SQL Server Management Studio Requires Modernization http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Old_farmhouse_Moonambel.jpg

SQL Server Management Studio Requires Modernization

Being a SQL Server professional of the Database Administrator variety I probably spend more time working with SQL Server Management Studio than I do in any other application across all my devices (well, except for perhaps Candy Crush or Civilization V but that's my own little dirty secret.)

You could say I'm married to SQL Server Management Studio and like any other marriage I'm close enough to my partner to not only defend them vehemently but also see the flaws in their sterling veneer. In the case of SQL Server Management Studio the source of the flaws is not open to debate over nurture versus nature. The shortcomings, flaws, dearth of features and irritating traits all are a result of parental inattentiveness; well, corporate inattentiveness that is.

I suspect that Microsoft felt that SQL Server Management Studio came of age after the abundant effort that went into the platform shift that was SQL Server 2005. It was a major change in the product that had not been seen since the shift from SQL Server 6.5 to 7 and has not been seen since. Sadly most of you reading this probably have not worked with SQL Server long enough to appreciate how much of an improvement SQL Server 2005 was over its predecessor but everything changed at that release: how the underlying system databases (well, okay master that is) sourced and served metadata, the birth of the resource database, Service Broker, Notification Services, SSIS, SSAS, SSRS, Dynamic Management Objects, CLR and the massive improvements in the GUI that signaled the death of Enterprise Manager and gave us SQL Server Management Studio.

It's been almost ten years since SQL Server 2005 was released and its relevance has waned even in the healthcare industry which is typically bearish in adopting new technology within Information Technology. Yet the practice Microsoft has adopted regarding the client tool for interacting with its flagship data platform in the Age of Data is one akin to what you see when you travel the rural roads of Middle America when farmhouses fall short of their requirements for supporting the families that they house: Creative Architecture. You know what I'm talking about, you see the farm that has probably been in the same family for generations that was built to serve a family of four that turned into six or eight. Possibly low on finances but rife with raw materials and creativity the family moved the wood shed closer to the backup of the house in 1935 and with a saw and some extra wood added an extra bedroom. Then in the 1970s they welded a mobile home to the front of the house and added a new wing to their estate in the process. Now 40 years on and the estate is comprised of those edifices but also a former chicken coop/extra bathroom and a former school bus/three-season porch.

SQL Server Management Studio is at that chicken coop and school bus phase in its life cycle. As features have been added to the underlying SQL Server platform the client-facing input and output modules have been cut-in to the framework of the initial 2005 model of SQL Server Management Studio. In same cases it works just fine. When you're adding important platform features such as backup compression it's only the matter of adding a checkbox or list view here and there. However not everything can be solved with a few minor GUI tweaks and development time for the GUI tools takes a back seat to platform enhancements.

GUI tools probably don't sell licenses of many enterprise-class database platform. However I'd argue that having a solid end-user experience within the tools by the professionals tasked with spending their time working in that environment goes a long way to retaining customers and growing adoption of the platform after the initial purchase. When you have a well paid and highly skilled technician complaining about how their efficiency is impacted by insufficiently modern tools decision makers will take note.

All that being said, I am content with the state of SQL Server Management Studio but we are approaching the next release of SQL Server; the fifth release since the birth of SQL Server Management Studio. It's time that Microsoft starts to put some dollars into the client tools development coffers. I'm about to embark on SQL Cruise and plan on making this a topic of discussion during our Office Hours networking sessions. I'll be reporting back with a wish list from those fellow SQL Server MVPs, MCMs, developers and DBAs who are joining me for that week in the Caribbean. I was a participant in a focus group Microsoft conducted as SQL Server Management Studio was being readied for release. This time around it'll be quite interesting conducting my own little focus group. Perhaps all that will come out of it will be an article for us all to commiserate over but Microsoft has a new focus on the data platform thanks to its new leadership team. Maybe we may be able to bend an ear or two in this process.

Here is your chance to give us some ideas over what you'd like to see fixed, changed, or added with no fear of filing a Connect item only to see it assigned a "Closed" status. Give us some feedback here and we'll add it to the follow up article coming in a couple weeks.

Microsoft, I truly appreciate all you've done for the SQL Community and for me personally.  I'd not be putting food on the table if it was not for the fine products you've created over the years.  All I'm asking is that you spend a bit of time and consideration over the constructive criticism that I'll be sending your way in this regard.

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