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Using the Enterprise Library Data Access Block for .NET 2.0

Writing database-access code is a repetitious and time-consuming task, but now that it's available as a reusable Enterprise Data Access Application Block, you'll never have to write such code again.

DO .NET provides many rich features that can be used to retrieve and display data in a number of ways, but even given such flexibility, sometimes developers find themselves repeating the same code again and again. For example, every data-driven application requires access to a database. You need to write code to connect to the database, open a connection, execute dynamic SQL or stored procedures, retrieve the results, and close the connection. In other words, this is "plumbing" code that you will be forced to write in almost any application you develop, even though it doesn't add any value to the core business users.

Typically, the only things in this code that might differ between applications are the SQL statements or stored procedure names, the command parameters, and the connection string. As long as you can parameterize these variables, you can abstract most of the plumbing code into reusable classes that can be leveraged across multiple applications. That's a worthwhile effort—but it's no longer worth doing yourself, because that's exactly what Microsoft (with community support) has done in its set of Enterprise Library (known as EntLib) Application Blocks. This article introduces the EntLib Data Access Block by showing examples of how to use it to write robust data access code.

The Enterprise Data Access Block
The Data Access Block addresses the most common tasks developers face when developing database applications. By providing a set of encapsulated methods, the Data Access Block greatly simplifies the most common methods of accessing a database. Each method contains the logic required to retrieve the appropriate data, and also manage the database connection. In addition, the Data Access Block is database-agnostic; it supplements the code in ADO.NET 2.0 by letting you write data access code that works across different relational databases—without rewriting code. The classes contain code that provides database-specific implementations for features such as parameter handling and cursors.

Moreover the Data Access Block also provides specific derived classes for SQL Server and Oracle databases. In addition, the GenericDatabase class allows you to use the application block with any configured ADO.NET 2.0 DbProviderFactory object. Finally, you can extend the application block by adding new database types that include database-specific features or that provide a custom implementation of an existing database.

Microsoft has redesigned version 2.0 of the Data Access Block to take advantage of new ADO.NET 2.0 features. You can download the EntLib Data Access Block from MSDN.

Using the Data Access Block
To use the Data Access Block successfully, you will need to go through the steps listed below:

  1. Add a reference to the Microsoft.Practices.EnterpriseLibrary.Common.dll and Microsoft.Practices.EnterpriseLibrary.Data.dll assemblies from your solution. You can do this by using the "Add Reference" option and navigating to the <Drive Name>:\Program Files\Microsoft Enterprise Library January 2006\bin folder.
  2. Add the necessary configuration entries to the web.config or app.config file or a custom configuration file. To this end, you add the below <configSections> element under the root <configuration> element.
                  EnterpriseLibrary.Data" />
    Then you also add the <dataConfiguration><configuration> element as shown below:
    In this example, I have marked AdventureWorks as the default database, declared separately under the <connectionStrings> element.
                  UID=user;PWD=word;" />
  3. Import the core Microsoft.Practices.EnterpriseLibrary.Data namespace for the Data Access Block.
  4. Start writing code against the classes in the preceding namespace.

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