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January 6, 2023updated 16 Mar 2023 5:06pm

What is SQL Server?

Tech Monitor looks at the popular relational database management system, SQL Server.

By Tech Monitor Staff

Before explaining what SQL Server is, it is important to know what SQL is. It is a programming language used by database administrators (DBAs) and other IT experts to manage the databases and the data itself.

Microsoft SQL Server is a relational database management system (RDBMS). Its primary function is to store and retrieve data requested by other applications. It supports various transaction processing, business intelligence and analytics applications, usually in corporate IT environments.

SQL (Structured Query Language) code on computer monitor with Database and server room background. Example of SQL code to query data from a database.
SQL Server is one of Microsoft’s products, and there are four main versions of it. Image: Tee11/Shutterstock

Alongside Oracle Database and IBM‘s DB2, Microsoft SQL Server is one of the market-leading database technologies.

What is the history of SQL Server?

Originally, the first SQL Server code was created in the 1980s by the former Sybase Inc., now owned by SAP.

Microsoft and Ashton-Tate Corp, later on, collaborated to produce the first version of the actual product which then became the SQL Server in 1989. Even if Ashton-Tate then stepped back, Microsoft kept developing it with Sybase.

Once the product was fully developed, though, Sybase abandoned it too and kept its version for itself, renaming it Adaptive Server Enterprise, while Microsoft kept the SQL Server denomination.

What other versions of SQL servers are there?

There are four main versions of SQL Server, which have different functions and offer different levels of service.

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The two free ones are a full-featured Developer edition which is mostly for database development and testing, and also an Express version that is used only with a small database of a maximum of 10GB of disk storage capacity.

The other two versions are not free. Microsoft sells an Enterprise version which provides a complete selection of SQL Server’s features, alongside a Standard edition with partial features and other limits like memory sizes.

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