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The strengths of SQL provide benefits for all types of users, including application programmers, database administrators, managers, and end users. Technically speaking, SQL is a data sublanguage. The purpose of SQL is to provide an interface to a relational database such as Oracle Database, and all SQL statements are instructions to the database. In this SQL differs from general-purpose programming languages like C and BASIC. Among the features of SQL are the following:

It processes sets of data as groups rather than as individual units.

It provides automatic navigation to the data.

It uses statements that are complex and powerful individually, and that therefore stand alone. Flow-control statements were not part of SQL originally, but they are found in the recently accepted optional part of SQL, ISO/IEC 9075-5: 1996. Flow-control statements are commonly known as "persistent stored modules" (PSM), and the PL/SQL extension to Oracle SQL is similar to PSM.

SQL lets you work with data at the logical level. You need to be concerned with the implementation details only when you want to manipulate the data. For example, to retrieve a set of rows from a table, you define a condition used to filter the rows. All rows satisfying the condition are retrieved in a single step and can be passed as a unit to the user, to another SQL statement, or to an application. You need not deal with the rows one by one, nor do you have to worry about how they are physically stored or retrieved. All SQL statements use the optimizer, a part of Oracle Database that determines the most efficient means of accessing the specified data. Oracle also provides techniques that you can use to make the optimizer perform its job better.

SQL provides statements for a variety of tasks, including:

Querying data

Inserting, updating, and deleting rows in a table

Creating, replacing, altering, and dropping objects

Controlling access to the database and its objects

Guaranteeing database consistency and integrity

SQL unifies all of the preceding tasks in one consistent language.

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