With the release of SQL Server 2014 right around the corner, it's difficult not to look back and marvel at the platform's evolution. I began working with SQL Server back during SQL Server 6.0. I was developing database systems on the IBM S/38 but moved to SQL Server when the Fortune 500 company that I worked for began deploying PC-based networks in all its manufacturing facilities. A lot has changed!
The Early Days
I started working with SQL Server 6.0, a simple application database, in 1995 or 1996. Back then, SQL Server wasn't the industry standard that it is today. SQL Server 6.0 debuted in the shadow of Oracle and was considered to be little more than a departmental database. Microsoft had recently acquired the database from Sybase, and SQL Server 6.0 was the first version of the product that Microsoft released without any involvement from that company. Back then, my employer had standardized on Windows and was beginning to adopt Windows NT. SQL Server's tight integration with Windows made it a compelling choice for developers.
Related Video: SQL Server Evolution
The SQL Server database platform that we know today began with the SQL Server 7.0 release in 1998. (Not coincidentally, that's also when we started SQL Server Magazine.) Microsoft re-architected the core database engine code in SQL Server 7.0 to address the database's scalability issues, transforming it from a departmental database into a true enterprise-level database.
Perhaps even more important, Microsoft added OLAP services, which would eventually become SQL Server Analysis Services. Prior to that time, BI products were expensive, specialized add-ons, sold separately from relational database systems. SQL Server 7.0's inclusion of OLAP services brought BI into the mainstream. SQL 7.0 also marked the first time that Data Transformation Services were included as a built-in extraction, transformation, and loading (ETL) tool.
The New Millennium
The SQL Server 2000 release saw Microsoft continuing to push the platform into the enterprise. This release boosted scalability through large memory and Address Windowing Extensions (AWE) support. The company expanded SQL Server's data-handling capabilities with the new XML data type. Core relational database capabilities were also expanded through INSTEAD OF triggers, user-defined functions (UDFs), and Cascading Declarative Referential Integrity (DRI). This release also saw OLAP renamed to Analysis Services.
SQL Server 2005 was a major milestone. Microsoft added CLR integration. Plus, this was the first release to include the popular SQL Server Reporting Services subsystem out of the box. Microsoft also replaced Data Transformation Services with the new SQL Server Integration Services. SQL Server 2005 introduced dynamic management views (DMVs) as well as the Service Broker and Notification Services subsystems. The product had truly grown past its role as a relational database and taken strides toward becoming an enterprise data platform.
In SQL Server 2008, Microsoft refined SQL Server's enterprise capabilities, adding Transparent Data Encryption (TDE) as well as the FILESTREAM and geospatial data types. SQL Server 2008 was also the first release with built-in row and page compression for tables and indexes. The Resource Governor was introduced, letting you control the CPU and memory utilization for specified workloads. In SQL Server 2008 R2, Microsoft added Master Data Services, StreamInsight, and multiserver management.
SQL Server 2012 expanded SQL Server's BI capabilities with the addition of Power View, a graphical data navigation and visualization tool. AlwaysOn Availability Groups extended SQL Server's high-availability and disaster-recovery options. Microsoft began adding in-memory capabilities to the SQL Server engine via the Columnstore index, which was based on Microsoft xVelocity technology. SQL Server 2012 provided support for Windows Server Core. And Microsoft continues to expand the breadth of the platform's capabilities through the new Data Quality Services (DQS) data-cleaning subsystem.
Today, SQL Server 2014 has evolved into a true enterprise data platform. Any questions about enterprise scalability have long since been laid to rest. The platform runs some of the world's biggest databases and is the world's most widely deployed database platform. SQL Server's built-in BI capabilities and broad tool set allow it to be used for myriad data analysis and reporting tasks. The relational database is still at the core of SQL Server, and the new In-Memory OLTP shows that Microsoft is the clear leader in advanced database technologies. For a more detailed list of the new features in SQL Server 2014, check out the article "Important New Features in SQL Server 2014." Viva la evolution!