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A True SQL OS

March 12, 2014

Today’s editorial was originally published on Aug 26, 2009. It is being re-run as Steve is on vacation.

I have heard a number of talks from SQL Server developers at Microsoft that refer to the internal SQL Server database engine as the “SQL OS,” since it almost exists as its own operating system from their perspective. Much of the development work these people have done in scheduling, threading, memory management and more, is reminiscent of the work done on operating systems. So it’s called the SQL OS.

As SQL Server has grown wider and wider, incorporating more and more features, it almost seems to have all the features that might qualify it as its own operating system, but it still has dependencies on Windows, and exists as a service under Windows. That is both good and bad, since you can easily use your physical server for other applications, but those applications can take resources away from SQL Server and cause contention.

Since it seems that many people make a practice of only installing SQL Server on a machine, it makes me think that we’re actually ready for a true SQL OS, one that is installed on a machine and has no other capabilities other than what is inside SQL Server.  I think this could be done today, perhaps using a specialized Server Core installation in Windows, and eliminate the possibility of anything interfering with SQL Server itself. We could still add it to a Windows host if needed, but we’d have the option of a specialized SQL box, maybe as an Enterprise feature.

There could be some great advantages of going down this path. Windows I/O and scheduling could be tuned specifically for SQL Server, or just incorporated into the SQL Server platform. With VMs, you could still partition your hardware to have a SQL VM and another Windows VM for other applications. The new Filestream features could be extended to allow file operations to the SQL Server instance, and what’s more, we could then access and manipulate these files from within the server. Doing so in a separate file system is a constant challenge for many developers and DBAs.

I don’t think this will happen for a few reasons, not the least of which is licensing. There’s a Windows and a SQL Server license for every instance, and I can’t see Microsoft wanting to sell less copies of Windows.

However it’s nice to dream of a way to build a SQL Server platform that only requires DBAs.

Steve Jones


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