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The OLE DB architecture uses the model of consumers and providers. A consumer makes requests for data. A provider responds to these requests by placing data in a tabular format and returning it to the consumer. Any call that the consumer can make must be implemented in the provider.

Technically defined, a consumer is any system or application code (not necessarily an OLE DB component) that accesses data through OLE DB interfaces. The interfaces are implemented in a provider. Thus, a provider is any software component that implements OLE DB interfaces to encapsulate access to data and expose it to other objects (that is, consumers).

In terms of roles, a consumer calls methods on OLE DB interfaces; an OLE DB provider implements the needed OLE DB interfaces.

OLE DB avoids the terms client and server because these roles do not always make sense, especially in an n-tier situation. Because a consumer could be a component on a tier that serves another component, to call it a client component would be confusing. Also, a provider sometimes acts more like a database driver than a server.

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