System Views

Robert Sheldon has an introductory-level article on the various system views available within SQL Server:

System views are divided into categories that each serve a specific purpose. The most extensive category is the one that contains catalog views. Catalog views let you retrieve information about a wide range of system and database components—from table columns and data types to server-wide configurations.

Information schema views are similar to some of the catalog views in that they provide access to metadata that describes database objects such as tables, columns, domains, and check constraints. However, information schema views conform to the ANSI standard, whereas catalog views are specific to SQL Server.

In contrast to either of these types of views, dynamic management views return server state data that can be used to monitor and fine-tune a SQL Server instance and its databases. Like catalog views, dynamic management views are specific to SQL Server.

One of the best things the authors of SQL did was require that metadata management be in the same language:  you write SQL code to query metadata the same as if it were normal data.

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