Server vs Instance. A rant.

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It’s a SQL Server Instance not a SQL Server.

  • The product is SQL Server.
  • The installed copy is an Instance.
  • The location it is installed on is frequently a Server. Windows, Linux, whatever. I say frequently because I’ve had it installed in a container, a laptop, a desktop etc over time. (If I’m going to post a pedantic rant I should probably be very specific with my terms right?)

I can not tell you how much confusion this has caused over the years. Both for me and the developers I assist.

Dev: Can you connect to this server.
Me: Yes, I can RDP to that server.
Dev: No, I mean can you connect using Management Studio.
Me: To which of the 6 instances you have installed on that server?

And that’s an easy one. The confusion in connection strings and when developing request forms is something else to behold.

Not that I can really blame anyone. The name SQL Server kind of lends itself to the problem and at this point I don’t see Microsoft re-naming it. I certainly hope not anyway. On top of that the word instance means different things depending on your database of choice which just adds to the confusion. Hopefully as we move more and more into the cloud and get new names (Azure SQL Database, Azure SQL Managed Instance, Synapse, etc) this will start to become less of an issue. For now at least, all I can do is be careful of the words I use (yes I mess this up sometimes too) and hope that you will as well.

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