Structured Query Language (SQL)

What is Structured Query Language?

Structured Query Language (SQL) is a standardized programming language that is designed for managing relational databases. It enables users to define, manipulate, and retrieve data in a structured and efficient manner. SQL is widely used by data professionals, including data scientists, data analysts, and database administrators, to interact with databases and perform tasks such as creating tables, querying data, and updating records.


SQL was initially developed during the 1970s by IBM researchers Raymond Boyce and Donald Chamberlin, based on Edgar F. Codd's relational database model. The first commercial implementation of SQL was released by Oracle Corporation in 1979. Since then, SQL has become widely adopted in the industry and has gone through several revisions, with SQL:2016 being the latest standard.

Functionality and Features

SQL provides a comprehensive set of features for managing relational databases, including:

  • Data Definition Language (DDL): used for creating, altering, and deleting database objects such as tables, indexes, and constraints.
  • Data Manipulation Language (DML): used for inserting, updating, and deleting data within a database.
  • Data Query Language (DQL): used for querying, retrieving, and aggregating data from one or multiple tables.
  • Data Control Language (DCL): used for granting and revoking access to database objects and managing user permissions.
  • Transaction Control Language (TCL): used for managing transactions to ensure data integrity.


SQL is typically used in client-server architectures, where a client application sends SQL queries to a database management system (DBMS) server. The server processes the query, accesses the required data, and sends the result back to the client. This enables applications to interact with databases and perform complex data manipulation with minimal knowledge of the underlying database structure.

Benefits and Use Cases

Some of the advantages of using SQL include:

  • Standardization: SQL is an industry-standard language that can be used across various database systems, making it easier to learn and transfer skills.
  • Flexibility: SQL allows users to perform complex data manipulations and retrieve data in different formats and structures with ease.
  • Concurrency control: SQL databases support multi-user access and provide efficient mechanisms to handle concurrent transactions and maintain data consistency.
  • Scalability: SQL databases can handle large volumes of data and can be scaled vertically or horizontally to accommodate growing data needs.

Challenges and Limitations

Despite its many advantages, SQL has some limitations:

  • Not suitable for non-relational data: SQL is designed for relational databases, and its performance can be less optimal when working with non-relational data structures (e.g., hierarchical, graph, or document-based data).
  • Complexity: Learning and mastering SQL can be challenging, particularly for more advanced operations and optimization techniques.
  • Vendor-specific extensions: Although SQL is standardized, database vendors often implement proprietary extensions, which can lead to vendor lock-in and reduced portability of SQL code.

Integration with Data Lakehouse

A data lakehouse is a modern architecture that combines the best aspects of data lakes and data warehouses. It provides the scalability of data lakes to handle big data and the performance and schema management capabilities of data warehouses. SQL can be used as the query language for data lakehouses, enabling users to perform data processing, analytics, and reporting tasks by leveraging their existing SQL skills.

Security Aspects

SQL implementations typically provide various security features such as user authentication, access control, data encryption, and auditing. This ensures that sensitive data is protected both in transit and at rest, and unauthorized access or data breaches can be prevented or detected.


SQL's performance depends on factors such as database structure, query complexity, indexing strategy, and hardware resources. Proper optimization techniques, such as indexing, query tuning, and partitioning, can significantly improve SQL performance.


What is SQL?

SQL (Structured Query Language) is a programming language used to manage relational databases, perform data manipulations, and retrieve data.

What are the main components of SQL?

SQL has several components, including Data Definition Language (DDL), Data Manipulation Language (DML), Data Query Language (DQL), Data Control Language (DCL), and Transaction Control Language (TCL).

What is the difference between SQL and NoSQL databases?

SQL databases are relational and use structured query language, while NoSQL databases are non-relational and use various query languages, depending on the type of NoSQL database (e.g., key-value, document, column-family, or graph).

How is SQL used in a data lakehouse environment?

SQL can be used as the query language for data lakehouses, allowing users to perform data processing, analytics, and reporting tasks using their existing SQL skills.

What are some common security features of SQL databases?

Common security features include user authentication, access control, data encryption, and auditing.

get started

Get Started Free

No time limit - totally free - just the way you like it.

Sign Up Now
demo on demand

See Dremio in Action

Not ready to get started today? See the platform in action.

Watch Demo
talk expert

Talk to an Expert

Not sure where to start? Get your questions answered fast.

Contact Us

Ready to Get Started?

Bring your users closer to the data with organization-wide self-service analytics and lakehouse flexibility, scalability, and performance at a fraction of the cost. Run Dremio anywhere with self-managed software or Dremio Cloud.