By Tony Patton

SQLBase from Gupta Technologies offers a powerful database alternative for organizations supporting various LAN/WAN configurations as well as environments requiring a small footprint on the client machine. It’s a full relational database management system (RDBMS) with complete SQL support. The current version, 8.1, provides various enhancements to an already solid product.

A brief history
The SQLBase Web site touts it as the first database system designed for use with PC networks. It was introduced way back in 1987, and it now has more than one million users worldwide. The small footprint makes it a perfect solution for devices with limited resources. The current release continues the evolution with full .NET support as well as other features.

You can download a trial version from the Gupta Web site, or you can order the product from a vendor. My examples will follow an installation from the product CD. The CD I received came with the key to allow installation and straightforward setup instructions. A few mouse clicks later and the software was up and running on my test machine. The software includes the following SQLBase tools:

  • Connectivity Administrator—Establishes/tests SQLBase connections
  • SQLBase Database Engine—The SQLBase database server engine
  • SQLBase Management Console—A Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-in
  • SQLConsole DBA Utility—Works with the SQLBase environment; is analogous to the SQL Server Enterprise Manager
  • SQLTalk Interactive SQL—Works with SQL scripts within SQLBase environment; may be loaded from the file system or typed directly into the script window

Once the product is installed, the Connectivity Administrator client may be used to test the connectivity to the new environment. Figure A shows it open for my test environment.

Figure A
SQLBase Connectivity Administrator

One thing to notice in Figure A is the line pointing to the SQL.INI file:

This INI file is the key to the SQLBase environment. It contains all setup information for working with the database. As with all INI files, it may be edited with a text editor like Notepad, but the documentation frowns on this approach.

The Management Console integrates SQLBase into your Windows environment, so it appears within the Administrative Tools section of the Control Panel. Figure B shows a snapshot of this selection on my test computer. Notice the SQLBase items at the bottom of the screen.

Figure B
SQLBase Management Console options

Putting it to work
The SQLBase installation includes numerous examples for working with SQLBase database files. Note that these files have the .dbs file extension. They are located in the Samples directory on the installation CD. A setup SQL script is included to set up the necessary database objects to be used by the sample code. You can run this from the SQLConsole.

The current release includes full .NET support. This includes a managed data provider for SQLBase. Also, the ODBC driver has been updated. Visual Basic, C, and C++ code examples are included. Documentation is good, but I find examples simplify the process by providing a model. Of course, this assumes the examples work. I tested the VB.NET and C# examples with no problems. These include Window Forms applications that allow you to access and manipulate the data.

Help is available
The most impressive aspect of the SQLBase environment is the documentation. Documents covering all aspects of the environments are included in Adobe Acrobat format. This follows the trend away from paper-based documentation included with products. I would rather have the paper copies in my hand, but the Acrobat format makes it easy for you to print them.

In addition to standard documentation, a training folder on the installation CD contains both administrator and performance-tuning training materials. This includes the instructor and student workbooks as well as exercises. This type of resource is invaluable for those new to the environment.

The company Web site compliments the documentation. It includes a developer section that provides a knowledge base and newsletter. Customer support was very responsive via e-mail, and telephone support is available too.

More is not always better
As a developer, I am usually interfacing with database systems such as Oracle, SQL Server, DB/2, and even Lotus Notes. These are mature products, but the resources necessary to take advantage of their features aren’t always available or necessary. However, SQLBase provides a full-feature alternative that’s appropriate for many scenarios.

Impressive product suite
While companies like Microsoft and Oracle lead us to believe that client/server RDBMSs such as SQL Server and Oracle are necessary for a successful project, it just is not true. SQLBase provides a solid, proven alternative. This is especially true of environments requiring a small client footprint and when the existence of a DBA isn’t an option. You may want to examine it for your next project.