One thing that sets SQL Server apart from many other data engines are all of the tools and extensions that surround it. SQL Agent, SSIS, SSRS, Analysis Services, Data Broker, etc. are a few of those valuable extensions. The one I have enjoyed the most, maturing from two different products in the early ‘90s, is SQL Server Management Studio, (SSMS).

In version 4.21a of SQL Server, when Microsoft broke off their source tree from Sybase, they released the first version of what later became SSMS. SQL Server already had a GUI tool for writing and executing TSQL against a database. However, all management tasks, schema design, or data manipulation had to be performed through TSQL statements. With the release of SQL Server Manager you could now perform administration tasks against the service, database, tables, etc. in a GUI format similar to what we have today.

Later, Query Analyzer and SQL Server Manager were merged into a single product, SQL Server Management Studio. The combined tool made it easier when managing services and databases alongside of executing queries. However, it did slow things down if you only wanted to work with queries. With today’s hardware, the combined tool set doesn’t suffer any longer for performance.

SQL Server Management Studio now shares the same code base for the GUI as Visual Studio. The tools and capabilities are built upon the Visual Studio platform with features specific to the needs of database management or development. This week we’ll look at some of the features of SSMS that make our job easier as administrators or developers, directly related to the Visual Studio extensibilities.



  • David Eaton

    SSMS has several inherent flaws like returning data row by agonizing row. And like so many things Microsoft, they leave the tools about 75% complete and call it good. This is why there are so many aftermarket products that greatly improve on the Microsoft tools. Products like Toad for SQL Server are much more powerful and so more elegant and efficient. Other tools greatly improve upon things like backups, replication and log shipping to give a much better insight than Microsoft tools. Last but not least is the mediocrity of SQL Profiler. All the Microsoft tools do is place a load on the server and give a stream of uncorrelated information.

    Since Microsoft moved to the SQLOS platform, they have been publishing SQL counters through the WMI interface that can be read without loading SQL Server. This allows for client-less connections to monitor SQL Server performance counters. But none of the Microsoft tools use this. That may have changed in SQL 2016, but through SQL 2014 it hasn’t.

    Microsoft tools let you peek behind the curtain, there are other tools that let you open the curtain and see everything inside. And given that the database software is so expensive and the the information stored in the database is a company’s most important asset, wouldn’t you want better than a screw driver and a pair of pliers to manage and maintain the SQL Server engine? And that these tools are a fraction of the SQL Server licence cost. Isn’t it always better to work with the better tools?

  • Maurice Pelchat

    I’m eager to see what features are related to Visual Studio extensibilities. I found in this version more ways to configure the appearance (fonts, colors) of SQL code. This is important when coding SQL code.

    However, the configuration of coloring scheme is bloated with options specific to Visual Studio only. This is why this Visual Studio Integration is a mixed blessing.

    Each new version brings also its batch of bugs on things that were functioning well, and it takes times to get a correction. For example, having a correction on the combo box performing database selection context on query window, took 3 releases of SQL Server.
    Changes are great only if they are well performed.

    I can say that the latest version of SQL2016 SSMS was a real improvement six months after its release, because of stability problems. Quality testing is not the strong point of SSMS team.