Language-Integrated Query (LINQ) is Microsoft's latest data-access technology and is scheduled to be included in the upcoming Visual Studio 2008 (code-named Orcas) release. I first discussed LINQ in my article "LINQ—The Missing Piece of Database Development," January 2006, InstantDoc ID 48454, and Microsoft is finally offering this functionality. Microsoft's goal with LINQ is to provide developers with a unified and tightly bound database development experience, which doesn't exist in today's development environments. LINQ is the long-awaited wave of the future, and its benefits definitely outweigh its drawbacks.

As every database developer knows, creating ADO.NET database applications requires working with multiple data-access technologies. On the .NET side, developers must use .NET languages such as C# or Visual Basic (VB) to write database applications and then use the ADO.NET objects to connect to backend databases. ADO.NET doesn't include any database-query or update capabilities. Instead, ADO.NET must send T-SQL statements to the database. Often, application developers must hand-code these statements. To do so, developers need to understand the nuances of the language they're using, the ADO.NET middleware objects, T-SQL, and the database schema. In this development model, nothing warns developers at the time of design if something is wrong in the query.

LINQ will change this paradigm entirely. LINQ will extend the .NET framework to incorporate native query constructs into the C# and VB languages, eliminating the need to wrap ADO.NET around T-SQL. The new query operators that LINQ will add to the C# and VB languages will enable them to perform database queries and update operations without dropping back into the T-SQL language. LINQ will also give developers design-time feedback about the queries they're building. Once the application is built, Visual Studio can connect to the backend databases to make sure that the query syntax elements (e.g., database table, object names) are correct. These improvements will streamline the development process and give developers feedback well before anyone runs the application.

Some are concerned about LINQ's drawbacks. The biggest hurdle will be learning a new database access methodology. This type of change doesn't come easily—especially for shops with large code bases. Another problem will be that DBAs who diagnose LINQ-related performance problems will have to deal with another code layer. However, using LINQ isn't really an all-or-nothing proposition. LINQ is built on top of ADO.NET, and you can easily add LINQ statements in conjunction with existing ADO.NET code. For DBAs looking at LINQ code, SQL Profiler won't be that different from today's ADO.NET.

For more information about LINQ, go to http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/netframework/aa904594.aspx. To get a feel for the new LINQ syntax, see "101 LINQ Samples" at http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/vcsharp/aa336746.aspx. And for some handson experience, download the LINQ Community Technology Preview from http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=1e902c21-340c-4d13-9f0470eb5e3dceea&displaylang=en