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Modifying Large-Value (max) Data (ADO.NET)

In versions of SQL Server earlier than SQL Server 2005, working with large object (LOB) data types required special handling. LOB data types are those that exceed the maximum row size of 8 kilobytes (KB). SQL Server 2005 introduced a max specifier for varchar, nvarchar, and varbinary data types to allow storage of values as large as 2^32 bytes. Table columns and Transact-SQL variables may specify varchar(max), nvarchar(max), or varbinary(max) data types. In ADO.NET, the new max data types can be fetched by a DataReader, and can also be specified as both input and output parameter values without any special handling. For large varchar data types, data can be retrieved and updated incrementally.

The max data types can be used for comparisons, as Transact-SQL variables, and for concatenation. They can also be used in the DISTINCT, ORDER BY, GROUP BY clauses of a SELECT statement as well as in aggregates, joins, and subqueries.

You can control how max data is physically stored in the data pages of the table by setting the large value types out of row table option. When this option is set to ON, all values are stored on separate linked pages and a 16-byte root pointer to these pages is stored on the data page for the row. When this option is set to OFF, values of up to 8,000 bytes are stored inline in the data page for the row. Larger values are stored on separate linked pages. When a large value type or a large object data type column value is stored in the data row, the Database Engine does not have to access a separate page or set of pages to read or write the character or binary string. When the values are stored off-row, the Database Engine incurs an additional page read or write.

The following table provides links to the relevant documentation in SQL Server Books Online.

You can work with large value types in ADO.NET by specifying large value types as SqlParameter objects in a SqlDataReader to return a result set, or by using a SqlDataAdapter to fill a DataSet/DataTable. There is no difference between the way you work with a large value type and its related, smaller value data type.

Using GetSqlBytes to Retrieve Data

The GetSqlBytes method of the SqlDataReader can be used to retrieve the contents of a varbinary(max) column. The following code fragment assumes a SqlCommand object named cmd that selects varbinary(max) data from a table and a SqlDataReader object named reader that retrieves the data as SqlBytes.

reader = cmd.ExecuteReader(CommandBehavior.CloseConnection);
while (reader.Read())
    {
        SqlBytes bytes = reader.GetSqlBytes(0);
    }

Using GetSqlChars to Retrieve Data

The GetSqlChars method of the SqlDataReader can be used to retrieve the contents of a varchar(max) or nvarchar(max) column. The following code fragment assumes a SqlCommand object named cmd that selects nvarchar(max) data from a table and a SqlDataReader object named reader that retrieves the data.

reader = cmd.ExecuteReader(CommandBehavior.CloseConnection);
while (reader.Read())
{
    SqlChars buffer = reader.GetSqlChars(0);
}

Using GetSqlBinary to Retrieve Data

The GetSqlBinary method of a SqlDataReader can be used to retrieve the contents of a varbinary(max) column. The following code fragment assumes a SqlCommand object named cmd that selects varbinary(max) data from a table and a SqlDataReader object named reader that retrieves the data as a SqlBinary stream.

reader = cmd.ExecuteReader(CommandBehavior.CloseConnection);
while (reader.Read())
    {
        SqlBinary binaryStream = reader.GetSqlBinary(0);
    }

Using GetBytes to Retrieve Data

The GetBytes method of a SqlDataReader reads a stream of bytes from the specified column offset into a byte array starting at the specified array offset. The following code fragment assumes a SqlDataReader object named reader that retrieves bytes into a byte array. Note that, unlike GetSqlBytes, GetBytes requires a size for the array buffer.

while (reader.Read())
{
    byte[] buffer = new byte[4000];
    long byteCount = reader.GetBytes(1, 0, buffer, 0, 4000);
}

Using GetValue to Retrieve Data

The GetValue method of a SqlDataReader reads the value from the specified column offset into an array. The following code fragment assumes a SqlDataReader object named reader that retrieves binary data from the first column offset, and then string data from the second column offset.

while (reader.Read())
{
    // Read the data from varbinary(max) column
    byte[] binaryData = (byte[])reader.GetValue(0);

    // Read the data from varchar(max) or nvarchar(max) column
    String stringData = (String)reader.GetValue(1);
}

You can convert the contents of a varchar(max) or nvarchar(max) column using any of the string conversion methods, such as ToString. The following code fragment assumes a SqlDataReader object named reader that retrieves the data.

while (reader.Read())
{
     string str = reader[0].ToString();
     Console.WriteLine(str);
}

Example

The following code retrieves the name and the LargePhoto object from the ProductPhoto table in the AdventureWorks database and saves it to a file. The assembly needs to be compiled with a reference to the System.Drawing namespace. The GetSqlBytes method of the SqlDataReader returns a SqlBytes object that exposes a Stream property. The code uses this to create a new Bitmap object, and then saves it in the GifImageFormat.

static private void TestGetSqlBytes(int documentID, string filePath)
{
    // Assumes GetConnectionString returns a valid connection string. 
    using (SqlConnection connection =
               new SqlConnection(GetConnectionString()))
    {
        SqlCommand command = connection.CreateCommand();
        SqlDataReader reader = null;
        try
        {
            // Setup the command
            command.CommandText =
                "SELECT LargePhotoFileName, LargePhoto "
                + "FROM Production.ProductPhoto "
                + "WHERE ProductPhotoID=@ProductPhotoID";
            command.CommandType = CommandType.Text;

            // Declare the parameter
            SqlParameter paramID =
                new SqlParameter("@ProductPhotoID", SqlDbType.Int);
            paramID.Value = documentID;
            command.Parameters.Add(paramID);
            connection.Open();

            string photoName = null;

            reader = command.ExecuteReader(CommandBehavior.CloseConnection);

            if (reader.HasRows)
            {
                while (reader.Read())
                {
                    // Get the name of the file.
                    photoName = reader.GetString(0);

                    // Ensure that the column isn't null 
                    if (reader.IsDBNull(1))
                    {
                        Console.WriteLine("{0} is unavailable.", photoName);
                    }
                    else
                    {
                        SqlBytes bytes = reader.GetSqlBytes(1);
                        using (Bitmap productImage = new Bitmap(bytes.Stream))
                        {
                            String fileName = filePath + photoName;

                            // Save in gif format.
                            productImage.Save(fileName, ImageFormat.Gif);
                            Console.WriteLine("Successfully created {0}.", fileName);
                        }
                    }
                }
            }
            else
            {
                Console.WriteLine("No records returned.");
            }
        }
        catch (Exception ex)
        {
            Console.WriteLine(ex.Message);
        }
        finally
        {
            if (reader != null)
                reader.Dispose();
        }
    }
}

Large value types can be used in SqlParameter objects the same way you use smaller value types in SqlParameter objects. You can retrieve large value types as SqlParameter values, as shown in the following example. The code assumes that the following GetDocumentSummary stored procedure exists in the AdventureWorks sample database. The stored procedure takes an input parameter named @DocumentID and returns the contents of the DocumentSummary column in the @DocumentSummary output parameter.

CREATE PROCEDURE GetDocumentSummary 
(
    @DocumentID int,
    @DocumentSummary nvarchar(MAX) OUTPUT
)
AS
SET NOCOUNT ON
SELECT  @DocumentSummary=Convert(nvarchar(MAX), DocumentSummary)
FROM    Production.Document
WHERE   DocumentID=@DocumentID

Example

The ADO.NET code creates SqlConnection and SqlCommand objects to execute the GetDocumentSummary stored procedure and retrieve the document summary, which is stored as a large value type. The code passes a value for the @DocumentID input parameter, and displays the results passed back in the @DocumentSummary output parameter in the Console window.

static private string GetDocumentSummary(int documentID)
{
    //Assumes GetConnectionString returns a valid connection string. 
    using (SqlConnection connection =
               new SqlConnection(GetConnectionString()))
    {
        connection.Open();
        SqlCommand command = connection.CreateCommand();
        try
        {
            // Setup the command to execute the stored procedure.
            command.CommandText = "GetDocumentSummary";
            command.CommandType = CommandType.StoredProcedure;

            // Set up the input parameter for the DocumentID.
            SqlParameter paramID =
                new SqlParameter("@DocumentID", SqlDbType.Int);
            paramID.Value = documentID;
            command.Parameters.Add(paramID);

            // Set up the output parameter to retrieve the summary.
            SqlParameter paramSummary =
                new SqlParameter("@DocumentSummary",
                SqlDbType.NVarChar, -1);
            paramSummary.Direction = ParameterDirection.Output;
            command.Parameters.Add(paramSummary);

            // Execute the stored procedure.
            command.ExecuteNonQuery();
            Console.WriteLine((String)(paramSummary.Value));
            return (String)(paramSummary.Value);
        }
        catch (Exception ex)
        {
            Console.WriteLine(ex.Message);
            return null;
        }
    }
}
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