What is a SQL Server

Do you know, What is a SQL Server ?
SQL Server is a Relational Database Management System (RDBMS) from Microsoft. It is also known as MS SQL or simply SQL Server. It is an Enterprise level database application just like Oracle, DB2 or MySQL Database. As such it is able to store and manage millions of data records for any small to large corporation. There are several different versions of MS SQL in production, the most common ones are SQL Server 2005 and SQL Server 2008. If you want to try a free SQL Server version for 180 days so you can kick the tires, please visit this Microsoft site.

What is a SQL Server 2005?
SQL Server 2005 (formerly codenamed "Yukon") was released in October 2005. It included native support for managing XML data, in addition to relational data. For this purpose, it defined an xml data type that could be used either as a data type in database columns or as literals in queries. XML columns can be associated with XSD schemas XML data being stored is verified against the schema. XML is converted to an internal binary data type before being stored in the database. Specialized indexing methods were made available for XML data.

XML data is queried using XQuery. SQL Server 2005 added some extensions to the T-SQL language to allow embedding XQuery queries in T-SQL. In addition, it also defines a new extension to XQuery, called XML DML, that allows query-based modifications to XML data. SQL Server 2005 also allows a database server to be exposed over web services using Tabular Data Stream (TDS) packets encapsulated within SOAP (protocol) requests. When the data is accessed over web services, results are returned as XML.

Common Language Runtime (CLR) integration was introduced with this version, enabling one to write SQL code as Managed Code by the CLR. For relational data, T-SQL has been augmented with error handling features (try/catch) and support for recursive queries with CTEs (Common Table Expressions). SQL Server 2005 has also been enhanced with new indexing algorithms, syntax and better error recovery systems.

Data pages are checksummed for better error resiliency, and optimistic concurrency support has been added for better performance. Permissions and access control have been made more granular and the query processor handles concurrent execution of queries in a more efficient way. Partitions on tables and indexes are supported natively, so scaling out a database onto a cluster is easier. SQL CLR was introduced with SQL Server 2005 to let it integrate with the .NET Framework.

SQL Server 2005 introduced "MARS" (Multiple Active Results Sets), a method of allowing usage of database connections for multiple purposes.

SQL Server 2005 introduced DMVs (Dynamic Management Views), which are specialized views and functions that return server state information that can be used to monitor the health of a server instance, diagnose problems, and tune performance.

Service Pack 1 (SP1) of SQL Server 2005 introduced Database Mirroring, a high availability option that provides redundancy and failover capabilities at the database level. Failover can be performed manually or can be configured for automatic failover. Automatic failover requires a witness partner and an operating mode of synchronous (also known as high-safety or full safety).

What is a SQL Server 2008?
SQL Server 2008 was released on August 6, 2008 and aims to make data management self-tuning, self organizing, and self maintaining with the development of SQL Server Always On technologies, to provide near-zero downtime. SQL Server 2008 also includes support for structured and semi-structured data, including digital media formats for pictures, audio, video and other multimedia data. In current versions, such multimedia data can be stored as BLOBs (binary large objects), but they are generic bitstreams.

Intrinsic awareness of multimedia data will allow specialized functions to be performed on them. According to Paul Flessner, senior Vice President, Server Applications, Microsoft Corp., SQL Server 2008 can be a data storage backend for different varieties of data: XML, email, time/calendar, file, document, spatial, etc as well as perform search, query, analysis, sharing, and synchronization across all data types.

Other new data types include specialized date and time types and a Spatial data type for location-dependent data. Better support for unstructured and semi-structured data is provided using the new FILESTREAM data type, which can be used to reference any file stored on the file system.

Structured data and metadata about the file is stored in SQL Server database, whereas the unstructured component is stored in the file system. Such files can be accessed both via Win32 file handling APIs as well as via SQL Server using T-SQL, doing the latter accesses the file data as a BLOB. Backing up and restoring the database backs up or restores the referenced files as well. SQL Server 2008 also natively supports hierarchical data, and includes T-SQL constructs to directly deal with them, without using recursive queries.

The Full-text search functionality has been integrated with the database engine. According to a Microsoft technical article, this simplifies management and improves performance.

Spatial data will be stored in two types. A "Flat Earth" (GEOMETRY or planar) data type represents geospatial data which has been projected from its native, spherical, coordinate system into a plane. A "Round Earth" data type (GEOGRAPHY) uses an ellipsoidal model in which the Earth is defined as a single continuous entity which does not suffer from the singularities such as the international dateline, poles, or map projection zone "edges". Approximately 70 methods are available to represent spatial operations for the Open Geospatial Consortium Simple Features for SQL, Version 1.1.

SQL Server includes better compression features, which also helps in improving scalability. It enhanced the indexing algorithms and introduced the notion of filtered indexes. It also includes Resource Governor that allows reserving resources for certain users or workflows. It also includes capabilities for transparent encryption of data (TDE) as well as compression of backups. SQL Server 2008 supports the ADO.NET Entity Framework and the reporting tools, replication, and data definition will be built around the Entity Data Model. SQL Server Reporting Services will gain charting capabilities from the integration of the data visualization products from Dundas Data Visualization, Inc., which was acquired by Microsoft.

On the management side, SQL Server 2008 includes the Declarative Management Framework which allows configuring policies and constraints, on the entire database or certain tables, declaratively. The version of SQL Server Management Studio included with SQL Server 2008 supports IntelliSense for SQL queries against a SQL Server 2008 Database Engine. SQL Server 2008 also makes the databases available via Windows PowerShell providers and management functionality available as Cmdlets, so that the server and all the running instances can be managed from Windows PowerShell.

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