The user interface programs and application programs can run on the client side. When DBMS access is required, the program establishes a connection to the DBMS (which is on the server side); once the connection is created, the client program can communicate with the DBMS. A standard called Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) provides an application programming interface (API), which allows client-side programs to call the DBMS, as long as both client and server machines have the necessary software installed. Most DBMS vendors provide ODBC drivers for their systems. A client program can actually connect to several RDBMSs and send query and transaction requests using the ODBC API, which are then processed at the server sites. Any query results are sent back to the client program, which can process and display the results as needed. A related standard for the Java programming language, called JDBC, has also been defined. This allows Java client programs to access one or more DBMSs through a standard interface.
The architectures described here are called two-tier architectures because the software components are distributed over two systems: client and server. The advantages of this architecture are its simplicity and seamless compatibility with existing systems. The emergence of the Web changed the roles of clients and servers, leading to the three-tier architecture.