Click here to close now.


IBM Cloud Authors: Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Carmen Gonzalez, XebiaLabs Blog, Pat Romanski

Related Topics: IBM Cloud

IBM Cloud: Article

Managing JDBC Connections

Managing JDBC Connections

If application servers like WebSphere are the heart of e-business, then the database is surely the lifeblood. Whether your firm is managing thousands of airline flights a day or simply exposing a library's card catalog to the Web, you must deal with database connectivity.

Java developers have a simple way to manage database connectivity at their disposal: JDBC. It provides a convenient interface to access a variety of vendors' databases via JDBC drivers. Simply plug in a new driver and your application can talk to DB2, Oracle, Sybase, Informix, and others.

The JDBC version 2.0 extensions introduced a feature called connection pooling, providing better performance and scalability. IBM implemented a JDBC 2.0-compliant connection pool in WebSphere 3.5, and continues to enhance it in version 4.0.

In addition to connection pooling, the WebSphere connection manager offers many additional qualities to enhance an application's performance and scalability for the savvy Web developer. This article will highlight those features and show how they can be used effectively for building better Web applications. In addition, this article will describe many best practices and potential pitfalls for developing with WebSphere's connection manager.

While the following information will provide an improvement to applications, note that this is meant to aid in application design, not replace it. No amount of "tweaking" can make up for a poor design, but a well-designed application with poor implementation of database connectivity logic can be improved. This article will address the latter case.

The WebSphere connection manager has many facets. At the core, however, it's simply a connection pool. Object pools are nothing new.

The basic reason for a pool is that creation of certain objects is expensive in performance terms (time, memory allocation, etc.). Rather than creating these objects over and over again, it's more efficient to create a pool of already initialized objects that can be allocated to application components, and then returned to the pool when no longer needed. Thus, the hit to performance is only incurred once, when the object is actually created.

Anyone doing performance-tuning of JDBC applications knows that creating database connections is an expensive operation. Connection pooling is a natural fit for Web applications that utilize servlets or EJBs that require many simultaneous threads to connect to databases. Figure 1 provides a more visual example. In this diagram, three application components (a servlet, JSP, and session bean) have each received a Connection object from the pool (whose current size is six).

In addition to pooling connections, the WebSphere connection manager monitors the health of a database connection. If a connection has been allocated from the pool but hasn't been used in a specified amount of time (orphan timeout), the connection manager will mark the connection as "stale" and will return it to the pool (preempt the connection).

In the event of a connectivity failure (database error, network connection dropped, etc.), the connection manager will throw a StaleConnectionException, a subclass of SQLExcep-tion, on the next JDBC operation. This allows application developers to handle failure conditions more flexibly, such as allowing the application to retry the database operation. Further, the connection manager removes all Connection objects from the pool.

WebSphere's connection manager supports a variety of databases, including DB2, Oracle, Sybase, Microsoft SQL Server, and Informix (only available in WebSphere 4.0). SQL Server and Oracle (for two-phase commit operations) require the use of the Merant SequeLink 5.1 JDBC Driver, which ships with WebSphere Application Server, Advanced Edition.

Configuration of the connection manager is simple and painless (see Figures 2 and 3). Each data source represents a connection pool to a specified database, and is linked to a single JDBC driver.

Accessing a data source programmatically requires a JNDI lookup such as:


Context ctx = new InitialContext();
DataSource ds = (DataSource)

The string, "jdbc/MyDataSource", represents the JNDI name of the datasource. In version 4.0, you may use a resource reference such as "java:comp/env/jdbc/MyDataSource", as per the J2EE specification. The DataSource object contains the methods getConnection() and getConnection(String username, String password) to allocate a Connection object from the pool.

Simply close the Connection object to return it to the pool. For example:


Connection con = ds.getConnection(
username, password);

Now that you understand the basics of the WebSphere connection manager, let's take a look at some of the best practices.

Keep the Connection Life Span Minimized
Ideally, an application should never hold on to a Connection object beyond a single method. Nor should a single thread acquire more than one Connection. The longer one part of an application holds onto a Connection, the longer other parts cannot use that same Connection.
An application designed to acquire more than one Connection per thread and hold them for very long periods of time could easily come to a screeching halt when multiple threads collectively request more Connection objects than the maximum pool size.

The temptation here is to simply increase the size of the pool, but that will impact performance. Each Connection, whether it's in use or not, can cost over two megabytes of JVM memory. Furthermore, a higher pool size means creating more Connection objects which, as previously mentioned, is expensive. Efficient usage of fewer Connection objects is a far better design.

Additionally, when an orphaned Connection times out, the connection manager will reclaim the Connection for the pool, throwing a StaleConnectionException in the offending client on the next JDBC operation. While this is costly for the single thread, it does at least allow the Connection object to be freed. However, inside the bounds of a transaction (e.g., inside an EJB or when using UserTransaction objects), a Connection will never be orphaned. Thus, long-running transactions could keep Connection objects out of commission for a long time, and could lead to deadlock-like conditions.

While keeping connectivity life span minimized, a developer should be careful not to compromise functionality. There are times when holding a ResultSet open for an extended operation is necessary to preserve transaction isolation (row locks). Closing a ResultSet (or its creating Connection or Statement object) too early might result in your application making decisions that assumed the state of the data in the database was X when another thread has modified it to be Y.

From an application development standpoint, the best alternative is to use fewer connections in your pool, but to use them wisely. Once a method has finished its database utilization, it should free the Connection object by calling its close() method.

Cache the Datasource, Not the Connection
To take full advantage of the connection pool and make limited calls to expensive operations, an application developer should cache a datasource object when database connectivity may be utilized often. Caching the Connection has the negative effects described above and defeats the purpose of pooling.

Also, be aware that declaring Connection objects as static class variables can have unexpected and undesirable effects. For example:


public class MyJDBCClass {
static Connection con;

When a Connection is declared static, it's shared by all instances of the declaring class. Therefore, it's possible that two threads might attempt to utilize the same Connection object simultaneously. The results could include unexpected table locking, incorrect ResultSets, and serious data integrity problems.

Also, keep in mind that all global variables of a servlet are static by default (even if you don't declare them static). If you decide to cache a Connection, make sure not to declare it static.

Caching the datasource means creating a global instance variable in one of your classes. That class will maintain the reference to the datasource object throughout its life. When a member method needs a Connection, it creates one by calling the datasource's getConnection() method.

The advantage of caching the datasource is that you prevent multiple JNDI lookups, another expensive operation. WebSphere provides additional caching in this area, but caching it locally is advantageous.

Make Sure to Clean Up!
The WebSphere connection manager does a good job of caring for your connections, but nothing makes up for careless coding. Make sure to clean up the open database resource objects properly.

The rule of thumb when cleaning up JDBC objects is to close them in the reverse order they were created. As an example, most database read operations encompass a Connection, which creates or prepares a Statement (or PreparedStatement), which produces a ResultSet. In this case, close the ResultSet first, the Statement second, the Connection last. The order of the cleanup is important to prevent database-specific annoyances, like running out of cursors.

The best way to ensure proper cleanup is to place all cleanup logic in a finally clause of a try-catch-finally block. The code in a finally clause is guaranteed to run in all cases short of a JVM crash, so a Connection.close() in a finally clause is sure to return the Connection to the pool. Example:


try {
con = ds.getConnection();
ps = con.prepareStatement
("select * from mytable where mycolumn = ?");
ps.setString(1, someString);
rs = ps.executeQuery();
// do something with the ResultSet
} catch (SQLException ex) {
// handle the SQLException
} finally {
try { rs.close(); } catch(SQLException ex) {rs = null;}
try { ps.close(); } catch (SQLException ex) {ps = null;}
try { con.close(); } catch (SQLException ex) {con = null;}

One alternative to closing Connection objects in finally clauses is to close them in a finalize() method of an object. This approach is not recommended, as the finalize() method is only called prior to garbage collection, an asynchronous operation. Also, the only reason to postpone closing a Connection in this manner would imply that you're caching it in the object, another poor practice. Cleaning up JDBC objects correctly can prevent many unnecessary headaches.

When Good Connections Go Bad
Occasionally database connectivity breaks unexpectedly. Network cables get pulled, electricity goes out, or sometimes a database server just gets pegged. Although nothing can be done until the database is brought back online, these sorts of outages don't have to permanently bring down your application's functionality.

The WebSphere connection manager provides a convenient manner of handling temporary connectivity outages. Proper handling of the StaleConnectionException allows developers to create more fault-tolerant applications.

The StaleConnectionException is an exception that extends SQLException. This is necessary in order to follow the JDBC specification (most JDBC methods may only throw a SQLException). This is important to note because if an application is to catch a StaleConnectionException, it must be caught before catching the SQLException. The actual package name for the StaleConnectionException in version 3.5 is; in 4.0 it's (the 3.5 package name will work in 4.0 but is deprecated).

Just for clarification, when a Connection is marked "stale," that means that on its next operation it will throw a StaleConnectionException.

A Connection can "go bad" in any number of situations:

1.   The application attempts to acquire a Connection during a database failure or when the database has not yet been started.
2.   All of the Connection objects in the pool have gone bad due to a database failure. In this case, any new calls to getConnection() will return a stale Connection object, and all Connection objects in use would throw this exception when the application attempts to use them.
3.   The application using the Connection has previously called its close() method, but later tries to use the connection again.
4.   The application acquired a Connection but didn't use it within the orphan timeout period. In this case, the connection manager orphans (preempts) the Connection and the next time the application attempts to use it (or a JDBC resource that it created; e.g. Statement, ResultSet, etc.) a StaleConnectionException will be thrown.

Handling a StaleConnection-Exception is entirely up to the application designer. For more fault tolerance, one recommended approach is to catch the StaleConnection-Exception and retry the database operation up to a predefined number of tries. Here's an example:


boolean retry = false;
do {
try {
retry = false;
con = ds.getConnection();
stmt = con.createStatement();
rowsUpdated = stmt.execute("update myTable set myColumn =
} catch( sce) {
if (retryAttempts++ < MAX_RETRIES)retry = true;
} catch(SQLException sqle) {
/* handle a more severe failure and exit loop */
} finally {/*Close stmt and con */cleanupJDBCResources();
} while (retry);

Normal execution of this code will only execute the logic in the loop once; only in error conditions will the thread retry the operation. The connection manager could throw a StaleConnectionException on any of the operations on lines four through six. In this event, the thread will check to see if it's reached the maximum number of retries (set prior to execution), and if so retry the entire operation, starting by obtaining a new Connection object.

Handling the StaleConnectionException in this manner will allow your Web application to recover from a number of temporary database outages that would normally return an error page to your Internet customer.

Wrapping Up
The practices outlined here are recommended as best practices, and in general are good advice for building WebSphere applications. Nevertheless, none of these tips will replace a poor design; they are meant to complement a well-designed application. They're also meant to provide insight into how the connection manager functions. This information should help in future development projects as well as in maintaining your current applications.

Managing JDBC connections can be tricky, but with a good application design and by following these recommendations, you should be well on your way to delivering high-performing and scalable enterprise solutions.

Cuomo, G., A Methodology for Production Performance Tuning
Lauzon, S., and Schommer, P., Handling Database Failures
Erickson, D., Connection Manager Whitepaper
WebSphere 3.5 Handbook Redbook

These articles and whitepapers can be found online at: and

More Stories By J. Andrew McCright

Andy McCright is a software engineer for IBM software group. His>responsibilities include development of the WebSphere Application Server>and customer engagement. Recently, he has been researching web services and how they will play into the next generation of application servers.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

@ThingsExpo Stories
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tony Shan, Chief Architect at CTS, will explore the synergy of Big Data and IoT. First he will take a closer look at the Internet of Things and Big Data individually, in terms of what, which, why, where, when, who, how and how much. Then he will explore the relationship between IoT and Big Data. Specifically, he will drill down to how the 4Vs aspects intersect with IoT: Volume, Variety, Velocity and Value. In turn, Tony will analyze how the key components of IoT influence Big Data: Device, Connectivity, Context, and Intelligence. He will dive deep to the matrix...
“The Internet of Things transforms the way organizations leverage machine data and gain insights from it,” noted Splunk’s CTO Snehal Antani, as Splunk announced accelerated momentum in Industrial Data and the IoT. The trend is driven by Splunk’s continued investment in its products and partner ecosystem as well as the creativity of customers and the flexibility to deploy Splunk IoT solutions as software, cloud services or in a hybrid environment. Customers are using Splunk® solutions to collect and correlate data from control systems, sensors, mobile devices and IT systems for a variety of Ind...
Organizations already struggle with the simple collection of data resulting from the proliferation of IoT, lacking the right infrastructure to manage it. They can't only rely on the cloud to collect and utilize this data because many applications still require dedicated infrastructure for security, redundancy, performance, etc. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Emil Sayegh, CEO of Codero Hosting, will discuss how in order to resolve the inherent issues, companies need to combine dedicated and cloud solutions through hybrid hosting – a sustainable solution for the data required to manage I...
You have your devices and your data, but what about the rest of your Internet of Things story? Two popular classes of technologies that nicely handle the Big Data analytics for Internet of Things are Apache Hadoop and NoSQL. Hadoop is designed for parallelizing analytical work across many servers and is ideal for the massive data volumes you create with IoT devices. NoSQL databases such as Apache HBase are ideal for storing and retrieving IoT data as “time series data.”
Clearly the way forward is to move to cloud be it bare metal, VMs or containers. One aspect of the current public clouds that is slowing this cloud migration is cloud lock-in. Every cloud vendor is trying to make it very difficult to move out once a customer has chosen their cloud. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Naveen Nimmu, CEO of Clouber, Inc., will advocate that making the inter-cloud migration as simple as changing airlines would help the entire industry to quickly adopt the cloud without worrying about any lock-in fears. In fact by having standard APIs for IaaS would help PaaS expl...
As more and more data is generated from a variety of connected devices, the need to get insights from this data and predict future behavior and trends is increasingly essential for businesses. Real-time stream processing is needed in a variety of different industries such as Manufacturing, Oil and Gas, Automobile, Finance, Online Retail, Smart Grids, and Healthcare. Azure Stream Analytics is a fully managed distributed stream computation service that provides low latency, scalable processing of streaming data in the cloud with an enterprise grade SLA. It features built-in integration with Azur...
Apps and devices shouldn't stop working when there's limited or no network connectivity. Learn how to bring data stored in a cloud database to the edge of the network (and back again) whenever an Internet connection is available. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Bradley Holt, Developer Advocate at IBM Cloud Data Services, will demonstrate techniques for replicating cloud databases with devices in order to build offline-first mobile or Internet of Things (IoT) apps that can provide a better, faster user experience, both offline and online. The focus of this talk will be on IBM Cloudant, Apa...
SYS-CON Events announced today that HPM Networks will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For 20 years, HPM Networks has been integrating technology solutions that solve complex business challenges. HPM Networks has designed solutions for both SMB and enterprise customers throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
As enterprises capture more and more data of all types – structured, semi-structured, and unstructured – data discovery requirements for business intelligence (BI), Big Data, and predictive analytics initiatives grow more complex. A company’s ability to become data-driven and compete on analytics depends on the speed with which it can provision their analytics applications with all relevant information. The task of finding data has traditionally resided with IT, but now organizations increasingly turn towards data source discovery tools to find the right data, in context, for business users, d...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MobiDev, a software development company, will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MobiDev is a software development company with representative offices in Atlanta (US), Sheffield (UK) and Würzburg (Germany); and development centers in Ukraine. Since 2009 it has grown from a small group of passionate engineers and business managers to a full-scale mobile software company with over 150 developers, designers, quality assurance engineers, project manage...
The broad selection of hardware, the rapid evolution of operating systems and the time-to-market for mobile apps has been so rapid that new challenges for developers and engineers arise every day. Security, testing, hosting, and other metrics have to be considered through the process. In his session at Big Data Expo, Walter Maguire, Chief Field Technologist, HP Big Data Group, at Hewlett-Packard, will discuss the challenges faced by developers and a composite Big Data applications builder, focusing on how to help solve the problems that developers are continuously battling.
SYS-CON Events announced today that IBM Cloud Data Services has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. IBM Cloud Data Services offers a portfolio of integrated, best-of-breed cloud data services for developers focused on mobile computing and analytics use cases.
SYS-CON Events announced today that ProfitBricks, the provider of painless cloud infrastructure, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. ProfitBricks is the IaaS provider that offers a painless cloud experience for all IT users, with no learning curve. ProfitBricks boasts flexible cloud servers and networking, an integrated Data Center Designer tool for visual control over the cloud and the best price/performance value available. ProfitBricks was named one of the coolest Clo...
Learn how IoT, cloud, social networks and last but not least, humans, can be integrated into a seamless integration of cooperative organisms both cybernetic and biological. This has been enabled by recent advances in IoT device capabilities, messaging frameworks, presence and collaboration services, where devices can share information and make independent and human assisted decisions based upon social status from other entities. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Heydt, founder of Seamless Thingies, will discuss and demonstrate how devices and humans can be integrated from a simple clust...
Mobile messaging has been a popular communication channel for more than 20 years. Finnish engineer Matti Makkonen invented the idea for SMS (Short Message Service) in 1984, making his vision a reality on December 3, 1992 by sending the first message ("Happy Christmas") from a PC to a cell phone. Since then, the technology has evolved immensely, from both a technology standpoint, and in our everyday uses for it. Originally used for person-to-person (P2P) communication, i.e., Sally sends a text message to Betty – mobile messaging now offers tremendous value to businesses for customer and empl...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloud Raxak has been named “Media & Session Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Raxak Protect automates security compliance across private and public clouds. Using the SaaS tool or managed service, developers can deploy cloud apps quickly, cost-effectively, and without error.
Who are you? How do you introduce yourself? Do you use a name, or do you greet a friend by the last four digits of his social security number? Assuming you don’t, why are we content to associate our identity with 10 random digits assigned by our phone company? Identity is an issue that affects everyone, but as individuals we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ben Klang, Founder & President of Mojo Lingo, will discuss the impact of technology on identity. Should we federate, or not? How should identity be secured? Who owns the identity? How is identity ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Solgeniakhela will exhibit at SYS-CON's 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Solgeniakhela is the global market leader in Cloud Collaboration and Cloud Infrastructure software solutions. Designed to “Bridge the Gap” between Personal and Professional Social, Mobile and Cloud user experiences, our solutions help large and medium-sized organizations dramatically improve productivity, reduce collaboration costs, and increase the overall enterprise value by bringing ...
Sensors and effectors of IoT are solving problems in new ways, but small businesses have been slow to join the quantified world. They’ll need information from IoT using applications as varied as the businesses themselves. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Roger Meike, Distinguished Engineer, Director of Technology Innovation at Intuit, will show how IoT manufacturers can use open standards, public APIs and custom apps to enable the Quantified Small Business. He will use a Raspberry Pi to connect sensors to web services, and cloud integration to connect accounting and data, providing a Bluetooth...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Micron Technology, Inc., a global leader in advanced semiconductor systems, will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Micron’s broad portfolio of high-performance memory technologies – including DRAM, NAND and NOR Flash – is the basis for solid state drives, modules, multichip packages and other system solutions. Backed by more than 35 years of technology leadership, Micron's memory solutions enable the world's most innovative computing, consumer,...