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Chapter 03 - Advanced XS Callback Patch For OCI


Now we are going to jump off the deep end of XS programming and do a patch to DBD::Oracle. Now DBD::Oracle is the poster child of early XSW programming. Starting out way back in the stone ages starting with something called '' back in 1994 that eventually morphed into DBI and DBD::Oracle.

Now looking at the DBD::Oracle Code it is shall we say a little special as is not a straightforward call out to a 'C' or 'C++' library, you are calling out to a very custom 'C' program and then to a very obscure 'C' library called OCI (Oracle Call Interface).

Not only are we complicating matter by adding in our own 'c' glue layer form Perl XS out to OIC and back we also have the problem keeping, most likely the largest custom Makefile.PL on CPAN some 2000+ lines working and by working I mean making install DBD::Oracle against almost every Oracle Client working in almost every OS and making it compile with the latest and greatest and making sure you did not break it for older Oracle clients and OSes.

So be prepared for some frustrating moments if you age going to try to patch DBD::Oracle, or any of the DBDs


DBD::Oracle works by calling out to the OCI, which is one of the greatest programming cabals on earth, I have never seen a job advertisement for some-one with OCI skills, there is little or nothing on the web, Oracle's 'Call Interface Programmer's Guide' is a 20+ chapter, 2000+ page behemoth that is a sure fire cure for insomnia and hasn't really changed much form the 8i edition till the latest 11g. Now you will find everything about OCI documented there but the code examples where poorly written last century not included anymore by Oracle (but you can get them on-line if you search really hard) and the example code snippets given in the text are usually much too short to make any sense of.

Goggling for code examples will not help much many is the time when I was googling for an usage example and only and got a few references and sometimes I was referred right back back to my own code. Even today if you take a few random OCI calls and feed them into google odds are a page with DBD::Oracle code will come up.

Well the thing to remember is this is not an OCI tutorial so I will not be going into any depths on OCI this is just filling in a little background info.


Well this was the first Driver for DBI a tool so common we hardly even think about using it. Just think the architecture of this little program hasn't changed that much since it was first introduced 20 years ago and it still going strong so something mush be right with it.

Now to understand the patch a little intro to the architecture of this module would help out some and give you an idea how a larger scale XS module is put together. So here is the 25c tour

Inside DB::Oracle Browsing the code base of DBD::Oracle you will quickly notice is is unlike you typical CPAN Perl module and even the XS modules you have been playing with.

In the root folder you will find the typical CPAN boiler plate, Makefile.PL, CHANGELOG etc. you will also see two .c files 'dbdimp.c' and 'oci8.c' a number of '.h' files which are 'C' header an XS file 'Oracle.xs' plus a number of other that are not important at the time.

If you follow down though the 'lib' dir you will eventually get to and then a few other bit and pieces under that.

Now DBD::Oralce is a little different than what you might of seen so far. It uses the 'DynaLoader' module to load in all the aforementioned '.c' and '.h' files and your XS file and hopefully it all works. Now DynaLaoder again this is rather old code going back to 1994 yet again and was written specially for DBI if I remember my ancient history well.

Well the 'DynaLoader' may suck it all in but you also need to 'bootstrap' into you Perl so in the begining section of DBD::Oracles perl code (and most DBDs are much the same) is a little like this.

 use DBI ();
 use DynaLoader ();
 use Exporter ();
    @ISA = qw(DynaLoader Exporter);
    require_version DBI 1.51;

Now besides this DBD::Oracle works much the same as any XS Module have a look inside and find the 'ora_fetch_scroll' sub you will find the corresponding sub in, now the majority of the calls form Perl to 'c' will not be found in either one but in one of the 'c' files, for example 'connect' is actually found in 'dbdimp.c' and for historical reasons it is not called 'connect' but called 'dbd_db_login6'. Now what we are getting into here is how DBI works as this is the 'connect' we call from DBI that calls the 'dbd_db_login6' in the 'bootstrped' DBD::ORacle or what ever driver happens to be running.

So things are a little different in this type of 'dynamic' XS program. Complex? Yes! Hard to Understand? Yes! Impossible to work with? No!

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