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The Myth of Asynchronous JDBC

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The Myth of Asynchronous JDBC

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I keep seeing people (especially in the scala/typesafe world) posting about async jdbc libraries. STOP IT! Under the current APIs, async JDBC belongs in a realm with Unicorns, Tiger Squirrels, and 8' spiders. While you might be able to move the blocking operations and queue requests and keep your "main" worker threads from blocking, jdbc is synchronous. At some point, somewhere, there's going to be a thread blocking waiting for a response.

It's frustrating to see so many folks hyping this and muddying the waters. Unless you write your own client for a dbms and have a dbms that can multiplex calls over a single connection (or using some other strategy to enable this capability) db access is going to block. It's not impossible to make the calls completely async, but nobody's built it yet. Yes, I know ajdbc is taking a stab at this capability, but even IT uses a thread pool for the blocking calls (be default).

Someday we'll have async database access (it's not impossible...well it IS with the current JDBC specification), but no general purpose RDBMS has this right now. The primary problems with the hype/misdirection are that #1 inexperienced programmers don't understand that they've just moved the problem and will use the APIs and wonder why the system is so slow (oh I have 1000 db calls queued up waiting for my single db thread to process the work) and #2 It belies a serious misunderstanding of the difference between async JDBC (not possible per current spec) and async db access (totally possible/doable, but rare in the wild).

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