A descendent of the 70’s SEQueL standard, SQL has aged well and is still the tool most favoured by database administrators across the globe.
There are two essential purposes of a database language:- to create and edit the database and to perform queries. The simple fact is that these tasks are accomplished by users of SQL and SQL powered applications with generally greater ease and efficiency, and that no-one has yet come up with a better way of working with data in a relational database.
Though competitors have come and gone over the years, SQL has remained the standard-bearing database language, working behind the scenes on GUI database interfaces and used by those who need custom-written queries and data-manipulations.
Perhaps the primary reason for this is the mix of functionality, power and relative ease of use that SQL provides. No competing language has been able to combine high functionality with ease of use quite as effectively.
Key to avoidance of unnecessary complexity is the fact that SQL’s command structure is restricted to definitional and manipulative commands. While a lack of ‘flow of control’ commands makes SQL somewhat computationally incomplete, the pay-off is a language with a much simpler structure, and fewer commands and conventions.
Furthermore, the commands themselves are comprised of simple English words (Create Table, Insert Into etc), and essentially free-format.
Thus SQL is one of the easiest languages used today both to learn and to use, and is likely to incur significantly lower staff training costs than more complex languages.
The intuitive command-structure allows users at any level of an organisation the option to acquaint themselves with some of the fundamentals of the language easily, even apart from database administration staff.
And, whether managers or application-developers, whether for querying, data-manipulation or other uses it is likely to be of use to many users throughout any organisation interested in formalising relational database usage, or in enabling a wider variety of workers to conduct queries or manipulate data independent of GUI applications.
For all it‘s accessibility, SQL is powerful enough and wide enough in scope to satisfy the needs of data-handling workers from end-using management to database Administrators who must design and edit the database.
Near universal recognition as the foremost database language is another compelling reason to use SQL. Virtually every database application is currently powered by SQL, with developers customising the language to their own ends (as with Oracle’s PL/SQL). These variations are based on the standard ANSI-SQL, however, and do not differ greatly from the ANSI standard.
This universality breeds a variety of competing solutions to buyers, and simplifies the market considerably.
An unhappy customer of one database application can thus switch to another with less disruption, as the back-end workings remain essentially the same, and the underlying database structures need not be disturbed.
Going forward, the fact that all major vendors work with SQL also ensures a continuing investment in SQL-based applications. And with no major competitors to the standard beating at the door, the future of relational database implementation and management in one respect looks a lot like the past.