The first thing to do is decide which platform you're going to focus on. Each "flavor" has its own proprietary tools and commands. While all share a basic SQL language foundation, DBCC CHECKDB() doesn't run on MySQL and DESCRIBE doesn't get you anything SQL Server. Likewise, SQL Server Management Objects (SMO) don't help you with Oracle and if you're looking for "TNS" in SQL server, you're out of luck. Some of these are proprietary extensions to the SQL language, others are differences in architecture and/or tools. What platform to start with should be based on your opportunities, your knowledge of the various platforms, or both. Try and focus only on one because each platform has a lot to know in order to become truly proficient. Expert or "guru" status in a particular database product takes even more time and effort.
For instance, one of the reasons I started learning SQL Server so heavily as opposed to Oracle or DB2 was I had a stronger foundation in SQL Server due to being in "Microsoft shops" where SQL Server was used. SQL Server was the platform of choice partially because of the focus on Microsoft technologies but also because SQL Server came in the MSDN subscriptions and could be used at no additional charge in the development environment. Another reason is that most of the opportunities I was finding in my area centered around SQL Server. Therefore, SQL Server was my first choice and I put my energy into learning it better.
After you've decided which platform to pursue, you should get it installed and actively work with it. When I was learning SQL server I had SQL Server 6.5 installed on a server and SQL Server 7.0 installed on my workstation. When SQL Server 2000 came along, I installed it, and the same was true with SQL Server 2005. I ensured that my installs included the components I was interested in working with. Where can you find the products? In most cases the vendors have provided downloads of either evaluation or full-blown versions for people to learn on. Here are the links as of this blog post for some of the most popular platforms:
Xen do exist. Back to the Microsoft side of the house, not only is there Xen, but there are more traditional names of VMware and Microsoft.
- Microsoft VirtualPC
- VMware Player (free, but requires a pre-built virtual machine)
- VMware Workstation (pay version, but you can build your own virtual machines from scratch)
If you're thinking, "What tools are available to help me become more proficient?" there are quite a few. However, this post is getting long in the tooth; therefore, I'll focus on those resources, including discussing training and certification, next week.
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