In a perfect world (or at least the World According to Bill), everyone would use All Microsoft Products All the Time and you'd never need silly things like interoperability software. Alas, the world isn't perfect, and small pockets of renegades still use non-Microsoft software to run their businesses.
In recent years, Microsoft has done a better job of extending an interoperability olive branch to these renegades in an attempt to make their lives easier until they eventually realize that All Microsoft All The Time is simply a better way to live. In this spirit, Microsoft announced the availability of its free SQL Server 2005 JDBC driver. This Type 4 JDBC driver is based on the JDBC 3.0 implementation and is JDK v1.4 compliant. The driver supports a variety of OSs, including Windows Server 2003, Windows 2000, Windows XP, HP-UX, IBM AIX, Linux, and Solaris.
Microsoft says the new driver includes "performance and transaction improvements, as well as support for SQL Server 2005 features such as XML." SQL Server supports the latest Java interoperability standards, and Microsoft says this release "is intended to lay the core foundation and infrastructure for major enhancement moving forward."
Of course, other vendors also provide JDBC drivers, but free is nice, and it's also nice to see Microsoft's continued interest in supporting those pesky renegades. A word of caution: Not all drivers are created alike. In the past, some third-party JDBC drivers were faster than the free Microsoft driver. I haven't had the ability to personally benchmark this driver, so I'm absolutely not implying that this driver isn't highly performant. And I'm convinced that Microsoft is serious about providing interoperability to non-Microsoft platform customers who want to use SQL Server. But, if I were tasked with building a highly scaleable solution based on JDBC-to-SQL Server connectivity, I'd want to personally test the Microsoft driver to ensure performance and other features are as good as or better than drivers provided by other vendors.
I'd love to hear from readers who have experience using both Microsoft and third-party data-access stacks for JDBC connectivity to SQL Server 2005. Send your tips and observations to me at email@example.com, and I'll share them with the rest of the SQL Server community.
To close on a more serious note, I sense that Microsoft is committed to making the interoperability experience more seamless for its customers, which is a good thing. And no, I don't think that the world should be all Microsoft All The Time. Just most of the time. (grin)
You can download the driver at http://msdn.microsoft.com/data/jdbc/default.aspx.