The SQL Server product has been around since the late 1980s. Back then, Microsoft worked together with Sybase to create a database on the OS/2 platform. Shortly after this effort was completed, Microsoft realized it wanted to tightly couple SQL Server with Windows. By 1993, Microsoft had released Windows NT 3.1, and with it came the option of using a well-integrated version of SQL Server called SQL Server 4.2. This was to be the last version of SQL Server made jointly between the two companies. By 1995, Microsoft left the partnership with Sybase and released SQL Server version 6.0, followed a year later by version 6.5. These two versions were still on the original Sybase platform.
As a DBA today, you will rarely see a production server running any of these three versions of SQL Server. If you do, chances are the servers are probably running a database application from a company that no longer exists. Either way, if you encounter these systems in production, it may be worthwhile to do a few web searches and learn a bit more about how to administer these kinds of SQL Server instances.
By 1997, Microsoft decided to rewrite the database engine and effectively move away from the old Sybase design. This rewrite effort led to the release of SQL Server’s next version, 7.0. To some, this version marked the first generation of SQL Server. By rewriting the database engine, Microsoft was able to provide key features to customers, including the ability for offline users to update data and merge it back to live data when they reconnected to the server (merge replication). DBAs could also grow and shrink databases as needed, as well as use new wizards such as the Copy Database wizard to easily perform administrative tasks. SQL Server 7.0 also made online analytical processing (OLAP) capabilities affordable to the market by including OLAP services as part of the SQL Server 7.0 license. This was SQL Server’s initial entry into the data warehousing market. With SQL Server 7.0, users could easily design, build, and manage data marts and data warehouses.
Seeing SQL Server 7.0 in production isn’t as uncommon as seeing a Sybase-style version, but is still rare since that version is no longer being serviced or supported by Microsoft.
SQL Server 2000, released in 1999, built on the success and lower total cost of ownership value that SQL Server 7.0 introduced to the market. Major parts of the database engine were rewritten again to accommodate features such as multi-instances, where DBAs could run more than one instance of SQL Server per server. Microsoft made continued investments in scalability and availability with features such as log shipping. Log shipping allowed DBAs to automatically copy and load transaction log backups from one database to one or more databases, enabling a highly available environment. Investments were also made for developers, including XML support and the ability to create user-defined functions. In the business intelligence (BI) space, a more mature version of Data Transformation Services was shipped as well as Reporting Services for SQL Server 2000. There was a large effort around the integration of Microsoft Office applications and Analysis Services. For example, it was possible to use Excel pivot tables loaded with data from cubes created with Analysis Services.
Although SQL Server 2000 is no longer supported, many organizations still use it in production today. There is a good chance you, as a DBA, will be involved with managing and eventually upgrading these servers to SQL Server 2012.
Between the release of SQL Server 2000 and SQL Server 2005, there was about a five-year gap. The result of this long wait was a product that contained many new enterprise capabilities, such as database mirroring, online indexing, online restore, and table partitioning.
If your company has been using SQL Server for a while, it is highly likely to have some installations of various versions of SQL Server including SQL Server 2005 and SQL Server 2008 in production.
SQL Server 2012 is the latest and most significant release of SQL Server to date. This version is all about mission-critical confidence, breakthrough business intelligence insight, and leveraging the cloud on your terms. In this book, you will be exposed to a lot of the key features of SQL Server 2012 from a database administration perspective.