The Evolution of Microsoft SQL Server: A Historical Overview

Microsoft SQL Server, a proprietary relational database management system meticulously developed by Microsoft, has undergone a remarkable evolution since its inception in 1988 (the year I was born). Today, it stands as a versatile and powerful database server, serving a diverse range of applications across various computing environments. These applications may operate either on the same computing device or connect across a network/Internet.

In its present state, SQL Server is not merely a database host; it’s a comprehensive solution. With capabilities like serverless Azure models, and on-premises reliability through Availability Groups and Failover Cluster Instances, SQL Server ensures robustness and synchronization across data centers worldwide. This adaptability positions SQL Server at the forefront of modern data management.


In June 1988, Microsoft, Ashton-Tate, and Sybase collaborated to create a variant of Sybase SQL Server for IBM OS/2. This marked the inception of Microsoft SQL Server, the company’s foray into the enterprise-level database market. Over the years, SQL Server has undergone significant transformations, competing against industry giants like Oracle and IBM.

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SQL Server Legacy Versions

SQL Server 1.0 to SQL Server 7 (1989-1998)

The initial versions of SQL Server were designed for OS/2, with the first version released in 1989. The transition to Windows NT in 1993 marked the divergence of paths between Microsoft and Sybase. SQL Server 6.0, released in 1995, was the first version specifically designed for Windows NT, signaling a new era for the platform.

A major rewrite of the Sybase engine, SQL Server 7.0 introduced User Mode Scheduling, multi-dimensional database products, and ended support for the DEC Alpha platform. This version laid the foundation for future advancements in High Availability.

SQL Server 2000 (2000) – Version 8.0
Building upon Sybase code, SQL Server 2000 introduced several enhancements, including support for IA-64 architecture and the introduction of key complementary systems like SQL Server Integration Services and Reporting Services.

SQL Server 2005 (2005) – Version 9.0
Notable for native XML support, CLR integration, and the introduction of Database Mirroring for high availability. SQL Server 2005 set the stage for advancements in performance, security, and management tools.

SQL Server 2008 (2008) – Version 10.0
Bringing self-tuning and self-organizing data management, SQL Server 2008 introduced support for structured and semi-structured data, better compression features, and enhanced indexing algorithms.

SQL Server 2008 R2 (2010) – Version 10.50
Building upon its predecessor, SQL Server 2008 R2 added features like Master Data Services and Multi-Server Management. It was the last version to run on the Itanium platform.

SQL Server 2012 (2012) – Version 11.0
Introducing Always On SQL Server Failover Cluster Instances and Availability Groups, SQL Server 2012 focused on improving database availability. It marked the last version to natively support OLE DB.

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Currently Supported SQL Server Versions

SQL Server 2014 (2014) – Version 12.0

Extended Support End Date:  Jul 9, 2024MSSQL 2014 Lifecycle

With in-memory capabilities (Hekaton) and improved Always On solutions, SQL Server 2014 (12.x) enhanced performance and disaster recovery. It was the last version available on the x86/IA32 architecture, and we got Transparent Data Encryption (TDE).

SQL Server 2016 (2016) – Version 13.0

SQL Server 2016 (13.x) brought the introduction of Query Store for monitoring and troubleshooting performance issues and the SQL Server R Service integration. We also got built-in JSON support for imports, exports, parsing, and storage, PolyBase Query Engine Integration for SQL Server with external data in Hadoop or Azure Blob storage, and the Stretch Database feature for archiving data to Azure SQL database dynamically.

This release marked the beginning of Microsoft’s shift away from Service Packs, and brought support for x64 processors only. Security feature improvements in SQL Server 2016 included Always Encrypted, Dynamic Data Masking to hide masked data from most users, and Row Level Security.

SQL Server 2017 (2017) – Version 14.0

SQL Server 2017 (14.x) was the first release that included Linux support, expanding the platform’s versatility. Other MSSQL 2017 Feature releases include Automatic Database Tuning, Scale Out for SSIS, and SSRS supports OpenAPI compliant RESTful APIs.

During this release SQL Server R Services is renamed to SQL Server Machine Learning Services, reflecting support for Python in addition to R. Python ML and AI libraries become available, including revoscalepy, microsoftml, and Python operationalization with T-SQL.

SQL Server 2019 (2019) – Version 15.0

Introducing Big Data Clusters, In-Memory Database technologies, and other various improvements, SQL Server 2019 (15.x) further expanded its capabilities, addressing the evolving needs of the database landscape.

Using the PolyBase feature, users are now equipped with the ability to integrate and query data from diverse external sources, including SQL Server, Oracle, Teradata, MongoDB, and ODBC, using external tables.

SQL Server 2022 (2022) – Version 16.0

Launched in November 2022, SQL Server 2022 (16.x) introduces Azure Synapse Link for SQL, enabling real-time analytics with Azure Synapse Analytics, object storage integration supporting S3-compatible storage, and Data Lake Virtualization.

Beginning with MSSQL 2022, runtimes for R, Python, and Java, are no longer installed with SQL Setup. Instead, install any desired custom runtime(s) and packages. This release also removes SQL Server Native Client.


In conclusion, the evolution of Microsoft SQL Server reflects a commitment to innovation, performance, and meeting the diverse demands of modern data management. Each version has brought about significant enhancements, shaping the database landscape and solidifying SQL Server’s position in the industry. As technology continues to advance, SQL Server remains at the forefront, adapting to the ever-changing needs of enterprises worldwide.

Please note that this blog post provides a well-rounded background on the major releases of SQL Server, showcasing key features and advancements. However, it does not cover the full array of SQL Server feature release information. For more detailed insights, you can explore follow-up links provided throughout the article, offering additional information on each version’s specific features and improvements. You will also want to keep your MSSQL Servers up-to-date with the latest SQL Server Patches.

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