Chapter 5 - Fundamentals of SQL Server Architecture

Microsoft SQL Server is a Structured Query Language (SQL) based, client/server relational database. Each of these terms describes a fundamental part of the architecture of SQL Server.


A database is similar to a data file in that it is a storage place for data. Like a data file, a database does not present information directly to a user; the user runs an application that accesses data from the database and presents it to the user in an understandable format.

Database systems are more powerful than data files. The data is more highly organized. In a well-designed database, there are no duplicate pieces of data that the user or application has to update at the same time. Related pieces of data are grouped together in a single structure or record, and relationships can be defined between these structures and records.

When working with data files, an application must be coded to work with the specific structure of each data file. In contrast, a database contains a catalog that applications use to determine how data is organized. Generic database applications can use the catalog to present users with data from different databases dynamically, without being tied to a specific data format.

A database typically has two components: the files holding the physical database and the database management system (DBMS) software that applications use to access data. The DBMS is responsible for enforcing the database structure, including:

  • Maintaining the relationships between data in the database. 

  • Ensuring that data is stored correctly, and that the rules defining data relationships are not violated. 

  • Recovering all data to a point of known consistency in case of
    system failures. 

Relational Database 

There are different ways to organize data in a database but relational databases are one of the most effective. Relational database systems are an application of mathematical set theory to the problem of effectively organizing data. In a relational database, data is collected into tables (called relations in relational theory).

A table represents some class of objects that are important to an organization. For example, a company may have a database with a table for employees, another table for customers, and another for stores. Each table comprises columns and rows (attributes and tuples in relational theory). Each column represents some attribute of the object represented by the table. For example, an Employee table would typically have columns for first name, last name, employee ID, department, pay grade, and job title. Each row represents an instance of the object represented by the table. For example, one row in the Employee table represents the employee who has employee ID 12345.

When organizing data into tables, you can usually find many different ways to define tables. Relational database theory defines a process, normalization, which ensures that the set of tables you define will organize your data effectively.


In a client/server system, the server is a relatively large computer in a central location that manages a resource used by many people. When individuals need to use the resource, they connect over the network from their computers, or clients, to the server. Examples of servers are:

  • Print servers 

    Manage the printers used by a team or unit. 

  • File servers 

    Store large files used by a team or unit by using large disk drives. 

  • E-mail servers 

    Run a company's e-mail system. 

In a client/server database architecture, the database files and DBMS software reside on a server. A communications component is provided so applications can run on separate clients and communicate to the database server over a network. The SQL Server communication component also allows communication between an application running on the server and SQL Server.

Server applications are usually capable of working with several clients at the same time. SQL Server can work with thousands of client applications simultaneously. The server has features to prevent the logical problems that occur if a user tries to read or modify data currently being used by others.

While SQL Server is designed to work as a server in a client/server network, it is also capable of working as a stand-alone database directly on the client. The scalability and ease-of-use features of SQL Server allow it to work efficiently on a client without consuming too many resources.

Structured Query Language (SQL) 

To work with data in a database, you must use a set of commands and statements (language) defined by the DBMS software. There are several different languages that can be used with relational databases; the most common is SQL. Standards for SQL have been defined by both the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the International Standards Organization (ISO). Most modern DBMS products support the Entry Level of SQL-92, the latest SQL standard (published in 1992).