What is a DAL?

I occasionally see posts on forums asking for help with some database
problem. Then I see they’ve been using the the wizards in Visual Studio (which
is okay for a beginner, but should really be ditched once the basic concepts
have been learned). I suggest that they use a DAL and I get lots of positive
signals back that they’ll do that in future. Then a week or two later they’ve
got themselves into another problem and they’re still using wizard generated

So, it occurred to me that just saying “Use a DAL” doesn’t mean anything. If
someone told me that I need to use the finkle-widget pattern I wouldn’t know
what they are talking about. And if a person has never heard the term DAL
before, or never had it explained to them, then it is just as useful as saying
“use the finkle-widget pattern”

So, I figured it would be a good idea to show what a very basic DAL looks
like and to explain what it is.

A DAL is a Data Abstraction Layer. It is the part of the application that is
responsible for communicating with a data source. That data source is typically
a database, but it can be anything you like, such as an XML file, a plain text
file or anything else that data can be read from or written to.

In this example it will be a static class that communicates with a SQL
Server. It picks up the connection string
from the config file. It will communicate with stored procedures and return
DataTables, DataSets or single values. It doesn’t do everything a DAL could do,
but it shows the basic functionality.

Whenever I create DAL classes I try and think about them as if they are a
proxy for a group of actual stored procedures. I give the methods the same name
as the stored procedures, I give each method the same parameter names as the
stored procedure.

A DAL class has to mange the connection, so in this example I have a static
initialiser that gets the connection string from the config file and stores

        private static string connectionString;
        static Dal()         {             connectionString =
                ConfigurationManager.AppSettings["ConnectionString"];         }

On each query a new connection object is created. The reason for this is that
the recommendation is that you acquire-query-release. Acquire a connection,
perform your query, then release the connection back to the pool.

            int result = (int)cmd.ExecuteScalar();

The connection Open / Close calls are not necessary when using a DataAdapter
as it will open the connection and then close it again in the Fill method. If
the connection was open before Fill is called then it will stay open.

There are two helper methods that are not publicly available. They are
BuildCommand and BuildBasicQuery.

BuildCommand creates the connection and command object and attaches the
connection to the command. It also tells the command the name of the stored
procedure that is to be called.

BuildBasicQuery uses BuildCommand, but then attaches the command to a
DataAdapter so that it can be used to obtain query results.

The full code of the sample DAL is below:

using System;
using System.Collections.Generic;
using System.Text;
using System.Configuration;
using System.Data.Common;
using System.Data.SqlClient;
using System.Data;

namespace Cam.DataAbstractionLayer
    public static class Dal
        private static string connectionString;

        /// <summary>
        /// The static initialiser will be called the first time any
        /// method on the class is called. This ensures that the
        /// connection string is available.
        /// </summary>
        static Dal()
            connectionString =

        /// <summary>
        /// Builds the command object with an appropriate connection and
        /// sets the stored procedure name.
        /// </summary>
        /// <param name="storedProcedureName">The name of the stored
        /// procedure</param>
        /// <returns>The command object</returns>
        private static SqlCommand BuildCommand(string storedProcedureName)
            // Create a connection to the database.
            SqlConnection connection = new SqlConnection(connectionString);

            // Create the command object - The named stored procedure
            // will be called when needed.
            SqlCommand result = new SqlCommand(storedProcedureName,
            result.CommandType = CommandType.StoredProcedure;
            return result;

        /// <summary>
        /// Builds a DataAdapter that can be used for retrieving the
        /// results of queries
        /// </summary>
        /// <param name="storedProcedureName">The name of the stored
        /// procedure</param>
        /// <returns>A data adapter</returns>
        private static SqlDataAdapter BuildBasicQuery(
            string storedProcedureName)
            SqlCommand cmd = BuildCommand(storedProcedureName);

            // Set up the data adapter to use the command already setup.
            SqlDataAdapter result = new SqlDataAdapter(cmd);
            return result;

        /// <summary>
        /// A sample public method. There are no parameters, it simply
        /// calls a stored procedure that retrieves all the products
        /// </summary>
        /// <returns>A DataTable containing the product data</returns>
        public static DataTable GetAllProducts()
            SqlDataAdapter dataAdapter = BuildBasicQuery("GetAllProducts");

            // Get the result set from the database and return it
            DataTable result = new DataTable();
            return result;

        /// <summary>
        /// A sample public method. It takes one parameter which is
        /// passed to the database.
        /// </summary>
        /// <param name="invoiceNumber">A number which identifies the
        /// invoice</param>
        /// <returns>A dataset containing the details of the required
        /// invoice</returns>
        public static DataSet GetInvoice(int invoiceNumber)
            SqlDataAdapter dataAdapter = BuildBasicQuery("GetInvoice");
                "@invoiceNumber", invoiceNumber);

            DataSet result = new DataSet();
            return result;

        /// <summary>
        /// A sample public method. Creates an invoice in the database
        /// and returns the invoice number to the calling code.
        /// </summary>
        /// <param name="customerId">The id of the customer</param>
        /// <param name="billingAddressId">The id of the billing
        /// address</param>
        /// <param name="date">The date of the invoice</param>
        /// <returns>The invoice number</returns>
        public static int CreateInvoice(int customerId,
            int billingAddressId, DateTime date)
            SqlCommand cmd = BuildCommand("CreateInvoice");
            cmd.Parameters.AddWithValue("@customerId", customerId);
            cmd.Parameters.AddWithValue("@date", date);

            int result = (int)cmd.ExecuteScalar();
            return result;

So, that is that. A very basic introduction to creating a DAL.


5 thoughts on “What is a DAL?

  1. Nice post, ColinI have a question. I didn’t understand why we have to use new connection, command, and adapter object per query. Im using in my DAL static objects like following. Is there something wrong in my implementation? public class BaseDAL { private static string connectionString = @”Server=REYSQLEXPRESS;Initial Catalog=database;Integrated Security=True”; private static SqlConnection lexiconConnection = new SqlConnection(connectionString); private static SqlCommand sqlCommand = new SqlCommand(“”, lexiconConnection); private static SqlDataAdapter dataAdapter = new SqlDataAdapter(sqlCommand); public static String Sql { get { return sqlCommand.CommandText; } set { sqlCommand.CommandText = value; } } public static SqlParameterCollection Parameters { get { return sqlCommand.Parameters; } } public static DataTable GetTable() { DataTable dataTable = new DataTable(); try { lexiconConnection.Open(); dataAdapter.Fill(dataTable); } finally { lexiconConnection.Close(); } return dataTable; } . . . }} public class DerivedDAL : BaseDAL { public static List<Lexdata> GetLexdatas(int companyId, int languageId) { Sql = “select * from data where languageid=@languageId and companyid=@companyId”; Parameters.Clear(); Parameters.Add(new SqlParameter(“@companyId”, companyId)); Parameters.Add(new SqlParameter(“@languageId”, languageId)); DataTable dataTable = GetTable(); List<data> datas = new List<data>(); foreach (DataRow dataRow in dataTable.Rows) { data lexdata = new data(); data.dataId = (int)dataRow[“dataid”]; data.Code = dataRow[“code”].ToString().Trim(); data.Title = dataRow[“title”].ToString().Trim(); data.Text = dataRow[“text”].ToString().Trim(); data.Text2 = dataRow[“text2”].ToString().Trim(); lexdatas.Add(lexdata); } return lexdatas; } . . . }}

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