Test Drive of ODBC/32
Shawn M. Gordon
What it can do?
Do you want to be able to quickly build client/server applications? Not only build them quickly, but have them execute quickly? If so, then this review of ODBC/32 is for you. What ODBC/32 does is give you native access to the Image part of Image/SQL as well as KSAM and MPE files as ODBC data sources. Unlike other ODBC solutions available for the HP 3000, you don’t have to configure any AllBase tables to present the view of the database.
How does it work?
The Minisoft ODBC driver works like pretty much any other ODBC driver on your PC. You go into the Control Panel and define a data source using the ODBC/32 driver, see figure 1. All of your connection information is defined here so that your application doesn’t have to worry about it. The ODBC/32 driver “knows” how to read all the Image information directly so in your program you will get a pick list of sets and items, see figure 2 for an example of this from Fujitsu’s PowerCobol (covered in my Inside COBOL column).
If the database is not defined nicely, in other words generic buffers that are defined in copylibs or dictionaries, then you have to spend a little time in the Schema Editor to define it, just as you would for the MPE or KSAM files, see figure 3 for an example of the Schema Editor.
Once you have set up your HP3000 based data source, and optionally configured a schema file for it, you are then able to use it from any ODBC complient MS Windows program. If a schema file is defined for a data source, then you need to specify it in the ODBC configuration program, that way the defined data source is presented to you when you go to access it.
ODBC/32 fully supports the TPI (Third Party Indexing) Interface as well as the recently released Image b-trees, and appears to be nicely optimized to take advantage of them. You also get to deal directly with KSAM and MPE files as though they are a database. ODBC/32 will make use of the the KSAM keys if it can, but an MPE file will of course always be a serial read because there is no key structure to it.
Installation and Documentation
You can either download the demo from the web, have MiniSoft email it to you, or have them send you an actual set of diskettes and tape. The installation is two part, you have to install the server software on the HP side and launch the background listener job. The second part is to install the ODBC driver on the PC client, fortunately MiniSoft sells the software as server based, so you can make as many copies of the client software as you want.
The documentation is very clear and concise with plenty of examples using various tools such as Crystal Reports, Visual Basic, InQuizitive, and PowerBuilder to name a few. You should have no trouble installing, configuring and using the driver.
This was really kind of fun to test. I spent a total of an hour installing the ODBC/32 driver, PowerCobol, and writing my first PowerCobol program using an HP 3000 based data source through the driver. I then used my little client program to populate the data set with all the information. I tried it with some other products as well such as Clarion, VB, Delphi and Crystal Reports.
Crystal Reports was also a piece of cake, it took about 3 minutes to create a default report against my Image based data. For some reason VB and Delphi make the process rather complex, but I was able to easily retrieve the database structural information in the Delphi Database Explorer.
The performance of ODBC/32 is nothing short of amazing, I was able to read, delete, and update pretty much instantly. For a database that is nicely defined it takes only a minute to set it up for ODBC access.
I have several items I would like to see added to the product to really round it it. One is the ability to configure a security matrix for what and how data can be accessed. It is quit likely that you would want to distribute the same program to multiple people that had the update access disabled. You could control this in the program, but I would have liked to have seen an external access control mechanism.
Another area would be a debug/trace facility that would allow you to see what kind of SQL statements are getting generated and their equivalant Image call’s. I can see how this would help you fine tune your application, otherwise it’s sort of a black box thing. To be fair, I haven’t seen any other ODBC driver include this either.
The only other negative thing I would say, and I believe this is true of any ODBC driver, is that this is a data access control method, period. You can’t access custom servers, or the CI at all. If you want to do that, then you should look at the MiddleMan product from MiniSoft instead.
By the time you read this MiniSoft should have released support for reading the definition from a Quiz sub-file, and possibly a PowerHouse dictionary file. This is a very nice solution, and much easier to work with than the HP supplied solution. If you are thinking at all about maybe letting users create their own reports, then pull down a demo from the MiniSoft web site, and get a copy of Crystal Reports and go.
ODBC/32 version 184.108.40.206
1024 First St.
Snohomish, WA 98290
MiniSoft includes the 3000 based server software and the ODBC driver that is required for the client PCs. It provides 32 bit ODBC driver support from Win 95, and Win NT applications. ODBC/32 requires a network tcp/ip connection
ODBC/32 for the HP 3000 runs on all HP 3000 Series 900s, MPE/iX 4.0 or later. The software is tier based ranging from $1,995 to $3,995. Discounting on multiple CPUs. Support is 20% of the purchase price per year and includes phone in, electronic support and new releases of the software. All prices are in US dollars.