What is it?
In the year to May, Microsoft maintained its third place in terms of database market share, after Oracle and IBM. But according to Gartner, it grew faster than the industry average, which the analyst firm attributes to pent-up demand for SQL Server 2005.
SQL Server was originally a joint venture between Microsoft and Sybase, to which Sybase contributed most of the code and the name. With version 7.0, SQL Server was completely rewritten for Windows NT, and Sybase subsequently renamed its database product Adaptive Server.
What is it for?
The core of SQL Server is the relational database. It also includes replication services for distributed or mobile applications. Microsoft has incorporated functionality that once required separate, usually third-party applications. SQL Server users have access to integral data extraction, transformation, and loading (ETL) capabilities, online analytical processing (Olap), and business information reporting services.
Native web services support is built-in, and every major subsystem has its own object model and set of application programming interfaces. SQL Management Objects, new with SQL Server 2005, is a set of programming objects that exposes all of the database management functionality.
With the Common Language Runtime (CLR) hosted in the database engine, developers can choose from supported languages like Visual Basic and Visual C# in addition to Transact-SQL.
What makes it special?
There has been a proliferation of studios. SQL Server Management Studio provides one integrated management console for the relational database, integration services, analysis and reporting services and others.
The Business Intelligence Development Studio is an integrated development environment for business intelligence, based on Visual Studio. Database development is integrated into Visual Studio 2005, so the same tools can be used for developing and debugging database objects as for creating .net components and applications.
How difficult is it to master?
The integration with Visual Studio and use of the CLR shorten the route in for people with existing Microsoft development skills. But up to 30 days of classroom training are necessary for certification.
What systems does it run on?
What is coming up?
Future versions are to be "self-tuning, self-organising, and self-maintaining" with SQL Server "Always On" technologies.
Training is available from Microsoft and its certified training partners. You can download SQL Server Express free. This includes a reduced-functionality version of Reporting Services. Introductory tutorials can be found on the same page.
Rates of pay
Experienced database administrators can earn £30,000 to £40,000, and SQL Server business intelligence developers get £35,000-plus.