Monthly Archives: June 2013

What is SQL Server?

When asked what I do for a living my answer befuddles many. Outside of the information technology realms most people have not heard of SQL Server. If they have they don’t know what it is or what it does. “I’m a SQL Server developer” causes many to cock their head sideways like dog presented with a new noise. I used to give a vague answer that I work in computers or information technology but I decided I wanted to be more specific. You never know when the next guy you talk to is going to introduce you to a great opportunity. And I admit that I sometimes enjoy the befuddled looks. I don’t have a dog right now.

An amusing exercise is to try to get the answer to this from Microsoft’s web site. You might think that if you Google or Bing the question, “What is SQL Server” the top result would be a link to Microsoft with a fantastic explanation of what it is. You might be wrong. It is the fourth result on Google and the third result on Bing.

If a prize existed for the most obfuscated way to describe your products Microsoft would be a top contender. By visiting the SQL Server site at Microsoft I learn that SQL Server will “unlock breakthrough insights across the organization” and that it will provide me with “data warehousing and analytical solutions backed by IT management and insights.” That’s two uses of insight in two paragraphs. Word offers this nifty feature for suggesting synonyms. That would have been a great feature to have for just about every paper I wrote in college. I suppose there is a remote possibility the people who wrote the marketing literature for this have ever heard of Word. At any rate, at least the word data does appear on the page…once. The product page is filled with a lot of “why” and not a lot of “what”.

The following is a compilation of many of the conversations I’ve had with people when the topic comes up.
What is SQL Server?

It is used to store data.

You mean my grocery list or phone numbers?

Well it can be used for that but…not exactly.

Does it store Sea Quills?

You know that when you fill out a form online that includes your name, address and other information the company you send that to has to put that information somewhere.

I never really thought about it.

Yeah, I used to tell people that the Submit button was actually a Print button in disguise that caused the form to print at company headquarters but too many people believed me.

I would never have believed that (he says with a sideways glance and face askew).

You figure that there are thousand if not tens of thousands of people who are filling out that form. Not only does the company have to store that information they have to do so in a way that makes it easy to get back. If I wrote 10,000 names, addresses and other information about each customer into a Word document it would be very cumbersome to manage. SQL Server allows a company to store the information in a way that makes it easier to manage and easier to retrieve if they need to view it.

So it goes into SQL Server?

SQL Server is one of the many types of products that can be used to manage this data. It is made by Microsoft. There are other products by other companies.

So why SQL Server

I guess it has to be because of the insight.