Here is a nice tutorial for Hibernate, a Java-based ORM (object-relational mapping) tool. In the last couple of years, I’ve been fairly removed from the database layer, as the applications I have worked on all had some kind of proprietary database abstraction layer, and most of my work was on the application layer above. It’s likely that I will get closer to the database layer again, and while I am still confident enough in my SQL and JDBC skills, I feel that an ORM tool such as Hibernate can save a lot of time in many cases. In addition, there are portability-related advantages, as ORM should make it a lot easier to migrate from one database to another.
I have had similar positive experiences with XML object mapping, which eliminates a lot of the tedious manual XML parsing using SAX, DOM, or whichever API you are using.
Thanks to TheServerSide.com for the original post, which also contains a lively discussion about Hibernate and the pros and cons of ORM in general.