How much has data technology changed over the years?

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The simple answer to this question is “a lot.” The funny part, however, is that everyone who reads that question will have similar but very different thoughts on those changes.

Unless your job (or hobby) is keeping up with the current trends in technology, the biggest thing that affects our perception is how we have done ourselves. Even for those of us who have always tried to keep up, where we started and where we currently are taints our perceptions of what is happening in the world.

In this article, I will share a little bit of my past and present, and how that has shaped my perception of change, then ask you about how you see your world changing.

Starting Point

When I started my first job in database technology, the database server was room sized. And not a small room either. The Brady Bunch and Partridge Family could have all shared this room (reference intended to tell my age without telling my age). I didn’t do much with the server. It was an IBM mainframe and I mostly just had to occasionally change a few of the big drum-looking tapes for backups. I just remember it was huge and wildly expensive, like $15,000 a month.

Not long after that, I and a coworker attended a conference where we heard of SQL Server. This was still in its infancy and ran on OS/2 (our computers used Windows 3 at the time), but long story short, it didn’t cost one-tenth as much as the mainframe.

After the programmer who was writing the T-SQL code left, I did the rest of that work (and I was hooked). This server sat in a broom closet-sized area and did most of the work they used the mainframe for. A few more computers were employed for the other tasks. Still, nothing that needed a room-sized computer even in the 1990s, so loads of money was saved.

Current point of reference

In 30 years, the world changed so much. Instead of mainframes, we built virtual machine hosts. Virtualization explodes the number of “servers” on one physical host, so you feel like you have your own machine (much like a mainframe, but a lot more user-friendly). On these multi-purpose servers, both on-premises and in the cloud, are various applications that often use different services and even other database platforms.

At my last company, we typically had one main platform of SQL Server on Windows. Still, there were instances of different platforms for different purposes. Some on-prem, some in the cloud. Some on Windows, some on Unix. If you said SQL Server would run on some other OS 10 years ago, you would be laughed at.

What About You?

I would love to hear your origin story in the comments section, even just hearing stories of how you don’t even know what a mainframe is will be awesome. How does that compare to your current situation? Are you one of those people who started with SQL Server 2016 and are just now allowed to start looking at SQL Server 2017?

If you take part in the survey, you will be amongst the first people to get access to the results. Don’t take too long to decide, the survey runs until the end of September, and we anticipate publishing the results in January.

UPDATE: The State of the Database Landscape survey has now closed. We’ve had a record number of survey entries this year and we’re now working hard on building the report which will be published in January 2024.  If you’re interested in seeing the insights earlier, we’ll be sharing some highlights in the Redgate Keynote at PASS Data Community Summit 2023.