ADO.NET vs Entity Framework. Which is the best framework?

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ADO.NET and Entity Framework are connectors between application and database and have a set of libraries that are used to access data services, and support the development needs of relational databases or XML in .NET applications such as console apps, desktop apps, web apps and WCF/Web API services. 

They both are an integral part of .NET framework having strong-typed .NET classes and objects. To create a database application, design the front-end and connect it to the data source using either ADO.NET or Entity Framework.  

What is ADO.NET?

ADO.NET stands for ActiveX Data Object, provides a bridge between relational and non-relational systems. It is a great technology after traditional ADO, which gives an advantage to create everything from scratch and have a full access control of a database in the application. You can get data from ADO.NET in disconnected mode and can serve a large number of connections without compromising on the performance of an application.

In ADO.NET, you can access and modify data stored in data sources such as Oracle, MS SQL Server, MySQL, and XML. It has a set of classes and data providers that are equivalent to OLE DB, ODBC and JDBC drivers. It mainly uses two namespaces i.e. System.Data.dll and System.Xml.dll that supports the interaction between client and database. 

You can use any IDE that supports .Net Framework, to design front-end of an application and connect it to the database through ADO.NET. 

ADO.NET Architecture 

ADO.NET uses a multilayer architecture that has different .NET components to interact with the database and process the query result using Connection, Reader, Command, Adapter and DataSet/DataTable objects.

You can fetch a list of users from a SQL table in C# using the following code:

namespace TestApplicationADONET
{
   public class UserRepository
   {
        public DataSet GetAllUsersList()
        {
           // Initializes disconnected dataset to fetch results
            DataSet ds = new DataSet();
            try
            {
                //Create and initialize the connection using connection string
                using (SqlConnection sqlConn = 
                            SqlConnection ("DataSource=localhost;Initial Catalog=TestDB; 
                                            User ID=sa;Password=admin;"))
                {
                    //Open connection
                    sqlConn.Open();
                    // Write sql command to access user from table
                    string sql = "select * from tblusers";
                    SqlCommand sqlCmd = new SqlCommand(sql, sqlConn); 
                    // Define Command Type
                    sqlCmd.CommandType = CommandType.Text;
                    // Execute the command
                    SqlDataAdapter sqlAdapter = new SqlDataAdapter(sqlCmd);
                    //Get the data in disconnected mode
                    sqlAdapter.Fill(ds);
                }
            }
            catch (Exception ex)
            {
                // Log exception in log file or in database
            }
            // return dataset result
            return ds;
        }
    }
}

 What is Entity Framework?

Microsoft introduced Entity Framework in .NET Framework 3.5 in 2008, to enable developers to focus on business domain objects instead of working with underlying database stored data, and it eliminates the need of writing code for writing and reading data from data sources.  

Entity Framework is an Object Relational Mapper (ORM), built at the top of an ADO.NET, it creates the necessary code automatically for storing, and retrieving data, hence, developer only need to focus on creating the application, not dealing with databases and its problems. 

You can make an application in an Entity Framework with minimal knowledge of database, because the framework is doing most of the operations and commands, and it is easy to implement CRUD operations in it. Therefore, it reduces development time and you can easily focus on the production instead of the databases. 

Entity Framework Architecture 

Entity Framework consists of the following three layers:

Object Service 

Object Service is the top layer in the Entity Framework architecture. It maintains the session between application and database. It performs CRUD operations with the help of queries. It represents the model entities of an application.

Entity Client 

Entity Client is the core layer in Entity Framework, which connects the data source layer to the Object Service layer with the help of providers. It allows developers to write LINQ queries and read or write data without generating classes of conceptual schema. 

Data Providers

Data Provider layer is directly linked to the database. It is responsible to parse the query into a native SQL command expression in the database and then provide results back into domain objects of application. 

You can insert a new user into data source by using an Entity Framework Code-First approach in the following example:

namespace TestApplicationEF
{
    public class UserRepository
    {
        public static void Main(string[] args)
        { 
           // Initializes the dbContext class User Entity
            using (var userContextDB = new UserContext())
            {
                // Create a new user object
                var user = new User() { UserID = "USER-01" };
       
                // Call Add Command 
                userContextDB.User.Add(user);

                // Execute the save command to make changes 
                userContextDB.SaveChanges();                
            }
        }
    }
}

Performance

ADO.NET provides better performance as it is directly connected to the data source, which makes the processing faster than Entity Framework as it translates LINQ queries to SQL first then process the query.

Speed of Development

ADO.NET gives you complete control over data layer, that the developer needs to make classes and methods from scratch to allow communication between application and database. This requires more effort and time to build a complete structure of data access layer. Whereas, Entity Framework generates models and database context classes automatically to handle database operations and thus required less effort and time. 

Maintainable Code

In ADO.NET, debugging is cumbersome as you go from application layer to the database layer one by one to find what is happening in an application whereas, Entity Framework gives clearly modeled relationships of entities and dependent tiers.

Flexibility

ADO.NET provides great flexibility in terms of raw SQL queries and procedures than Entity Framework by providing full control over a database. 

Overall – Final Thoughts

Take the right path before you start. If you want to have more control over SQL commands and operations, then ADO.NET is a great framework to work with. Entity Framework is powerful enough to handle database services by automating the mechanism of generating code of basic SQL queries. You can have both approaches in a single project, i.e. Entity Framework for CRUD operations and ADO.NET for reporting purpose and bulk data SQL operations. 

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