SQLServerCentral Editorial

Same Language, Different Words


I had to come to the Redgate office in Cambridge this past week for a department onsite. As a result, my wife and I were able to come early for a few days adventuring together, the first trip we've taken by ourselves in nearly seven years. As a large family with six kids, it takes lot of planning and effort to make a getaway like this possible (and the kindness of family and friends to help!).

Additionally, after 20 years of joking that "someday we'll celebrate our anniversary in Paris!", we did, in fact, get to take the Eurostar from London to Paris for the day and celebrate 21 years together on the second floor of the Eiffel Tower looking out over the city. The trip was a privilege, for sure, but a blessing nonetheless.

Aside from that day trip to Paris, the other few days we had together were all in the UK. This meant that in theory, most of our travel was among cities and towns that spoke English and getting around should be straightforward. It was my wife's first time in the UK, and my first opportunity to spend time in London, specifically.

What struck us both pretty quickly was that while we did speak the same language, we weren't using the same words all the time. Sometimes it was cute, and we'd chuckle at the differences. Other times, like running around in the subway Underground to get back to our hotel, it wasn't as fun trying to decipher the nuances.

Here are a few quick examples of things we noticed often:

  • To exit of the Underground (or anywhere really), follow the "Way Out ->" signs.
  • When crossing the street, look right, not left, first (or play it safe and look both ways many times first!)
  • The street level of a building is the ground floor, not the first floor, so our second-floor room was up two flights of steps, not one.
  • And while most of the English speaking world knows that you "Mind the Gap" in the Underground, you need to "mind" your step, your head, your car, the construction, or anything else that could potentially harm you. There area a lot of "mind your…" signs about.

These are simple examples, none of which prevented us from getting to the next stage of our journey. But we both quickly realized that we had to learn a new way of using the same language.

So why am I sharing this with you? How might our experience last week relate to you as a data professional in June 2023?

I believe the time is soon approaching (or has already arrived for some of us) when we'll need to get comfortable using the language we know in a slightly new (and sometimes frustrating) way. I also think there's a good chance that experience will involved PostgreSQL.

In fact, I had to take that journey 6 years ago, and in our most recent PostgreSQL 101 webinar, I shared some high-level differences between SQL Server and PostgreSQL that I've learned throughout the journey. I spoke for a solid 60 minutes, and I could have easily gone for two or three hours.

Interestingly, none of the things I shared were show-stoppers if your primary base of knowledge is T-SQL. There are differences, but they can be overcome with a little knowledge and a different perspective. Even if you've never used PostgreSQL, I'm positive that you would be able to insert and query basic data aggregations in the first few minutes of using it.

When a query doesn't work the same and it requires a new understanding of the same language, you might step back and say, "oh, that's cute", like we did when someone called the evil character in a story the "baddie", rather than the "bad guy".

Other times, you might want to scream and curse when you type "SELECT TOP(10)…" over and over while PostgreSQL gives you a syntax error each time.

"But I'll never use {PostgreSQL|MySQL|Snowflake|etc.} so that doesn't pertain to me."

Maybe not. However, Stack Overflow released their yearly developer survey this past week, and the big story in the non-SQL Server world is that PostgreSQL overtook all databases as the #1 most sought-after database among developers, passing MySQL for the first time in the survey's history.

Yes, you and I (along with Louis Davidson whom I discussed this with in Cambridge) are probably asking the same question. "Who are these developers?" I don't know, but there were more than 76,000 that answered the question. I suspect many of them are probably "full stack" developers, using JavaScript or Python ORMs to manage and query the database. They might use a tool like Vercel or Netlify to organize their entire stack, including one-click database creation and access.

The thing is, this isn't an anomaly in the trend.

Over the last five years, the combined investment of all organizations and cloud providers, old and new, in database technology has arguably been the greatest in PostgreSQL. And I can promise you that investment is going to keep growing in the coming years.

If you have a few years left in your career but have never connected to a PostgreSQL database, I personally think it's a safe bet that you'll have to in the next 4-5 years.

Consider giving it a try sometime in 2023.

One way to get started is to listen to our previous PostgreSQL 101 webinars or attend the one this coming Thursday, June 22, when I'll discuss your first steps to setting up and connecting to a PostgreSQL database. Maybe you could follow some of the tutorials for Azure DB for PostgreSQL or try the in-browser Crunchydata PostgreSQL Playground.

Or consider coming to PASS Data Community Summit where we'll have a new PostgreSQL learning path, a pre-con, and a handful of sessions to teach you many of the differences and similarities to help you on your learning journey. We'll even have several of the long-time core maintainers of the project at Summit!

The main thing to remember is that the primary language is the same. However, the T-SQL implementation won't always match what the PostgreSQL implementation is, and vice versa. You're likely to find the "Way Out ->" when needed, and as long as you look both ways before crossing the street, there won't be unrecoverable damage.

You'll just be learning some new ways of using the language you're already comfortable with, and a database that offers some exciting new opportunities to grow and learn.

What about you? Have you recently tried to use a new database or data technology? What were some of the challenges or similarities that surprised you?


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