What is Microsoft SQL Server? 

Microsoft SQL Server is a Relational Database Management System. Being one of three market-leading database technologies, Microsoft SQL Server supports an extensive diversity of transaction processing, analytics applications, and business intelligence. Microsoft SQL Server is built around SQL. SQL is a standardized language used for programming by database administrators and other IT professionals to query certain data and manage databases. Microsoft SQL Server was mainly created to connect certain tables with correlating data to avoid this data being stored in multiple locations within databases.  

Microsoft SQL Server: supported versions 

At of this moment (February 2024), there are still a lot of different versions supported by Microsoft as either Mainstream support or Extended support: 

  • Microsoft SQL Server 2014 came out in 2014. Features that were included with the new release were the In Memory OLTP Engine, SQL Server Data Files in Windows Azure, and host SQL Server Databases in a Windows Azure Virtual machine. 
  • SQL Server 2016 came out in 2016. This version includes an improved performance, scalability and high availability of OLTP, Mobile Business Intelligence, enhanced data security (Always Encrypted), and Advanced analytics (R-services). SQL Server 2016 is the first version of Microsoft SQL Server that’s compatible with Linux.  
  • SQL Server 2017 came out in 2017. SQL Server 2017 comes with automatic database tuning, an expanded reach to support Graph database technology, and the support for Machine learning (python). 
  • SQL Server 2019 came out in 2019. New features for SQL Server 2019 are big data clusters, Enhanced security, and UTF-8 support.  
  • SQL Server 2022 came out in 2022. Some new features are Azure Synapse Link, Parameter Sensitive Plan Optimization (PSPO), Linking with Azure SQL managed instances, and multiple security improvements such as Microsoft Defender, Ledger, and Azure Active Directory Authentication. 

As for SQL Server 2014, SQL Server 2016, and SQL Server 2017, the Mainstream Support has already ended but they are still on Extended Support. SQL Server 2019 and SQL Server 2022 are the only two versions that still come with Mainstream Support. The End of Mainstream Support for these two versions are respectively January 7th 2025 and January 11th 2028.  

Microsoft SQL Server: history 

Before the release of SQL Server 2014, there had been a lot of different versions. All these versions came with their own features. All these versions and their new features will be explained below.  

The first version of Microsoft SQL Server is SQL Server 1.0 and was released in 1989. It was released for the OS/2 operating system and was at that time a basic relational database management system that was used to manage and create databases.  

3 years later, in 1992, Microsoft released SQL Server 4.2. This was the first version of Microsoft SQL Server that was specially created for Microsoft Windows since the previous version was created for OS/2. SQL Server 4.2 included support for triggers, procedures and views as new features. Additionally, it came with improved support for Windows users.  

The new version that was released in 1995, was called SQL Server 6.0. This version came with big upgrades such as improved performance and scalability. Moreover, distributed queries and transactions are supported from now on.  

In 1998, Microsoft SQL Server 7.0 came out. Some of the new features are Online Analytical Processing (OLAP), data transformation services and support for Extensive Markup Language. 

In the year 2000, Microsoft SQL Server 2000 was released and included some big updates. Backup compression, data mining, and database replication were released and the Windows Server operating system was supported by Microsoft SQL Server for the first time.  

Microsoft SQL Server 2005 was the next version and was released in 2005. This version included Common Language Runtime (CLR), database snapshots and XML data types. 

The following version came out in 2008 and was called SQL Server 2008. Some of the new features of SQL Server 2008 were External Key Management, Transparent Data Encryption, Data compression, and Data Auditing.  

The last version of SQL Server that isn’t supported by Microsoft anymore is SQL Server 2012. Some big updates are the introduction of Business Intelligence Semantic Model (BISM), an improved version of Windows Server Core, and Data Quality Services.  

Microsoft SQL Server Standard  

Microsoft SQL Server Standard is a Microsoft SQL Server edition that’s meant for small corporations and/or divisions within a company. SQL Server Standard includes basic data management and business intelligence. Moreover, cloud-based and on-premises development tools are supported which allow users to enable an efficient database management without the need for lots of IT resources. Since Microsoft SQL Server Standard provides less features than Microsoft SQL Server Enterprise, the costs will be lower as well.   

Microsoft SQL Server Enterprise 

The more expensive and more elaborate edition is Microsoft SQL Server Enterprise. This edition is usually meant for larger corporations. The reason for the higher price is a fast, high-performance data center availability, end-to-end enterprise analytics, and unlimited virtualization. Additionally, it includes advanced security features like Transparent Data Encryption, Dynamic Data masking and Always Encrypted. Microsoft SQL Server Enterprise also provides lots of options regarding its scalability because of high-performance computing environments and large-scale databases being supported. 

Microsoft SQL Server: CAL 

There are two options regarding CALs for Microsoft SQL Server. These options are User CALs and Device CALs. These two options will be explained below. 

Microsoft SQL Server User CALs 

Acquiring User CALs means an organization pays for every employee that accesses the server. This means that a single employee that uses 3 different devices for his or her work can access the server through all these devices because of the User CAL. This means that it would make sense for an organization that has several employees that use multiple devices to purchase User CALs so they don’t have to purchase a license for every device that’s used by the employees.  

Microsoft SQL Server Device CALs 

On the other hand, Microsoft SQL Sever CALs can be purchased to license the devices that are used within an organization. Let’s say that 4 different employees are working on the same device but at different moments. In this case it wouldn’t make sense to purchase a license for every individual user since they’re all working on the same device. By purchasing a Device CAL for this device, all individuals can use the device on separate moments which would be financially beneficial for an organization.