Microsoft SQL Server is a relational database management system developed by Microsoft. As a database, it is a software product whose primary function is to store and retrieve data as requested by other software applications, be it those on the same computer or those running on another computer across a network (including the Internet). There are at least a dozen different editions of Microsoft SQL Server aimed at different audiences and for workloads ranging from small single-machine applications to large Internet-facing applications with many concurrent users. Its primary query languages are T-SQL and ANSI SQL.
SQL Server 2005 (formerly codenamed "Yukon") 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.
SQL Server 2008 (formerly codenamed "Katmai") 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 2008 R2 (10.50.1600.1, formerly codenamed "Kilimanjaro") was announced at TechEd 2009, and was released to manufacturing on April 21, 2010. SQL Server 2008 R2 adds certain features to SQL Server 2008 including a master data management system branded as Master Data Services, a central management of master data entities and hierarchies. Also Multi Server Management, a centralized console to manage multiple SQL Server 2008 instances and services including relational databases, Reporting Services, Analysis Services & Integration Services.
SQL Server 2008 R2 includes a number of new services, including PowerPivot for Excel and SharePoint, Master Data Services, StreamInsight, Report Builder 3.0, Reporting Services Add-in for SharePoint, a Data-tier function in Visual Studio that enables packaging of tiered databases as part of an application, and a SQL Server Utility named UC (Utility Control Point), part of AMSM (Application and Multi-Server Management) that is used to manage multiple SQL Servers.
At the 2011 Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) summit on October 11, Microsoft announced that the next major version of SQL Server (codenamed "Denali"), would be SQL Server 2012. It was released to manufacturing on March 6, 2012. SQL Server 2012 Service Pack 1 was released to manufacturing on November 9, 2012.
It was announced to be the last version to natively support OLE DB and instead to prefer ODBC for native connectivity.
SQL Server 2012's new features and enhancements include AlwaysOn SQL Server Failover Cluster Instances and Availability Groups which provides a set of options to improve database availability, Contained Databases which simplify the moving of databases between instances, new and modified Dynamic Management Views and Functions, programmability enhancements including new spatial features, metadata discovery, sequence objects and the THROW statement, performance enhancements such as ColumnStore Indexes as well as improvements to OnLine and partition level operations and security enhancements including provisioning during setup, new permissions, improved role management, and default schema assignment for groups.
SQL Server 2014 is still in Community Technology Preview stage. As of November, 2013 there have been two such revisions, CTP1 and CTP2. SQL Server 2014 will provide a new in-memory capability for tables that can fit entirely in memory (also known as Hekaton). Whilst small tables may be entirely resident in memory in all versions of SQL Server, they also may reside on disk, so work is involved in reserving ram, writing evicted pages to disk, loading new pages from disk, locking the pages in ram while they are being operated on, and may other tasks. By treating a table as guaranteed to be entirely resident in memory much of the 'plumbing' of disk-based databases can be avoided.
For disk-based SQL Server applications, it also provides SSD bufferpool extension, which can improve application performance transparently by leveraging SSD as the intermediate memory hierarchy between DRAM and spinning media.
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