December 16, 1996 10 AM ET

Energizing static Web pages
Microsoft's Advanced Data Connector enriches client data caching

By Norvin Leach and Juan Carlos Perez

  Microsoft Corp. is developing software to give World Wide Web-based database users more power and flexibility at the client end, with a new technology called the Advanced Data Connector.

The product addresses the limits on current browser-based applications. Today, users can only download static data or maintain live links to the database. The ADC, now in beta testing, offers a third option: a changeable data cache on the client.

"Right now, if you download a Web page, you're sitting there with dead data," said Dan Basica, product manager of SQL Server marketing at the Redmond, Wash., company. "This will let the developer control how much data gets cached and how it is updated."

A user, for example, could download an entire record set into a browser application and make changes without returning to the server to deliver each change.

Changes to the data are kept in local buffers. When the user sends or retrieves updates, the ADC uses a new, faster protocol--TableGram Streaming--to transfer the information back to the server. The TableGram stays small and fast by transferring only the changes to the database, not the entire record set, according to officials.

Microsoft designed the ADC to work like Visual Basic's data-binding functions, although it can work with VBScript and HTML.

The ADC is effectively a middleman, linking front-end controls, such as list boxes or spreadsheet grids, to back-end databases, through Open Database Connectivity or OLE DB, an API layer that standardizes the access and management of a variety of data types. Data caching and updating are transparent to the user.

The ADC will be able to cache and transmit anything ranging from relational or flat-file data to multimedia, officials said.

Allen Benson, technology resource developer at Windermere Real Estate Services Co., in Seattle, said the enhancements promised by the ADC would help his company's intranet.

"It would be good if you could pull down a larger chunk of a data set and be able to manipulate it and send it back one time, instead of having to go back and forth updating a row or a record at a time," Benson said.

The concept behind the ADC--empowering the client--is reflected in other Microsoft technology such as Dynamic HTML, which makes Web pages changeable on the browser.

Dynamic HTML will be added to Internet Explorer 4 next year. The ADC is due to ship before the end of the year, sources said.

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