SQL has been singularly successful in its impact on the database industry. Nothing has come remotely close to its ubiquity. Its success comes from its high-level use of relational algebra allowing set-oriented operations on data shaped as rows, columns, cells, and tables.
SQL's impact can be seen in two broad areas. First, the programmer can accomplish a lot very easily with set-oriented operations. Second, the high-level expression of the programmer's intent has empowered huge performance gains.
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