FOREVER Lifetime of the RowID is unlimited as long as the row in the database table is not deleted.

Annotation-Based SQL Queries

The JDBC 4.0 specification leverages annotations (added in Java SE 5) to allow developers to associate a SQL query with a Java class without writing a lot of code to achieve this association. Also, by using the Generics (JSR 014) and metadata (JSR 175) APIs, we can associate the SQL queries with Java objects specifying query input and output parameters. We can also bind the query results to Java classes to speed the processing of query output. We don't need to write all the code we usually write to populate the query result into a Java object. There are two main annotations when specifying SQL queries in Java code: Select and Update.

Select Annotation

The Select annotation is used to specify a select query in a Java class for the get method to retrieve data from a database table. Table 2 shows various attributes of the Select annotation and their uses.

Name Type Description
sql String SQL Select query string.
value String Same as sql attribute.
tableName String Name of the database table against which the sql will be invoked.
readOnly, connected, scrollable Boolean Flags used to indicate if the returned DataSet is read-only or updateable, is connected to the back-end database, and is scrollable when used in connected mode respectively.
allColumnsMapped Boolean Flag to indicate if the column names in the sql annotation element are mapped 1-to-1 with the fields in the DataSet.

Here's an example of Select annotation to get all the active loans from the loan database:

interface LoanAppDetailsQuery extends BaseQuery {
        @Select("SELECT * FROM LoanDetais where LoanStatus = 'A'")
        DataSet<LoanApplication> getAllActiveLoans();
}

The sql annotation allows I/O parameters as well (a parameter marker is represented with a question mark followed by an integer). Here's an example of a parameterized sql query.

interface LoanAppDetailsQuery extends BaseQuery {
        @Select(sql="SELECT * from LoanDetails
                where borrowerFirstName= ?1 and borrowerLastName= ?2")
        DataSet<LoanApplication> getLoanDetailsByBorrowerName(String borrFirstName,
                String borrLastName);
}

Update Annotation

The Update annotation is used to decorate a Query interface method to update one or more records in a database table. An Update annotation must include a sql annotation type element. Here's an example of Update annotation:

interface LoanAppDetailsQuery extends BaseQuery {
        @Update(sql="update LoanDetails set LoanStatus = ?1
                where loanId = ?2")
        boolean updateLoanStatus(String loanStatus, int loanId);
}

SQL Exception Handling Enhancements

Exception handling is an important part of Java programming, especially when connecting to or running a query against a back-end relational database. SQLException is the class that we have been using to indicate database related errors. JDBC 4.0 has several enhancements in SQLException handling. The following are some of the enhancements made in JDBC 4.0 release to provide a better developer's experience when dealing with SQLExceptions:

  1. New SQLException sub-classes
  2. Support for causal relationships
  3. Support for enhanced for-each loop

New SQLException classes

The new subclasses of SQLException were created to provide a means for Java programmers to write more portable error-handling code. There are two new categories of SQLException introduced in JDBC 4.0:

  • SQL non-transient exception
  • SQL transient exception

Non-Transient Exception: This exception is thrown when a retry of the same JDBC operation would fail unless the cause of the SQLException is corrected. Table 3 shows the new exception classes that are added in JDBC 4.0 as subclasses of SQLNonTransientException (SQLState class values are defined in SQL 2003 specification.):

Exception class SQLState value
SQLFeatureNotSupportedException 0A
SQLNonTransientConnectionException 08
SQLDataException 22
SQLIntegrityConstraintViolationException 23
SQLInvalidAuthorizationException 28
SQLSyntaxErrorException 42

Transient Exception: This exception is thrown when a previously failed JDBC operation might be able to succeed when the operation is retried without any intervention by application-level functionality. The new exceptions extending SQLTransientException are listed in Table 4.

Exception class SQLState value
SQLTransientConnectionException 08
SQLTransactionRollbackException 40
SQLTimeoutException None

Causal Relationships

The SQLException class now supports the Java SE chained exception mechanism (also known as the Cause facility), which gives us the ability to handle multiple SQLExceptions (if the back-end database supports a multiple exceptions feature) thrown in a JDBC operation. This scenario occurs when executing a statement that may throw more than one SQLException .

We can use getNextException() method in SQLException to iterate through the exception chain. Here's some sample code to process SQLException causal relationships:

catch(SQLException ex) {
     while(ex != null) {
        LOG.error("SQL State:" + ex.getSQLState());
        LOG.error("Error Code:" + ex.getErrorCode());
        LOG.error("Message:" + ex.getMessage());
        Throwable t = ex.getCause();
        while(t != null) {
            LOG.error("Cause:" + t);
            t = t.getCause();
        }
        ex = ex.getNextException();
    }
}

Enhanced For-Each Loop

The SQLException class implements the Iterable interface, providing support for the for-each loop feature added in Java SE 5. The navigation of the loop will walk through SQLException and its cause. Here's a code snippet showing the enhanced for-each loop feature added in SQLException.

catch(SQLException ex) {
     for(Throwable e : ex ) {
        LOG.error("Error occurred: " + e);
     }
}

Support for National Character Set Conversion

Following is the list of new enhancements made in JDBC classes when handling the National Character Set:

  1. JDBC data types: New JDBC data types, such as NCHAR, NVARCHAR, LONGNVARCHAR, and NCLOB were added.
  2. PreparedStatement: New methods setNString, setNCharacterStream, and setNClob were added.
  3. CallableStatement: New methods getNClob, getNString, and getNCharacterStream were added.
  4. ResultSet: New methods updateNClob, updateNString, and updateNCharacterStream were added to ResultSet interface.

Enhanced Support for Large Objects (BLOBs and CLOBs)

The following is the list of enhancements made in JDBC 4.0 for handling the LOBs:

  1. Connection: New methods (createBlob(), createClob(), and createNClob()) were added to create new instances of BLOB, CLOB, and NCLOB objects.
  2. PreparedStatement: New methods setBlob(), setClob(), and setNClob() were added to insert a BLOB object using an InputStream object, and to insert CLOB and NCLOB objects using a Reader object.
  3. LOBs: There is a new method (free()) added in Blob, Clob, and NClob interfaces to release the resources that these objects hold.

Now, let's look at some of the new classes added to the java.sql and javax.jdbc packages and what services they provide.

JDBC 4.0 API: New Classes

RowId (java.sql)

As described earlier, this interface is a representation of an SQL ROWID value in the database. ROWID is a built-in SQL data type that is used to identify a specific data row in a database table. ROWID is often used in queries that return rows from a table where the output rows don't have an unique ID column.

Methods in CallableStatement, PreparedStatement, and ResultSet interfaces such as getRowId and setRowId allow a programmer to access a SQL ROWID value. The RowId interface also provides a method (called getBytes()) to return the value of ROWID as a byte array. DatabaseMetaData interface has a new method called getRowIdLifetime that can be used to determine the lifetime of a RowId object. A RowId's scope can be one of three types:

  1. Duration of the database transaction in which the RowId was created
  2. Duration of the session in which the RowId was created
  3. The identified row in the database table, as long as it is not deleted

DataSet (java.sql)

The DataSet interface provides a type-safe view of the data returned from executing of a SQL Query. DataSet can operate in a connected or disconnected mode. It is similar to ResultSet in its functionality when used in connected mode. A DataSet, in a disconnected mode, functions similar to a CachedRowSet. Since DataSet extends List interface, we can iterate through the rows returned from a query.

There are also several new methods added in the existing classes such as Connection (createSQLXML, isValid) and ResultSet (getRowId).

Sample Application

The sample application included with this article is a loan processing application that includes a loan search page where the user submits the form by entering a loan ID to get loan details. The loan search page calls a controller object that in turn calls a DAO object to access the back-end database to retrieve the loan details. These details include borrower name, loan amount, and loan expiration date, which are displayed on a loan details screen. In the back-end database, we have a table called LoanApplicationDetails to store the details of the loan application.

The use case of the sample application is to get loan details for a specified loan ID. The loan details are available for retrieval once a loan is registered and locked for a mortgage product and interest rate combination. The project details of the loan processing application are shown in Table 5.

Name Value
Project Name JdbcApp
Project Directory c:\dev\projects\JdbcApp
DB Directory c:\dev\dbservers\apache\derby
JDK Directory c:\dev\java\jdk_1.6.0
IDE Directory c:\dev\tools\eclipse
Database Apache Derby 10.1.2.1
JDK 6.0 (beta 2 release)
IDE Eclipse 3.1
Unit Testing JUnit 4
Build Ant 1.6.5

The table below lists the JDBC parameters we need to connect to the loan details Apache Derby database. These parameters are stored in a text file called derby.properties, which is located in the etc/jdbc directory under the project base directory (see Table 6).

Name Value
JDBC Driver File LoanApp\META-INF\services\java.sql.driver
Driver org.apache.derby.ClientDriver
URL jdbc:derby:derbyDB
User Id user1
Password user1

Note: Apache Derby database provides two types of JDBC drivers: Embedded Driver (org.apache.derby.jdbc.EmbeddedDriver) and Client/Server Driver (org.apache.derby.jdbc.ClientDriver). I used the Client/Server Driver version in the sample application.

The following are the commands to start the Derby database server and to create the new database using the ij tool.

To start Derby Network Server, open a command prompt and run the following commands (change DERBY_INSTALL and JAVA_HOME environment variables to reflect your local environment).

set DERBY_INSTALL=C:\dev\dbservers\db-derby-10.1.2.1-bin
set JAVA_HOME=C:\dev\java\jdk1.6.0
set DERBY_INSTALL=C:\dev\dbservers\db-derby-10.1.3.1-bin
set CLASSPATH=%CLASSPATH%;%DERBY_INSTALL%\lib\derby.jar;
                %DERBY_INSTALL%\lib\derbytools.jar;
                %DERBY_INSTALL%\lib\derbynet.jar;

cd %DERBY_INSTALL%\frameworks\NetworkServer\bin
startNetworkServer.bat

To connect to the database server and create the test database, open another command prompt and run the following commands. Make sure to change DERBY_INSTALL and JAVA_HOME environment variables to suit to your environment.

set JAVA_HOME=C:\dev\java\jdk1.6.0
set DERBY_INSTALL=C:\dev\dbservers\db-derby-10.1.3.1-bin
set CLASSPATH=%DERBY_INSTALL%\lib\derbyclient.jar;
                %DERBY_INSTALL%\lib\derbytools.jar;.

%JAVA_HOME%\bin\java org.apache.derby.tools.ij
connect 'jdbc:derby://localhost:1527/LoanDB;create=true';

Testing

The classpath setting to compile the Java source should include the derby.jar and junit4.jar files located in the lib directory under project main directory. We also need to include etc, etc/jdbc and etc/log4j directories in the classpath so the application can access the JDBC properties and Log4J configuration files. I created an Ant build script (located in JdbcApp/build directory) to automate the tasks of compiling and packaging the Java code.

The test class used to test the loan details data access object is called LoanAppDetailsDAOTest. We pass in parameters such as loan ID and borrower name to get the loan details.

The following section shows code examples on auto-loading the JDBC driver and annotation-based SQL query features of JDBC 4.0 specification.

JDBC Driver Auto-Loading

The BaseDAO abstract class has a method called getConnection to get a database connection. The following code snippet shows this method (notice that we don't have to register the JDBC driver). The JDBC driver is automatically loaded as long as the appropriate driver class name (org.apache.derby.jdbc.ClientDriver) is located in java.sql.Driver file.

protected Connection getConnection() throws DAOException {
        // Load JDBC properties first
        if (jdbcUrl == null || jdbcUser == null ||
                        jdbcPassword == null) {
                loadJdbcProperties();
        }
        // Get Connection
        Connection conn = null;
        try {
                conn = DriverManager.getConnection(jdbcUrl, jdbcUser,
                                jdbcPassword);
        } catch (SQLException sqle) {
                throw new DAOException("Error in getting a DB connection.",
                                sqle);
        }
        return conn;
}

SQL Annotations

LoanAppDetailsQuery interface has the annotated SQL queries to get a list of active loans (criteria is loanstatus="A") and loan details based on the borrower name (in the case of a single borrower owning multiple loans). We saw these SQL annotations earlier in the article. Here's the sample code showing how we can call the SQL query defined using an Annotation.

public DataSet<LoanAppDetails> getAllActiveLoans() throws Exception {
        // Get Connection
        Connection conn = getConnection();
        LoanAppDetailsQuery query = null;
        DataSet<LoanAppDetails> loanDetails = null;
        query = QueryObjectFactory.createQueryObject(
                        LoanAppDetailsQuery.class, conn);
        loanDetails = query.getAllActiveLoans();
        return loanDetails;
}

public DataSet<LoanAppDetails> getLoanDetailsByBorrowerName(
                String borrFirstName, String borrLastName) throws Exception {
        // Get Connection
        Connection conn = getConnection();
        LoanAppDetailsQuery query = null;
        DataSet<LoanAppDetails> loanDetails = null;
        query = QueryObjectFactory.createQueryObject(
                        LoanAppDetailsQuery.class, conn);
        loanDetails = query.getLoanDetailsByBorrowerName(
                        borrFirstName,borrLastName);
        return loanDetails;
}

Conclusion

JDBC 4.0 provides ease of development and improves the developer experience when working with SQL. Another goal of JDBC 4.0 is to provide enterprise-level JDBC features to expose the API to a richer set of tools to manage JDBC resources. Also, the JDBC 4.0 API provides a migration path for JDBC drivers to be compliant with the J2EE Connector architecture (JCA). This provides JDBC vendors the ability to move toward implementing the JDBC technology Connector API. This is important in the context of using a JDBC data source in an enterprise Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) application where JDBC data source can be deployed as just another adapter in the Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) architecture without having to write ESB specific implementation code for the JDBC data source.

In this article, we looked at JDBC 4.0 enhancements, such as RowId support, JDBC driver loading, and Annotations-based SQL. There will be other features added in JDBC 4.0 in the future to support SQL:2003 specification. For more information on JDBC 4.0 spec, refer to the specification document.

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