IBM Informix and EntityFrameworkCore


Just recently I needed to explore how I could get IBM Informix and EntitiyFrameworkCore to work together with an existing database, and therefore decided to document my findings in this simple step-by-step walk-through.


As mentioned here, the IBM® Data Server Provider for .NET IBM DB2® provider option is now the preferred Informix® provider for developing new applications.

Looking at the related site for the IBM Data Server Provider for .NET, it actually states that the former Informix specific provider (IBM.Data.Informix) is now deprecated.

IBM.Data.Informix.dll is deprecated

Although this statement actually applies to the provider for .NET, it is true for .NET Core as well. A quick look at Microsoft’s’ site of available EntityFrameworkCore providers confirms this, as it list both, Db2 and Informix, as supported database engines, for the related NuGet packages.

Available EntityFrameworkCore providers

You probably also noticed, that currently you’ll have to use different NuGet packages, depending on whether you are developing on/for Windows, Linux or OSX.

Please note: The IBM Data Server providers only works with the Distributed Relational Database Architecture™ (DRDA) protocols, and you therefore need to ensure that your Informix server is configured accordingly.

Unfortunately, the DRDA protocol currently has got some limitation when it comes down to supporting some specific Informix data types for example. In case you wonder, here is a list of supported data types.

With that in mind, it’s now time to explore how Informix and EntityFrameworkCore can work together.

Create .NET Core console app

As you can probably guess, I am using Visual Studio 2019 on Microsoft Windows, to create this example project from the C# Console Application template.

Create a new .NET Core Console Application - project template

The Solution/Project name is “Ifx-EfCore-Test”

Create a new .NET Core Console Application - project name

And I decided to use the latest long-term support version of .NET Core as target framework.

Create a new .NET Core Console Application - target framework

Add IBM Data Server provider for EntityFrameworkCore

After creating the project, I add the required NuGet packages.

Manage NuGet Packages

In my case, I pick IBM.EntityFrameworkCore, which includes the IBM Data Server provider needed for developing/running on Windows, along with EntityFrameworkCore itself.

IBM Informix and EntitiyFrameworkCore - install IBM Data Server provider - pick correct package for your OS

Since I’m developing for .NET Core 3.1, I also pick the related package version.

IBM Informix and EntitiyFrameworkCore - install IBM Data Server provider - select version
IBM Informix and EntitiyFrameworkCore - install IBM Data Server provider - preview changes
IBM Informix and EntitiyFrameworkCore - install IBM Data Server provider - license acceptance

Resolve processor architecture warning

Once the package is installed, you might get a warning similar to the one shown below.

IBM Informix and EntitiyFrameworkCore - processor architecture warning

In order to resolve that, launch the Configuration Manager …

IBM Informix and EntitiyFrameworkCore - launch Configuration Manager

… create a new Platform …

IBM Informix and EntitiyFrameworkCore - create new platform

… by choosing x64 as new platform.

IBM Informix and EntitiyFrameworkCore - set new platform to x64
IBM Informix and EntitiyFrameworkCore - Configuration Manager set to x64 as platform

Now the warning should have disappeared, as shown below.

IBM Informix and EntitiyFrameworkCore - processor architecture warning resolved

Run IBM Informix Developer Edition Docker Container

As my goal is to reverse engineer an existing Informix database, I obviously need an example database first. Fortunately, Informix comes with everything you need to create an example database named stores_demo, and I think the fastest and easiest way to get an Informix instance up and running is to just use docker.

If you are looking for a way to install Docker within VMware Workstation for example, my related post might come in handy.

So let’s just fire up an Informix container using the following command

docker run -it --name ifx -h ifx --privileged -e LICENSE=accept -p 9088:9088 -p 9089:9089 ibmcom/informix-developer-database:latest

Launch IBM Informix Developer Edition Docker Container
Launch IBM Informix Developer Edition Docker Container - startup log

In case you are wondering, the default DRDA port is exposed to 9089, the default user is informix and the password for that user is in4mix. This obviously will become important later, once we need to specify the connections string for the database.

Create stores_demo database

Now, I can create a bash session within the container using

docker exec -it ifx bash
Connect to Informix Docker container

The bash shell opens with the informix user home directory set as the current working directory.

To save the SQL scripts that are used to create the store_demo database, I create a related sub-directory and change into it.

Create stores_demo directory

Informix comes with a command (dbaccessdemo) to create the demo database. So let’s just execute that.

Create demo database via dbaccessdemo

It creates the demo database including tables, views, permissions etc. and, after it is done with the main work, allows you to save the related SQL-statements for further inspection, as well.

Save dbaccessdemo sql scripts
dbaccessdemo - completed

Use IBM Informix dbaccess to verify creation of demo DB

Time to confirm the creation of the stores_demo database using the included dbaccess command.

dbaccess stores_demo

connect to stores_demo via IBM Informix dbaccess

A simple query should do the trick, so let’s create a new one.

IBM Informix dbaccess - use SQL query language
IBM Informix dbaccess - new query

I just enter a statement to query all customers …

IBM Informix dbaccess - edit query

… and then just run it.

IBM Informix dbaccess - run query

And here are the first two records.

IBM Informix dbaccess - display next page of results

Looks like the demo database creation worked. To close the dbaccess tool, first exist the query display screen …

IBM Informix dbaccess - exit display menu

… then the SQL screen …

IBM Informix dbaccess - return to the dbaccess menu

… and finally the main DBACCESS dialog.

IBM Informix dbaccess - exit dbaccess
stores_demo DB verification completed

Creating DbContext and Models (Scaffold-DbContext)

With having the stores_demo database in place, I now can prepare the project for reverse engineering.

First, I create a sub-directory name Models. This is where I want EntityFrameworkCore to create all related classes under.

More details about reverse engineering a database using EntitFrameworkCore can be found here:

IBM Informix and EntitiyFrameworkCore - create Models folder

Before I can run the command to create the models and DbContext, I need to install an additional NuGet package, however.

IBM Informix and EntitiyFrameworkCore - open Package Manager Console

This package is called Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.Tools …

IBM Informix and EntitiyFrameworkCore - install Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore.Tools package

… and after installing, we can finally run the Scaffold-DbContext command in the Package Manager Console to kick off the reverse engineering process.

Scaffold-DbContext -Connection "user id=informix;server=localhost:9089;database=stores_demo;Password=in4mix" -Provider IBM.EntityFrameworkCore -OutputDir Models

IBM Informix and EntitiyFrameworkCore - execute Scaffold-DbContext to reverse engineer the demo database

After the scaffolding process has started, we’ll also get some progress information in the Package Manager Console …

IBM Informix and EntitiyFrameworkCore - Scaffold-DbContext model generation log

… including details about some columns that could not be mapped to a .NET datatype as the related column type is not supported by the IBM Data Server provider.

IBM Informix and EntitiyFrameworkCore - Scaffold-DbContext mapping warnings for not supported data types

Once completed, the different model classes along with the DBContext class should be available.

IBM Informix and EntitiyFrameworkCore - generated DbContext

Testing basic functionality using NUnit

While the main work is now done, let’s confirm that things are actually working as expected by implementing a quick smoke test.

First of all, I create a new directory, which I’ll use for my test classes.

Create Tests folder

Next, let’s use NUnit as a testing framework and install the related NuGet packages …

Add NUnit NuGet package

… along with its test adapter for Visual Studio …

Add NUnit Test Adapter for Visual Studio

… and Microsoft’s Test SDK.

Add Microsoft.NET.Test.Sdk NuGet package

Writing a first test

Having the testing prerequisites in place now, let’s write our first test.

Create a new test class

For that, I add a new class to the project named “SmokeTest.cs”

Give the new class a name

I then make the NUnit framework available via

using Nunit.Framework;

And I also add the [TextFixture] attribute to my test class.

Add dependencies and class attribute for NUnit

Time to create the test method, which should connect to the database and check if there are any records in the customer table.

Add the first test method

Here’s the full code of that test method.

    public void CustomerTable_ShouldHaveRecords()
        using (var context = new STORES_DEMOContext())
            DbSet<Customer> dbSetCustomer = context.Customer;


            Assert.AreEqual(28, dbSetCustomer.ToList().Count());

Using the Test Explorer to run the test

Almost there! Time to see if we can debug the test using the Test Explorer in Visual Studio.

Open the Test Explorer
Debug the test

As show below, I actually get an error, that cannot have more than one entry point.

Usually I would create a separate Test Project within the Solution for all the different tests. For this quick smoke test however, the easiest way to make the test work, is just to remove Program.cs.

Remove Program.cs

And now the test runs successfully.

First test successfully executed

Write additional information to Output window during test

Sometimes it is useful to add some additional information to the test output. In NUnit this can be done via the TestContext as shown below.

Use TestContext to add information to Output window during test

Here’s the extended code:

    public void CustomerTable_ShouldHaveRecords()
        using (var context = new STORES_DEMOContext())
            DbSet<Customer> dbSetCustomer = context.Customer;


            Assert.AreEqual(28, dbSetCustomer.ToList().Count());

            foreach (Customer record in dbSetCustomer.AsEnumerable<Customer>())
                TestContext.WriteLine($"{record.Company}, {record.Orders.Count()}");

After executing the test again, the details are now available in the Output window.

Show output from Tests in the Output window
Referenced table data is not resolved by default

Include referenced table data

Looking at the output above, you’ll probably notice that EntityFrameworkCore does not resolve any referenced table data (in this case the number of order per customer) by default.

To make this possible, you have to include the related table as shown in the additional test method below.

Include referenced table data
        public void CustomerTable_ShouldResolveOrders()
            using (var context = new STORES_DEMOContext())
                var customers = context.Customer.Include(c => c.Orders);


                foreach (Customer record in customers.AsEnumerable<Customer>())
                    TestContext.WriteLine($"{record.Company}, {record.Orders.Count()}");

                var customer = customers.FirstOrDefault(s => s.Company.Equals("Kids Korner"));
                Assert.AreEqual(2, customer.Orders.Count());

With the “Include” in place, the orders per customer can now be resolved.

Resolved referenced table data

This concludes the step-by-step guide on how to use IBM Informix and EntityFrameworkCore together to reverse-engineer an existing database. Hope you found it useful.

Happy coding and all the best!

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