MS SQL Server from Perl in Linux


Let’s jot down some notes on accessing MS SQL Server from Perl in Linux.

As I often find when I have to deal with Microsoft stuff, there’s a lot around but it always leaves me with doubts and gray areas. This time it was connecting to SQL Server from Perl in Linux.

The way to go is to use ODBC. In the distribution that I use, it means unixODBC, which is available as a package.

The real way from our code to the server, though, is a bit longer; I hope I’m getting the terminology right:

      [Our Perl code]
       [ODBC Driver]
       [SQL Server]

Well, I’m not that sure about the [unixODBC] layer but whatever.

The most popular ODBC Driver for connecting to SQL Server seems to be the stuff from easysoft. As much as I can appreciate their wide range of documentation, I’m not really thrilled about paying to play with the driver beyond the 14 days trial period. In 2023, this also somehow smells old.

I’m pretty happy to pay for support of stuff that goes in production, I just think that development & test environments should come for free as in beer.

On the other hand, Microsoft themselves have a driver that can be installed free of charge, available here. I tried the instructions for Alpine Linux and the installation worked fine (in a Docker container running version 3.16); it also ended up installing unixODBC along the way.

After the installation, I run the following command to see what was seen as available:

$ odbcinst -q -d
[ODBC Driver 18 for SQL Server]

The string with brackets can then be used as the Driver when connecting with DBI (with DBD::ODBC), we just have to change the brackets into curly braces.

CAVEAT: the Perl code below is untested because I don’t have a SQL Server instance at hand right now. I hope I remembered well, though.

#!/usr/bin/env perl
use v5.24;
use warnings;
use experimental 'signatures';

use DBI;

my %connect_config = (
   Driver                 => '{ODBC Driver 18 for SQL Server}',
   Database               => $ENV{DATABASE},
   UID                    => $ENV{USERNAME},
   PWD                    => $ENV{PASSWORD},
   Server                 => $ENV{HOST},
   Encrypt                => $ENV{ENCRYPT},                       # Yes/No
   TrustServerCertificate => $ENV{TRUST_CRT},                     # Yes/No
my $dbh = DBI->connect(dbi_string(ODBC => %connect_config), '', '',
   { AutoCommit => 0, RaiseError => 1, PrintError => 1 });

for my $tov (@ARGV) {
   my $quoted = $dbh->quote_identifier($tov);
   my ($count) = $dbh->selectrow_array("SELECT COUNT(*) FROM $quoted");
   say "$tov: $count";


sub dbi_string ($dbd, @pairs) {
   my @joined_pairs;
   while (@pairs) {
      my ($key, $value) = splice @pairs, 0, 2;
      push @joined_pairs, "$key=$value" if defined $value;
   return join ':', dbi => $dbd, join ';', @joined_pairs;

So there you go, until it’s actually tested this is at least a good and complete starting point.

Stay safe!

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