SQL Standardisation

What is ANSI?
ANSI is the American National Standards Institute and is a non-profit organisation which oversees the development of standards for products, services, processes, systems and personnel in the US. ANSI also coordinates US standards with international standards bodies, so that US products can be used worldwide.

ANSI was instituted in 1918 when five engineering societies and three government agencies came together to form the American Engineering Standards Committee (AESC). The present name was taken in 1969.

ANSI does not develop standards itself. The institute facilitates the creation of standards by accrediting the procedures of organisations who are developing the standards. ANSI certification signifies that the standards have been produced by organisations meeting the institutes requirements for openness, balance, consensus, and due process.

Consensus standards hasten the market acceptance of products while making clear how to improve the safety of those products for the protection of consumers. There are approximately 10,500 American National Standards which bear ANSI designation.

What is the ANSI standard X3.135?

The success of the relational database model, along with the Structured Query Language (SQL), meant that by 1986, over 20 independent vendors, and practically every computing platform was supported. This is when the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) published the first SQL standard, ANSI X3.135-1986. A few months later, the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) published an identical standard, ISO 9075-1987, which is better known as the SQL-87 standard.

By this time, the numerous vendors had differing implementations of SQL, and ANSI X3.135 was generally seen as the least common denominator of existing implementations. In a way, standardisation institutes were playing catch-up with the vendors who were introducing many features to their implementations.

ANSI X3.135 failed to standardise many popular and necessary features of the language. Though this standard provided the ability to invoke SQL capabilities from COBOL, FORTRAN, Pascal and PL/I.

Why is it significant?
Standards give both vendors and customers a well defined way to do things, but they can’t forece anybody to fully adhere to the standard. The computer industry’s focus on “openness” has led both vendors and customers to look for ways to reduce costs (both developmental and deployment costs respectively) while increasing their options in terms of the marketplace. Standards provide a path towards these goals.

By choosing to implement a software system against a standardised version of SQL, customers can have freedom of choice when it comes to vendors. Customers can choose from any vendor which implements the appropriate standard. Customers have reduced costs when it comes to portability of their applications between database offerings.

Vendors also benefit from implementing standards. By implementing a standardised version of SQL a vendor knows they can market their product to a large market of customers looking for a standardised implementation.

While this is true of standards in general, it is no less true for ANSI X3.135, despite its shortcomings. In following years, the standard was updated adding referential integrity, new data types, new supported keywords, and further language integration support.

American National Standards Institute. Retrieved on May 25, 2007 from http://www.ansi.org/.

SQL: The Standard and the Language, Jim Melton. Retrieved on May 25, 2007 from http://archive.opengroup.org/public/tech/datam/sql.htm.

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