What is an ODBC Driver?

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

The ODBC standard remains the most popular data access standard because it is a cross-platform standard and is widely supported by proprietary and open-source database systems. The ODBC API is independent of any DBMS, operating system, and programming language. Developers of DBMS-specific drivers implement the ODBC API functions. An ODBC 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.

ODBC 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. An ODBC driver implements functions in the ODBC interface, which 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 an application to interact with the data source. 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.

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 a number of tasks, such as resolving data source names, loading and unloading of 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. A data source can be any source of the data: a file, a relational or non-relational database, or cloud application.

Devart ODBC drivers are high-performance and feature-rich connectors for accessing data in common databases and cloud applications directly from 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 Excel, Tableau, Crystal Reports, and many more.