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Oracle® Call Interface Programmer's Guide
10g Release 1 (10.1)

Part Number B10779-01
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Introduction and Upgrading

This chapter contains these topics:

Overview of OCI

The Oracle Call Interface (OCI) is an application programming interface (API) that lets you create applications that use function calls to access an Oracle database server and control all phases of SQL statement execution. OCI supports the datatypes, calling conventions, syntax, and semantics of C and C++.

See Also:

OCI provides:

OCI lets you manipulate data and schemas in an Oracle database using C programming language. It provides a library of standard database access and retrieval functions in the form of a dynamic runtime library (OCI library) that can be linked in an application at runtime.

OCI has many new features that can be categorized into several primary areas:

Advantages of OCI

OCI provides significant advantages over other methods of accessing an Oracle database:

Building an OCI Application

You compile and link an OCI program in the same way that you compile and link a non-database application. There is no need for a separate preprocessing or precompilation step.

Oracle supports most popular third-party compilers. The details of linking an OCI program vary from system to system. On some operating systems, it may be necessary to include other libraries, in addition to the OCI library, to properly link your OCI programs. See your Oracle system-specific documentation and the installation guide for more information about compiling and linking an OCI application for your operating system.

See Also:

Appendix D, "Getting Started with OCI for Windows"

Parts of OCI

OCI has the following functionality:

Procedural and Non-Procedural Elements

The Oracle Call Interface (OCI) lets you develop scalable, multithreaded applications in a multitier architecture that combines the non-procedural data access power of Structured Query Language (SQL) with the procedural capabilities of C and C++.

The combination of both non-procedural and procedural language elements in an OCI program provides easy access to an Oracle database in a structured programming environment.

OCI supports all SQL data definition, data manipulation, query, and transaction control facilities that are available through an Oracle database server. For example, an OCI program can run a query against an Oracle database. The queries can require the program to supply data to the database using input (bind) variables, as follows:

SELECT name FROM employees WHERE empno = :empnumber;

In the preceding SQL statement, :empnumber is a placeholder for a value that will be supplied by the application.

You can also take advantage of PL/SQL, Oracle's procedural extension to SQL. The applications you develop can be more powerful and flexible than applications written in SQL alone. OCI also provides facilities for accessing and manipulating objects in an Oracle database server.

Object Support

OCI has facilities for working with object types and objects. An object type is a user-defined data structure representing an abstraction of a real-world entity. For example, the database might contain a definition of a person object. That object might have attributes--first_name, last_name, and age--which represent a person's identifying characteristics.

The object type definition serves as the basis for creating objects, which represent instances of the object type. Using the object type as a structural definition, a person object could be created with the attribute values 'John', 'Bonivento', and '30'. Object types may also contain methods--programmatic functions that represent the behavior of that object type.

See Also:

OCI includes functions that extend the capabilities of OCI to handle objects in an Oracle database server. Specifically, the following capabilities have been added to OCI:

Additional OCI calls are provided to support manipulation of objects after they have been accessed by SQL statements. For a more detailed description of enhancements and new features, refer to "Encapsulated Interfaces".

SQL Statements

One of the main tasks of an OCI application is to process SQL statements. Different types of SQL statements require different processing steps in your program. It is important to take this into account when coding your OCI application. Oracle recognizes several types of SQL statements:

Data Definition Language

Data definition language (DDL) statements manage schema objects in the database. DDL statements create new tables, drop old tables, and establish other schema objects. They also control access to schema objects.

The following is an example of creating and specifying access to a table:

CREATE TABLE employees
    (name       VARCHAR2(20),
     ssn        VARCHAR2(12),
     empno      NUMBER(6),
     mgr        NUMBER(6),
     salary     NUMBER(6));

REVOKE UPDATE ON employees FROM jamie;

DDL statements also allow you to work with objects in the Oracle database server, as in the following series of statements which creates an object table:

    name     VARCHAR2(30),
    ssn      VARCHAR2(12),
    address  VARCHAR2(50));

CREATE TABLE person_tab OF person_t;

Control Statements

OCI applications treat transaction control, session control, and system control statements like DML statements.

See Also:

Oracle Database SQL Reference for information about these types of statements

Data Manipulation Language

Data manipulation language (DML) statements can change data in the database tables. For example, DML statements are used to:

DML statements also allow you to work with objects in the Oracle database server, as in the following example, which inserts an instance of type person_t into the object table person_tab:

INSERT INTO person_tab
    VALUES (person_t('Steve May','123-45-6789','146 Winfield Street'));


Queries are statements that retrieve data from a database. A query can return zero, one, or many rows of data. All queries begin with the SQL keyword SELECT, as in the following example:

SELECT dname FROM dept
     WHERE deptno = 42;

Queries access data in tables, and they are often classified with DML statements. However, OCI applications process queries differently, so they are considered separately in this guide.

Queries can require the program to supply data to the database using input (bind) variables, as in the following example:

SELECT name 
    FROM employees
    WHERE empno = :empnumber;

In the preceding SQL statement, :empnumber is a placeholder for a value that will be supplied by the application.


PL/SQL is Oracle's procedural extension to the SQL language. PL/SQL processes tasks that are more complicated than simple queries and SQL data manipulation language statements. PL/SQL allows a number of constructs to be grouped into a single block and executed as a unit. Among these are:

You can use PL/SQL blocks in your OCI program to:

The following PL/SQL example issues a SQL statement to retrieve values from a table of employees, given a particular employee number. This example also demonstrates the use of placeholders in PL/SQL statements.

    SELECT ename, sal, comm INTO :emp_name, :salary, :commission
    FROM emp
    WHERE empno = :emp_number;

Note that the placeholders in this statement are not PL/SQL variables. They represent input values passed to Oracle when the statement is processed. These placeholders need to be bound to C language variables in your program.

See Also:

Embedded SQL

OCI processes SQL statements as text strings that an application passes to Oracle on execution. The Oracle precompilers (Pro*C/C++, Pro*COBOL, Pro*FORTRAN) allow you to embed SQL statements directly into your application code. A separate precompilation step is then necessary to generate an executable application.

It is possible to mix OCI calls and embedded SQL in a precompiler program.

See Also:

Pro*C/C++ Programmer's Guide

Special OCI/SQL Terms

This guide uses special terms to refer to the different parts of a SQL statement. For example, a SQL statement such as

SELECT customer, address
FROM customers
WHERE bus_type = 'SOFTWARE'
AND sales_volume = :sales;

contains the following parts:

When you develop your OCI application, you call routines that specify to the Oracle database server the address (location) of input and output variables of your program. In this guide, specifying the address of a placeholder variable for data input is called a bind operation. Specifying the address of a variable to receive select-list items is called a define operation.

For PL/SQL, both input and output specifications are called bind operations. These terms and operations are described in Chapter 4, "Using SQL Statements in OCI".

Encapsulated Interfaces

All the data structures that are used by OCI calls are encapsulated in the form of opaque interfaces that are called handles. A handle is an opaque pointer to a storage area allocated by the OCI library that stores context information, connection information, error information, or bind information about a SQL or PL/SQL statement. A client allocates a certain types of handles, populates one or more of those handles through well-defined interfaces, and sends requests to the server using those handles. In turn, applications can access the specific information contained in the handle by using accessor functions.

The OCI library manages a hierarchy of handles. Encapsulating the OCI interfaces by means of these handles has several benefits to the application developer, including:

Simplified User Authentication and Password Management

OCI provides application developers with simplified user authentication and password management in several ways:

OCI supports two types of login sessions:

Extensions to Improve Application Performance and Scalability

OCI has several enhancements to improve application performance and scalability. Application performance has been improved by reducing the number of client to server round trips required and scalability improvements have been made by reducing the amount of state information that needs to be retained on the server side. Some of these features include:

OCI Object Support

OCI provides a comprehensive application programming interface for programmers seeking to use the Oracle server's object capabilities. These features can be divided into five major categories:

Client-Side Object Cache

The object cache is a client-side memory buffer that provides lookup and memory management support for objects. It stores and tracks object instances that have been fetched by an OCI application from the server to the client side. The object cache is created when the OCI environment is initialized. Multiple applications running against the same server will each have their own object cache. The cache tracks the objects which are currently in memory, maintains references to objects, manages automatic object swapping and tracks the meta-attributes or type information about objects. The object cache provides the following to OCI applications:

Associative and Navigational Interfaces

Applications using OCI can access objects in the Oracle server through several types of interfaces:

OCI provides a set of functions with extensions to support object manipulation using SQL SELECT, INSERT, and UPDATE statements. To access Oracle objects these SQL statements use a consistent set of steps as if they were accessing relational tables. OCI provides the following sets of functions required to access objects:

OCI also provides a set of functions using a C-style pointer chasing scheme to access objects once they have been fetched into the client-side cache by traversing the corresponding smart pointers or REFs. This navigational interface provides functions for:

OCI Runtime Environment for Objects

OCI provides functions for objects that manages how Oracle objects are used on the client-side. These functions provide for:

Type Management, Mapping and Manipulation Functions

OCI provides two sets of functions to work with Oracle objects:

Additionally, the OCIDescribeAny() function provides information about objects stored in the database.

Object Type Translator

The Object Type Translator (OTT) utility translates schema information about Oracle object types into client-side language bindings of host language variables, such as structures. The OTT takes as input an intype file which contains metadata information about Oracle schema objects. It generates an outtype file and the necessary header and implementation files that must be included in a C application that runs against the object schema. Both OCI applications and Pro*C/C++ precompiler applications may include code generated by the OTT. The OTT has many benefits including:

OTT is typically invoked from the command line by specifying the intype file, the outtype file and the specific database connection. With Oracle, OTT can only generate C structures which can either be used with OCI programs or with the Pro*C/C++ precompiler programs.

OCI Support for Oracle Streams Advanced Queuing

OCI provides an interface to Oracle's Streams Advanced Queuing (Streams AQ) feature. Streams AQ provides message queuing as an integrated part of the Oracle server. Streams AQ provides this functionality by integrating the queuing system with the database, thereby creating a message-enabled database. By providing an integrated solution Streams AQ frees you to devote your efforts to your specific business logic rather than having to construct a messaging infrastructure.

See Also:

"OCI and Streams Advanced Queuing".

XA Library Support

OCI supports the Oracle XA library.

See Also:

Oracle Database Application Developer's Guide - Fundamentals for information about support for the Oracle XA library.

Compatibility and Upgrading

The following sections discuss issues concerning compatibility between different versions of OCI client and server, changes in the OCI library routines, and upgrading an application from the release 7.x OCI to this release of OCI.

Simplified Upgrading of Existing OCI Release 7 Applications

OCI has been significantly improved with many features. Applications written to work with OCI release 7 have a smooth migration path to this OCI release because of the interoperability of OCI release 7 clients with this release of the server, and of clients of this release with an Oracle database version 7 server.


As a result, when migrating an existing OCI version 7 application you have the following two alternatives:

If you need to use any of the object capabilities of the current server release, you will need to upgrade your client to this release of OCI.

Statically-Linked and Dynamically-Linked Applications

Here are the rules for re-linking for a new release.

Obsolete OCI Routines

Release 8.0 of the OCI introduced an entirely new set of functions which were not available in release 7.3. Oracle continues to support these release 7.3 functions. Many of the earlier 7.x calls are available, but Oracle strongly recommends that new applications use the new calls to improve performance and provide increased functionality.

Table 1-1, "Obsolescent OCI Routines" lists the 7.x OCI calls with their later equivalents. For more information about the OCI calls, see the function descriptions in Part III of this guide. For more information about the 7.x calls, see the Programmer's Guide to the Oracle Call Interface, Release 7.3. These 7.x calls are obsoleted, meaning that OCI has replaced them with newer calls. While the obsoleted calls are supported at this time, they may not be supported in all future versions of OCI.


In many cases the new OCI routines do not map directly onto the 7.x routines, so it may not be possible to simply replace one function call and parameter list with another. Additional program logic may be required before or after the new call is made. See the remaining chapters of this guide for more information.

Table 1-1 Obsolescent OCI Routines  
7.x OCI Routine Equivalent or Similar Later OCI Routine

obindps(), obndra(), obndrn(), obndrv()

OCIBindByName(), OCIBindByPos() (Note: additional bind calls may be necessary for some datatypes)






Note: cursors are not used in release 8.x or later

ocof(), ocon()

OCIStmtExecute() with OCI_COMMIT_ON_SUCCESS mode



odefin(), odefinps()

OCIDefineByPos() (Note: additional define calls may be necessary for some datatypes)


Note: schema objects are described with OCIDescribeAny(). A describe, as used in release 7.x, will most often be done by calling OCIAttrGet() on the statement handle after SQL statement execution.





oexec(), oexn()



OCIStmtExecute(), OCIStmtFetch() (Note: result set rows can be implicitly prefetched)

ofen(), ofetch()










onbclr(), onbset(), onbtst()

Note: nonblocking mode can be set or checked by calling OCIAttrSet() or OCIAttrGet() on the server context handle or service context handle


Note: cursors are not used in release 8.x or later




OCIStmtPrepare(); however, it is all local








SQLSvcCtxGet or SQLEnvGet


SQLSvcCtxGet or SQLEnvGet


Note: see odescr() preceding








Note: see odescr() preceding


Note: see oparse() preceding

See Also:

For information about the additional functionality provided by new functions not listed here, see the remaining chapters of this guide.

OCI Routines Not Supported

Some OCI routines that were available in previous versions of OCI are not supported in later releases. They are listed in Table 1-2, "OCI Routines Not Supported":

Table 1-2 OCI Routines Not Supported  
OCI Routine Equivalent or Similar Later OCI Routine


OCIBindByName(), OCIBindByPos() (Note: additional bind calls may be necessary for some datatypes)


OCIBindByName(), OCIBindByPos() (Note: additional bind calls may be necessary for some datatypes)


OCIDefineByPos() (Note: additional define calls may be necessary for some datatypes)


Note: see odescr() in Table 1-1




Note: see oparse() Table 1-1

Compatibility Between Different Releases of OCI and Servers

This section addresses compatibility between different releases of OCI and Oracle server.

Existing 7.x applications with no new post-release 7.x calls have to be re-linked with the new client-side library.

The application will not be able to use the object features of Oracle8i or later, and will not get any of the performance or scalability benefits provided by those OCI releases.

Upgrading OCI

Programmers who wish to incorporate release post-release 7.x functionality into existing OCI applications have two options:

This manual should provide the information necessary to rewrite an existing application to use only new OCI calls.

Adding Post-release 7.x OCI Calls to 7.x Applications

The following guidelines apply to programmers who want to incorporate new Oracle datatypes and features by using new OCI calls, while keeping 7.x calls for some operations:

This approach allows an application to use a single connection, but two different APIs, to accomplish different tasks.

You can mix OCI 7.x and post-release 7.x calls within a transaction, but not within a statement. This lets you execute one SQL or PL/SQL statement with OCI 7.x calls and the next SQL or PL/SQL statement within that transaction with post-release 7.x OCI calls.


You cannot open a cursor, parse with OCI 7.x calls and then execute the statement with post-release 7.x calls.

OCI Instant Client

The Instant Client feature makes it extremely easy to deploy OCI, OCCI, ODBC, and JDBC-OCI based customer applications by eliminating the need for an ORACLE_HOME. The storage space requirement of an OCI application running in Instant Client mode is significantly reduced compared to the same application running in a full client side installation. The Instant Client shared libraries only occupy about one-fourth the disk space of a full client installation.

Table 1-3 shows the Oracle client side files required to deploy an OCI application:

Table 1-3 OCI Instant Client Shared Libraries  
UNIX Windows Description


Client Code Library


OCI Instant Client Data Shared Library


Security Library

Release 10.1 library names are used in the table. The number part of library names will change in future releases to agree with the release.

To use the Microsoft ODBC and OLEDB driver, ociw32.dll must also be copied from ORACLE_HOME\bin.

Benefits of Instant Client

The benefits of Instant Client are:

OCI Instant Client Installation Process

The Instant Client libraries can also be installed by choosing the Instant Client option from the Oracle Universal Installer. The Instant Client libraries can also be downloaded from the Oracle Technology Network ( Web site. The installation process is as simple as:

  1. Downloading and installing the Instant Client shared libraries to a directory such as instantclient.
  2. Setting the OS shared library path environment variable to the directory from step 1. For example, on UNIX, set the LD_LIBRARY_PATH to instantclient. On Windows, set PATH to locate the instantclient directory.

After completing the above two steps you are ready to run the OCI application.

The OCI application operates in Instant Client mode when the three OCI shared libraries are accessible through the OS Library Path variable. In this mode, there is no dependency on ORACLE_HOME and none of the other code and data files provided in ORACLE_HOME are needed by OCI (except for the tnsnames.ora file described later).

If you have done a complete client installation (by choosing the Admin option) the Instant Client shared libraries are also installed. The location of the Instant Client shared libraries in a full client installation is:

On UNIX: library is in $ORACLE_HOME/instantclient and are in $ORACLE_HOME/lib

On Windows:

oraociei10.dll library is in ORACLE_HOME\instantclient

oci.dll, ociw32.dll, orannzsbb10.dll are in ORACLE_HOME\bin

By copying the above libraries to a different directory and setting the OS shared library path to locate this directory you can enable running the OCI application in Instant Client mode.


All the libraries must be copied from the same ORACLE_HOME and must be placed in the same directory.

To enable other capabilities such as OCCI and JDBC-OCI, a few other files need to be copied over as well. In particular, for the JDBC OCI driver, in addition to the three OCI shared libraries, you must also download OCI JDBC Library (for example on UNIX and oraocijdbc10.dll on Windows) and ojdbcXY.jar (where XY is the version number, for example, ojdbc14.jar). All libraries must be able to be loaded from the library path and ojdbcXY.jar must be able to be loaded from CLASSPATH.


On hybrid platforms, such as Sparc64, if the JDBC OCI driver needs to be operated in the Instant Client mode, the library must be copied from the ORACLE_HOME/instantclient32 directory. All other Sparc64 libraries needed for the JDBC OCI Instant Client must be copied from the ORACLE_HOME/lib32 directory.

For OCCI, the OCCI Library ( on UNIX and oraocci10.dll on Windows) must also be installed in a directory on the OS Library Path variable.

When to Use Instant Client

Instant Client is a deployment feature and should be used for running production applications. For development, a full installation is necessary to access OCI header files, Makefiles, demonstration programs, and so on. In general, all OCI functionality is available to an application being run in the Instant Client mode, except that the Instant Client mode is for client-side operation only. Therefore, server-side external procedures cannot operate in the Instant Client mode.

Patching Instant Client Shared Libraries

Because Instant Client is a deployment feature, the emphasis has been on reducing the number and size of files (client footprint) required to run an OCI application. Hence all files needed to patch Instant Client shared libraries are not available in an Instant Client deployment. An ORACLE_HOME based full client installation is needed to patch the Instant Client shared libraries. The opatch utility will take care of patching the Instant Client shared libraries.

After patching the Instant Client shared libraries Oracle recommends generating the patch inventory information by executing the following command from the ORACLE_HOME/OPatch directory:

opatch lsinventory > opatchinv.out

The opatchinv.out file should be copied along with the patched Instant Client libraries to the deployment directory. The information in opatchinv.out will indicate all the patches that have been applied.

The opatch inventory information for Instant Client libraries is not needed on the Windows platform, so this step can be skipped on Windows.

Regeneration of Data Shared Library

The OCI Instant Client Data Shared Library ( can be regenerated by performing the following steps in an Administrator Install of ORACLE_HOME:

cd $ORACLE_HOME/rdbms/lib
make -f ilibociei

A new version of based on the current files in the ORACLE_HOME is then placed in the ORACLE_HOME/instantclient directory.

Regeneration of data shared library is not available on Windows platforms.

Database Connection Names for OCI Instant Client

All Oracle net naming methods that do not require use of ORACLE_HOME or TNS_ADMIN (to locate configuration files such as tnsnames.ora or sqlnet.ora) work in the Instant Client mode. In particular, the connect string in the OCIServerAttach() call can be specified in the following formats:

Naming methods that require TNS_ADMIN to locate configuration files continue to work if the TNS_ADMIN environment variable is set.

If the TNS_ADMIN environment variable is not set, and TNSNAMES entries such as inst1, and so on, are used, then the ORACLE_HOME variable must be set, and the configuration files are expected to be in the $ORACLE_HOME/network.101/admin directory.

Please note that the ORACLE_HOME variable in this case is only used for locating Oracle Net configuration files, and no other component of Client Code Library (OCI, NLS, and so on) uses the value of ORACLE_HOME.

The bequeath adapter or the empty connect strings are not supported. However, an alternate way to use the empty connect string is to set the TWO_TASK environment variable on UNIX, or the LOCAL variable on Windows, to either a tnsnames.ora entry or an Oracle Net keyword-value pair. If TWO_TASK or LOCAL is set to a tnsnames.ora entry, then the tnsnames.ora file must be able to be loaded by TNS_ADMIN or ORACLE_HOME setting.

Environment Variables for OCI Instant Client

The ORACLE_HOME environment variable no longer determines the location of NLS, CORE, and error message files. An OCI-only application should not require ORACLE_HOME to be set. However, if it is set, it does not have an impact on OCI's operation. OCI will always obtain its data from the Data Shared Library. If the Data Shared Library is not available, only then is ORACLE_HOME used and a full client installation is assumed. Even though ORACLE_HOME is not required to be set, if it is set, then it must be set to a valid operating system path name that identifies a directory.

If Dynamic User callback libraries are to be loaded, then as this guide specifies, the callback package has to reside in ORACLE_HOME/lib (ORACLE_HOME\bin on Windows). Therefore, ORACLE_HOME should be set in this case.

Environment variables ORA_NLS33, ORA_NLS32, and ORA_NLS are ignored in the Instant Client mode.

In the Instant Client mode, if the ORA_TZFILE variable is not set, then the smaller, default, timezone.dat file from the Data Shared Library is used. If the larger timezlrg.dat file is to be used from the Data Shared Library, then set the ORA_TZFILE environment variable to the name of the file without any absolute or relative path names. That is, on UNIX:

setenv ORA_TZFILE timezlrg.dat

On Windows:

set ORA_TZFILE timezlrg.dat

If OCI is not operating in the Instant Client mode (because the Data Shared Library is not available), then ORA_TZFILE variable, if set, names a complete path name as it does in previous Oracle releases.

If TNSNAMES entries are used, then, as mentioned earlier, TNS_ADMIN directory must contain the TNSNAMES configuration files, and if TNS_ADMIN is not set, then the ORACLE_HOME/network.101/admin directory must contain Oracle Net Services configuration files.