What is SQL Server?

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By Sina Nasiri

After hearing the word SQL, the first thing that is likely to come to your mind is MySQL. But both are not the same. Yes, the SQL server is developed by Microsoft. It is a relational database management system (RDBMS) that has been created to compete with MySQL as well as Oracle database. Hence you can now easily create your important database using the Structured Query Language (SQL). Here you are going to know everything about the SQL server in detail.

Let’s get started.

What is Microsoft SQL?

This RDBS stores and retrieves data as per the client’s requests.

Microsoft SQL is a multidimensional database that is used to query data from the actual database engine. In simple words, this suite of database software includes a relational database engine that stores data in different forms, i.e., tables, rows, and columns.

Alongside MSSQL offers complete data integration services (SSIS) that is considered as a data movement tool, used for importing, exporting, and transforming data. It also provides Reporting Services or SSRS that is used to provide reports to the end user in their wished form.

It works in a relatively simpler way. As you can interpret through its name that it is a query-based language. The user sends a query to the database to retrieve some data, which is then displayed to the user in the form of a table.

History of Microsoft SQL server

  • The history of SQL Server can be traced back to 1989 when Sybase, Ashton-Tate, and Microsoft came together to make the first MS SQL Server product, SQL Server 1.0. It was a 16-bit server for OS/2.
  • In 1993, MS SQL was made available on Windows NT.
  • In 1995, Sybase and Microsoft parted their ways. Sybase made its own SQL server called Sybase Adaptive Server Enterprise.
  • In 2005, Microsoft developed its own code ending the usage of Sybase code.
  • In 2017, Microsoft released SQL Server 2017, which is also supported on Linux OS.

Since 1989, Microsoft has released several MS SQL Server versions such as SQL Server 2000, 2005, 2008, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2017, and 2019. Microsoft SQL Server 2019 is the latest version that was released by Microsoft in late 2019.

At present, Microsoft only supports SQL Server versions 2012, 2014, 2016, 2017, and 2019.

MS SQL Server Editions

Microsoft has released several specialized as well as mainstream editions of its SQL Server. A few of them are mentioned below:

1. Standard Edition

This edition of SQL Server supports fewer nodes than the Enterprise edition. It provides stand-alone services with a core database engine. The high-end functions of the Enterprise edition are not available with this one.

2. Enterprise Edition

With this edition, you avail the core database engine as well as add-on services that allow you to effectively create and manage your cluster.

3. Developer Edition

It is very much akin to the Enterprise edition, apart from the fact that it can not be used as a production server but only as a development and testing server.

4. Web Edition

A good fit for small as well as large web applications that allows organizations to distribute applications, web pages, services, etc. It is a total cost of ownership edition that is scalable as well as easily manageable.

5. Workgroup Edition

This is an obsolete edition that was retired by Microsoft in 2012. It has every feature of Enterprise Edition except that it did not include additional services.

6. Analytics Platform System

A massively parallel processing SQL Server edition that is a good fit for large data warehousing.

7. Express Edition

It is a free edition of Microsoft’s SQL Server, which is limited to using only one processor. If you are a small enterprise, this can be the ideal option for you.

Apart from the above-mentioned editions, there are several others like the Business Intelligence edition, Azure, Evaluation, Fast track, etc.

This is it. Now, you must shift your focus towards SQL server architecture and its various components. But first, you need to get familiar with T-SQL.


SQL Server has its programming language, T-SQL, i.e. Transact Structured Query Language. It is Microsoft’s proprietary language that extends far beyond data manipulation and definition. It is an extension of SQL used for writing an entire block that does not interact with the database server and is primarily used for creating applications and adding business logic. It differs from SQL in terms of functionality.

MS-SQL Server Architecture

Microsoft SQL Server works on a client-server architecture which is very popular. The reason for its popularity is the ease of operation and also it is cost-effective and manages the entire data in a single place.

Let’s understand the client-server architecture with a simple example. Suppose you go to a coffee shop, place your order, and you are served by a barista. Here you are a client, who made a request (query), the barista is a server who fulfilled your request, and your order is the service (data). This is it.

In a client-server architecture, there are multiple nodes and a workstation. All the nodes are clients, and the workstation is a server. The nodes send a query over a network (in most cases, the internet) and the server retrieves the data and sends it to the client via the same network route.

Tabular Data Stream is a Microsoft-defined format, i.e. a communication channel that communicates everything to the server demanded by the clients.

There are two components of this architecture – clients, and server.

  • Client- A node that sends a query to the server is called a client. A client can be a simple computer system or a workstation that is connected to a server via a network. In small enterprises, a client and server can be the same.
  • Server- A computer system that has a server application installed on it and that stores the required data is a server. A server can be a dedicated server or a simple computer that performs other computing tasks apart from responding to the client systems’ queries.

Services in A MS SQL Server

SQL Server and SQL Server Agent are the two most essential services that MS SQL Server offers. These two services are must to have for database creation and maintenance. Apart from that, MS SQL offers a bunch of add-on services also. Here is the list of all the services that MS SQL Server offers.

  • Database Engine Service – As the name suggests, this service’s main purpose is to secure data, handle storage, and process transactions.
  • SQL Server – This service is the default SQL server that starts, stops, pauses, and continues instances on an MS SQL Server.
  • SQL Server Agent Service – This service executes the administrative tasks for a server and schedules the queries to be answered.
  • SQL Server Browser Service – This service runs on a machine that has an MS SQL server installed on it. It also provides information to the client systems about the SQL Server instances installed on their systems.
  • SQL Server Analysis Service – This service analyses the data, mine it and applies it to business decisions for making informed decisions.
  • SQL Server Reporting Service – This service allows you to produce reports in the table form that includes graphs, images, charts, data, etc., and can be accessed using the user-defined parameters.

SQL Server Instance

An instance is a copy of SQL Server that has its database engine, a database, copy of server files, users, etc. You can install different instances of different SQL Server versions on a single computer. All these instances run in an isolated form, independent of each other, and operate on the same machine.

Instances are of two types:

  • Default Instances
  • Named Instances

There can be only one default instance in a server. On the other hand, a single server can support multiple named instances.

Benefits of Using Instances

You can enjoy the following benefits by using SQL Server instances:

  • It reduces cost as you don’t need to spend on SQL server license for all the services.
  • It allows you to run the different versions of SQL servers on a single hardware.
  • By using multiple services on multiple instances, you mitigate the risk of database problems that occur when you run it on a single instance.
  • It provides you with a backup in the form of an SQL Server instance in case the SQL Server fails.
  • It allows you to develop, produce and test applications on the same system but on different instances.
  • You can secure the most sensitive service running on an instance.


If you are a Microsoft or Linux user, MS SQL Server can prove to be of great help to your organization. SQL Server is not only organized, secure, and reliable but also offers advanced ways to perform database operations.

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