2734B: Updating Your Database Development Skills to Microsoft SQL Server 2005, Part 1

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I’m taking Microsoft training course #2734B: Updating Your Database Development Skills to Microsoft SQL Server 2005. I’ve got my MCSD; I really just want to see what’s new in SQL Server 2005 and how to use it. Rock on, right?

Day 1, we covered a general overview of SQL Server 2005 changes (enough to give you a general idea of what the course will cover, but not enough to really tell you anything), some of the T-SQL enhancements they’ve added, and a bit on how they’ve updated the handling of XML in the database.

The first module, the overview, was pretty good for the beginners but really didn’t tell me much.

The second module, the T-SQL updates, was neat. They added some stuff that should have been there all along (ALTER INDEX, anyone?) and put some really cool things in for partitioning. When we got to pivot tables… well, I won’t lie. I generally understand the concept of pivot tables, but I’m not a data analyst and really don’t care to be, so when we got to the use of PIVOT and UNPIVOT, I took it in from an academic standpoint but I can’t say I totally get it. The new ranking operators are cool, though, and I can see how they would be very useful. And how can I forget the TRY/CATCH they’ve added? Love that.

The third module, on handling XML, got a little more tricky. I feel pretty comfortable in my XML skin and worked with SQL Server’s OPENXML and SELECT...FOR XML in the 2000 version, so that stuff wasn’t new. The added ability to format the output of the XML to the level now available is very welcome, as is the ability to store XML as a native data type (either validated or not).

So what have I seen that I don’t like?

When we got into the trickier parts of the XML stuff - updating values of attributes in stored XML fields, for example - the book got a bit sparse. The lab would instruct you to do something like “change the ‘foo’ attribute in the document stored in field ‘bar’ in the first row in the table to have the value ‘val’” and when you went to look up the syntax for that… well, good luck with that. I ended up opening the solution and seeing how they did it (at which point it finally made sense).

The biggest issue, though, is how arbitrary some of the syntax has become. It turns out that in some cases, T-SQL requires semicolons to end statements and in other cases it doesn’t. That makes it difficult, but I figured out that they don’t penalize you for ending every statement in a semicolon, so maybe that’s the new habit to get into. I also don’t like the inconsistency of the syntax - sometimes you specify options in parentheses, sometimes you don’t; sometimes the parameters for a method are in [square brackets] and sometimes ‘single quotes.’ The worst bit is that they seem to intermingle it all without any rhyme or reason, so you might call a function like FUNCTION_CALL MODIFIER([param1], 'param2') 'param3', [param4] even if all of the parameters refer to database objects. Consistency! Pick something and stick with it! It feels very much like all this was tacked onto the end of T-SQL and they did their best not to alienate previous T-SQL users but couldn’t quite make it happen.

Today, day 2, we’re looking at the native SQL Server 2005 service oriented architecture provisions. I’m liking it so far. Better than SQLXML, anyway. It occurs to me that you could potentially replace BizTalk with SQL Server 2005. I wonder if that’s what they were going for.

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