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Guest Editorial: Improving Northwind

By Phil Factor,

NorthWind. It must be one of the best-known businesses in the world. A generation of learners, since 1997, has wrestled with its database, learning the basics of their art. It is, of course, the fictional database supplied with MS Access and SQL Server, which defiantly retains its place in our hearts, despite all attempts by Microsoft to replace it with AdventureWorks. Week after week, it is the most popular download from Codeplex. On Simple-Talk we recently even featured a popular LINQ-to-SQL DAL for it.

It is difficult to guess the influence and effect that NorthWind has had. I can think of real businesses being run using databases that cheerfully morphed from NorthWind. Whole books use NorthWind as the bedrock for code samples. Despite its limitations and age, it has insinuated itself into IT culture. It is neat, it is simple and it looks real. The data structures are sensible. Whereas Adventureworks looks like it was devised by a committee, NorthWind has the air of clarity to it.

Can't we, as a community, do better? After all, a lot has happened in the past twelve or so years. E-commerce with its products, sales data and customers, is an ideal example to use, as it is familiar to everyone. However, we can't treat a database in isolation any more; it needs to be able to illustrate Business Intelligence, reporting, Internet publishing and Analysis Services. It needs to be able to show how a range of products can work together on a database.

I'd love to see geospatial data being used in a commercial context, and something that demonstrates the power of being able to represent hierarchical and taxonomic data. What about Tables and routines that deal sensibly with temporal data?

Wouldn't it be good to see a set of well thought-out CLR routines put into the database? How about a complex data type being implemented in full, just to show the real possibilities of SQLCLR? The task of doing all this is well beyond a single contributor but surely we could manage a community project?


Phil Factor

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