Syntactic Sugar

There are all sort of features and enhancements that Microsoft can make to the SQL Server platform. If you look around Connect, you’ll see suggestions for improvements, such adding common checks, as well as additions like adding virtual tables. I’m sure many of you would like to see simple things, like Regex added to the T-SQL language. In fact, you might find that some of these small changes, which we can code around or build, should just be added. After all, if Dynamic Data Masking can be added, shouldn’t some other simple features be included, such as helping us solve the “string or binary data truncated” error?

These handy, useful, simple changes to the platform are often called syntactic sugar. These are changes that are simple, many of us could easily code them, but they make development easier. Or even administration in the case of the SQL Server platform. These are not necessarily expanding the power or capability of the platform, but they can make working on the system more enjoyable.

Should Microsoft create more syntactic sugar for SQL Server? Certainly they do at times, but perhaps not as much as many of us would like. The thing to keep in mind is that making changes to the SQL Server platform can be very difficult and time consuming. Adding small features that might be helpful, while enticing, can slow the evolution and development of more core product features. Or they can cause more problems than we might expect in other parts of the platform. Would you rather have something like DDM that makes obfuscating some data easier, or a more robust replication engine that recovers from more problems? Do you want stronger security features like Always Encrypted, or more robust Always On features, or is it more important to get Regex added? I think we might have differing opinions here.

These can be really hard questions, and certainly I think our feedback can help influence Microsoft. After all, if there is a nagging issue that is constantly causing issues, then maybe it’s worth a syntactic sugar improvement, even if this takes resources away from some other area. The one thing I hear from Microsoft over and over is that specific business cases and issues are more important than complaints. Express the issues you have with the platform in terms of workarounds, developer time lost, or specific performance issues rather than just a “I don’t like this” or something “doesn’t work as expected.”

Ultimately Microsoft is a business, and they do look to add new features regularly to the platform to increase sales. I get that, and I try to temper my requests and complaints. I like to see them focus a portion of resources on core improvements to systems that work, and while I think this does happen, I’d like to see a bit more improvement in existing features. Certainly our backup and log reading systems have improved over time. SSMS is decoupled and being updated regularly. There is more work to be done, and if lots of us provide specific feedback, I’m sure we will see even more core improvement over time.

Steve Jones

The Voice of the DBA Podcast

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About way0utwest

Editor, SQLServerCentral
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