Today, we take a look at what SQL is and describe its major features and benefits. This is chapter one of McGraw-Hill/Osborne's SQL: The Complete Reference (ISBN 0-07-222559-9, 2004) by James R. Groff and Paul N. Weinberg.
Introduction to SQL - SQL Features and Benefits 2 (Page 5 of 8 )
IBM Endorsement and Commitment (DB2)
SQL was originally invented by IBM researchers and has since become a strategic product for IBM based on its flagship DB2 database. SQL support is available on all major IBM product families, from personal computers through midrange systems (AS/400 and UNIX-based servers) to IBM mainframes. IBM’s initial work provided a clear signal of IBM’s direction for other database and system vendors to follow early in the development of SQL and relational databases. Later, IBM’s commitment and broad support speeded the market acceptance of SQL. IBM’s SQL reach today extends well beyond its own computer systems business. SQL-based products that IBM has developed or acquired now run across a broad range of hardware, in many cases from competing computer vendors such as Sun or Hewlett-Packard.
Microsoft Commitment (SQL Server, ODBC, and ADO)
Microsoft has long considered database access a key part of its Windows personal computer software architecture. Both desktop and server versions of Windows provide standardized relational database access through Open Database Connectivity (ODBC), a SQL-based call-level API. Leading Windows software applications (spreadsheets, word processors, databases, etc.) from Microsoft and other vendors support ODBC, and all leading SQL databases provide ODBC access. Microsoft has enhanced ODBC support with higher-level, more object-oriented database access layers as part of its Object Linking and Embedding technology (OLE DB), and more recently as part of Active/X (Active/X Data Objects, or ADO). When Microsoft began its effort in the late 1980s to make Windows a viable server operating system, it introduced SQL Server as its own SQL-based offering. SQL Server continues today as a flagship Microsoft product, and a key component of its .NET architecture for web services.
SQL is a language for relational databases, and it has become popular along with the relational database model. The tabular, row/column structure of a relational database is intuitive to users, keeping the SQL language simple and easy to understand. The relational model also has a strong theoretical foundation that has guided the evolution and implementation of relational databases. Riding a wave of acceptance brought about by the success of the relational model, SQL has become the database language for relational databases.
High-Level, English-Like Structure
SQL statements look like simple English sentences, making SQL easy to learn and understand. This is in part because SQL statements describe the data to be retrieved, rather than specifying how to find the data. Tables and columns in a SQL database can have long, descriptive names. As a result, most SQL statements “say what they mean” and can be read as clear, natural sentences.
Interactive, Ad Hoc Queries
SQL is an interactive query language that gives users ad hoc access to stored data. Using SQL interactively, a user can get answers even to complex questions in minutes or seconds, in sharp contrast to the days or weeks it would take for a programmer to write a custom report program. Because of SQL’s ad hoc query power, data is more accessible and can be used to help an organization make better, more informed decisions. SQL’s ad hoc query capability was an important advantage over nonrelational databases early in its evolution and more recently has continued as a key advantage over pure object-based databases.
Remember: this is chapter one of SQL: The Complete Reference, by Groff and Weinberg (McGraw-Hill/Osborne, ISBN 0-07-222559, 2004). You can find this and many other fine McGraw-Hill Osborne books at your favorite bookstores. Buy this book now.