Note :

  • I know we have Django ORM already that keeps things database independent and converts to the database specific SQL queries.
  • Once things starts getting complicated it is preferred to write raw SQL queries for better efficiency.
  • When you write raw sql queries your code gets trapped with the database you are using.
  • I also understand its important to use the full power of your database that can-not be achieved with the django orm alone.

My Question :

  • Until I use any database specific feature, why should one be trapped with the database.
  • For instance :

We have a query with multiple joins and we decided to write a raw sql query. Now, that makes my website postgres specific. Even when I have not used any postgres specific feature.

I feel there should be some fake sql language which can translate to any database's sql query. Even Django's ORM can be built over it. So, that if you go out of ORM but not database specific - you can still remain database independent.

I asked the same question to Jacob Kaplan Moss (In person) :

  • He advised me to stay with the database that I like and endure its whole power, to which I agree. But my point was not that we should be database independent.
  • My point is we should be database independent until we use a database specific feature.

Please explain, why should be there a fake sql layer over the actual sql ?




My suggestion:

Solve the independence of the database on a fake sql level and then build ORM over that fake sql. So, if I have to write a sql query - I will use fake sql that would work on all databases yet raw SQL. That way, I will remain database independent unless I use a feature very specific to my database.

Therefore, a query like select * from table limit 10; will work on both postgres and 'MS-SQL Server'.

Is that sensible ?


  • I am not talking about ANSI SQL, I am suggesting a fake sql to make all databases work with 1 standard sql. [ Which may not cover db specific features ]
  • 2
    How does a sql query with multiple joins tie you to postgres? Oct 22, 2012 at 5:45
  • 6
    I think OP is looking for the SQL ANSI standard. Oct 22, 2012 at 6:04
  • Sounds more like OP is looking for something like DBI. If so you can look at this page
    – Karthik T
    Oct 22, 2012 at 7:01
  • @KarthikT: No. DBI does not do anything to the SQL dialect the database speaks either.
    – Jan Hudec
    Oct 22, 2012 at 12:41
  • Joining tables is covered by the ANSI standard. It should not make you Postgres specific. Could you post the query?
    – mike30
    Oct 22, 2012 at 17:19

3 Answers 3


I think you're looking for the SQL ANSI standard.

This standard is implemented in most RDBMS for the biggest part.

However, every RDBMS decided to do some things their way. (Simply because the standard didn't have the feature or another reason. LIMIT has an equivalent since SQL:2008 only for example.)

Listing these differences from the SQL standard would take a whole webpage to do it. Oh wait, it was done!

So to answer you, for this very reason, you can't be independant from RDBMS without losing performance (i.e. building a layer). The differences in the SQL standard implementations are what brought people to build ORMs.

  • That is what I am suggesting, solve the independence of the database on a fake sql level and then build ORM over that fake sql. So, if I have to write a sql query - I will use fake sql that would work on all databases yet raw SQL. That way, I will remain database independent unless I use a feature very specific to my database. Oct 22, 2012 at 12:01
  • Added more info to the question.. Still looking for the answer. Oct 22, 2012 at 12:05
  • 1
    @YugalJindle "fake sql not supporting all db specific features" sounds very much like SQL ANSI standard to me... Oct 22, 2012 at 15:25
  • Okay -SQL ANSI. I don't think that would cause any additional overhead in that case since we are already doing the same specifically for each database underneath. Oct 22, 2012 at 15:37
  • That is what I am asking! Infact see the gain if we do it. Oct 22, 2012 at 15:39

The YAGNI principle is important in this case.

When deciding on the topic, you should consider the advantages and disadvantages of being tied to a specific database.

It's not like there are 1000s of different databases out there. For relational databases, popular choices are Postgres and Mysql. And their differences and distinct characteristics are well known, so it's easy to compare them beforehand for the problem you are going to solve.

If you are in control of the production environment, study the differences between them and choose one.

If you are not in the control of the production environment, like if you are going to distribute the software to end users, and they will install them on their own platforms, then you should aim for the database independence.

Unless you really have a compelling reason to be database independent, it will be a hassle and bite you in the long term if you aim to do so. General advice for this kind of situations is don't do things just for the sake of doing it.

  • Please see the update on the question. Oct 22, 2012 at 12:05
  • There is a lot of fear at my workplace about being "tied to" a specific platform. I get it, and in some situations it makes sense... but in others it's an absurdly expensive insurance policy against one vendor hiking their prices etc., resulting in huge volumes of work and under utilisation of the tools available.
    – Matt
    Mar 11, 2013 at 16:18

Python database API use a common convention, that is pretty much the same across different databases (but not quite!). You can read the MySQLdb documentation here.

There is also a more feature-rich interface to mysql, called oursql. It has real parametrization (not just glorified string interpolation), server-side cursors, data streaming and so on.

  • The DB-API is not the same thing at all; database adapters follow that convention, but it doesn't influence what SQL dialect the server speaks. The python database adapter API only provides a standardized API on how to execute such SQL (e.g. cursors, connections and what information is returned for results rows). Oct 22, 2012 at 10:02

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