What is an ODBC Driver?

Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) is a standard Application Programming Interface (API) that allows external applications such as Microsoft Excel, Tableau, or Power BI and programming languages like PHP, Python, etc., to access data from a common database or cloud application. ODBC provides for maximum interoperability — a single application independent of any data store can access data through an ODBC driver that serves as an interface between an application and a data source. This connector is easy to install and configure.

ODBC Driver Overview

An ODBC driver enables applications and programming languages to access data in database management systems through the Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) interface using the SQL language. The ODBC API is independent of any DBMS, programming language, and operating system. Developers of DBMS-specific drivers implement the ODBC API functions. The driver acts as an interface between an application and a data source, which can be anything like a file, a relational or non-relational database, or a cloud application. A separate driver is required for each data source to be accessed.

The standard is based on the Call-Level Interface (CLI) specifications from Open Group and ISO/IEC for database APIs and uses SQL as the database access language. ODBC drivers are distributed as dynamic-link libraries for Windows and shared objects for Linux/Unix.

ODBC Driver

ODBC History

The ODBC standard was created by Microsoft in 1992 for SQL databases access unification. Following its success, the company introduced OLE DB, which is a more advanced standard for accessing data sources representing data in the form of tables. It was assumed that the ODBC connectors will be replaced by OLE DB, which would become the more common data access standard. Then, Microsoft released a more object-oriented standard — ADO, which was expected to become more popular than OLE DB. Despite all these, the ODBC standard remains the most popular data access standard today. It is a cross-platform standard and is widely supported by proprietary and open-source database systems such as Oracle and IBM.

What is ODBC used for?

Open Database Connectivity is hugely popular among application developers as it allows to write a single application to access data in relational and non-relational data sources from different vendors. In the ODBC interface, an ODBC driver implements functions that are called by ODBC-enabled applications. End users can set up data source names (DSN) for one or more drivers and then use the needed DSN in Excel, Visual Studio, QlikView, RAD Studio, etc. to interact with the data source like Oracle, MySQL, BigCommerce, and Salesforce.

How does an ODBC connection work?

How does an ODBC connection work?

The ODBC architecture consists of the following components collaborating to connect to a data source and get data from it:

  • Application
  • ODBC Driver
  • ODBC Manager
  • Data Source

How is the connection performed?

First, the ODBC-compliant application makes an ODBC call. ODBC manager intercepts it and then establishes the connection or forwards the command to the driver specified in the ODBC connection string, database, or other data source. As soon as a driver receives a call, it processes it and sends the SQL request to the data source. Through this, the needed results are returned to the application.

ODBC Driver Manager

An ODBC driver works under the control of an ODBC driver manager — a library that manages communication between an ODBC-aware application and an ODBC driver. The driver manager carries out many tasks, such as resolving data source names, loading, and unloading the driver, processing and passing ODBC function calls to the driver, mapping function calls and data types between different versions of the ODBC standard, etc. Windows comes with a default driver manager (ODBC Data Source Administrator), whereas on non-Windows platforms, you can choose between the open-source ODBC driver managers unixODBC and iODBC. The data source can be a file, a relational or non-relational database, a cloud application, or any other.

ODBC Driver Manager

Devart ODBC Drivers

Devart ODBC drivers are high-performance and feature-rich connectors for accessing data in databases and cloud applications directly from 32-bit and 64-bit Windows, macOS, and Linux. The drivers fully support standard ODBC API functions and data types and enable you to utilize real-time analytics, reporting, and business intelligence with your preferred tools, such as Tableau, Excel, Crystal Reports and many more.

ODBC Drivers

Find the right ODBC driver to get access to a needed data source