Kevin Remde's IT Pro Weblog
What if you could run SQL Server, and get all the power of the best data management platform, but hosted for you in “the cloud”?
“You mean like at a hosting provider?”
Something like that. Well… something and NOTHING like that. Something like that because yes, you don’t have to buy/house/power/secure/make-highly available the servers that it runs on. But NOTHING like that because you don’t even have to manage the operating system that it runs on. Nor do you have to worry about keeping the servers up-to-date with updates or upgrades. All you have to know is that you’ve got a SQL Server that is running, highly available, and can scale to be able to handle whatever throughput you can imagine you would ever need.
“Sounds great. What is it?”
SQL Azure. SQL Azure is Microsoft’s cloud based database solution built on SQL Server technologies, and a part of the Windows Azure Platform.
And it’s not just the database alone. We have something called SQL Azure Data Sync, and SQL Azure Reporting; both of which are in CTPs as of this writing.
Here are the first-paragraph descriptions from their respective home pages:
Microsoft® SQL Azure™ Database is a relational cloud database service (RDBMS) built on SQL Server® technologies. It is a highly available, scalable, multi-tenant database service hosted by Microsoft in the cloud. SQL Azure Database helps to ease provisioning and deployment of multiple databases. Developers do not have to install, setup, patch or manage any software, as all that is taken care of by Microsoft with this platform as a service (PAAS). High availability and fault tolerance is built-in and no physical administration is required. Microsoft® SQL Azure Data Sync, currently in CTP (Community Technology Preview) is a cloud-based data synchronization service built on Microsoft Sync Framework technologies. It provides bi-directional data synchronization and data management capabilities allowing data to be easily shared between multiple SQL Azure databases and between on-premises and SQL Azure databases. Microsoft SQL Azure Reporting lets you use the familiar on-premises tools you’re comfortable with to develop and deploy operational reports to the cloud. There’s no need to manage or maintain a separate reporting infrastructure, which leads to the added benefit of lower costs (and less complexity). Your customers can easily access the reports from the Windows SQL Azure portal, through a web browser, or directly from your applications.
Microsoft® SQL Azure™ Database is a relational cloud database service (RDBMS) built on SQL Server® technologies. It is a highly available, scalable, multi-tenant database service hosted by Microsoft in the cloud. SQL Azure Database helps to ease provisioning and deployment of multiple databases. Developers do not have to install, setup, patch or manage any software, as all that is taken care of by Microsoft with this platform as a service (PAAS). High availability and fault tolerance is built-in and no physical administration is required.
Microsoft® SQL Azure Data Sync, currently in CTP (Community Technology Preview) is a cloud-based data synchronization service built on Microsoft Sync Framework technologies. It provides bi-directional data synchronization and data management capabilities allowing data to be easily shared between multiple SQL Azure databases and between on-premises and SQL Azure databases.
Microsoft SQL Azure Reporting lets you use the familiar on-premises tools you’re comfortable with to develop and deploy operational reports to the cloud. There’s no need to manage or maintain a separate reporting infrastructure, which leads to the added benefit of lower costs (and less complexity). Your customers can easily access the reports from the Windows SQL Azure portal, through a web browser, or directly from your applications.
“Can my databases can be as big as I want?”
No. There are sizes that you can purchase, and you can move between purchased size limits if needed, but you do have a limit on the size of a single database based on what you’ve purchased. Currently the largest a single database can be is is 50GB. If you need more space, you’ll use multiple databases.
“What about backups. Do I still need to do backups?”
Well.. in a word, yes. But it all depends on what you need those backups for. If you were doing mirroring for high availability – don’t worry about that. SQL Azure data is already redundantly stored for you. But if you need to keep an archive to be able to recover to a previous point in time; in case something changes that shouldn’t have- or in case perhaps you need to search old data for some kind of legal or compliance discovery process, then absolutely you need to do some kind of backup. To my knowledge SQL Azure doesn’t have a native tool for doing that kind of rich archival for you; however, there are tools out there that will help. And you do have the ability to easily make copies of your SQL Azure databases in the cloud.
Back on March 16 I had the pleasure of chatting with Tharun Tharian on an IT Manager Talk webcast. Tharun is a Sr. Product Manager for SQL Azure and Middleware. I recommend you give it a listen if you’d like a good overview of how the cloud and SQL Azure as a cloud-based solution might make sense for your business.
And here are some more good sources of information about SQL Azure:
At MMS this year Microsoft made some big announcements that relate to how you will better be able to manage your cloud. Check back tomorrow for details in Part 8.
Disclaimer: Although I work for Microsoft, I don’t have to always agree with what other parts of the company are doing.
Okay.. proper disclaimer out of the way. Now…
“Uh oh.. you gonna get yourself fired, Kevin?”
Well.. if a person can get fired from a company for what I’m about to say, then I didn’t want to work for that company anyway.
Here’s the thing. When I first saw Microsoft’s “To the cloud!” commercials, I liked them. I thought they were cute. And I always like seeing us spend more money on getting the word about about the amazing things we do and products we offer. For too long we’ve kept too quiet on too many things, so I love it (both as an employee and as a stockholder) that we’re finally finding our voice. But…
“Here it comes.”
…after talking to many people about them, I think that those commercials are just causing more confusion than anything else. If people have to ask me, “Hey Kevin.. what are those commercials really about?”, then apparently we missed some mark somewhere. And these people were other IT Pros! My mother-in-law certainly doesn’t understand it. (No offense, Mom. But let’s be real… My Wife, let alone her Mother, doesn’t read this blog.)
Now… I still think that, knowing what I do about the products showcased (like the Windows LIve Photo Gallery example below), I do love that we’re promoting it. But I just wish we had done it in a way that doesn’t confuse the ordinary person.
“But.. isn’t it all about awareness?”
Bingo. It is. As I understand it (and if you’re in Microsoft Marketing, please set me straight if I’m wrong), even if people never cared about what “the cloud” was before.. now they have it in their heads that it’s something important. And they learn that Microsoft has free tools that use it. And if they at least recognize that, then perhaps they’ll investigate further. And if they investigate further, then maybe when they (or their kids) go to college they’ll consider going into Computer Science and know in the back of their brains that Microsoft = “the cloud”. And eventually they can have a cool job like Kevin does.
Okay… Maybe that’s just my theory, but I’m going with that. Obviously there is a reason I’m not in Marketing.
Just for extra-credit fun, check out what the web-tubes are saying about the commercials:
Offended yet? Then perhaps you’ll enjoy part 6 tomorrow. You won’t want to PAAS it up. Get it?
(Note to self: Don’t ever do an image search on the word “Sassy” ever again. Ever.)
In part 3 you’ll recall that we outlined three delivery methods for Cloud-based services: IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS. Today we’re going to go a little deeper into SaaS.
“But Kevin.. I already know what it is.”
Bear with me. Even though people are buying (or using for free) services from Microsoft and others, I just wanted to take a minute to list out some of my favorites. It’s often surprising to see how many services Microsoft provides.. and how long some of them have been around!
For “consumers” (a term that Microsoft uses to refer to us plain ordinary folks at home – pretty much anybody who is not in a “business”), I’m sure you recognize some of these:
These are brands we know and (hopefully) love. Some of them have been around for quite awhile. So, does Microsoft know how to support, and have experience supporting massive scale online?
Not fully convinced? Okay.. then lets take a look at how we support businesses with Software as a Service:
Office365 is the next version of what is now our Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), improved to include the latest versions of Microsoft Exchange email, SharePoint Server 2010, Lync 2010 (for communications and presence). And it now includes an option to license the full Office 2010 Professional Plus suite of applications for the desktop. I’ll go into more specific detail about Office365 in another article in this series.
“Yeah.. that’s better.”
One more thing… Microsoft continues to work under the mantra “Three-screens-and-a-cloud”, meaning we want your experience to be seamless, integrated, and enjoyable however you want it; whatever device you’re using. On your phone. On your PC. On your TV. All smartly integrated and accessible because we support connectivity anywhere, using “the cloud” to make it happen.
For example: I take a photo of you on my Windows Phone. Because I’ve set my phone up with my LiveID account, it knows how to access and use my Windows Live SkyDrive account, and automagically uploads the photo there for me.
Another example: I use MediaCenter on Windows 7 to record my favorite TV shows during the week. I use the Zune software to sync them to my ZuneHD, and watch them while I’m working out at the gym. I can just as easily put them on my phone.
Yet another personal example: I have a ZunePass, so when I’m rehearsing with my band, and we start throwing out ideas of songs we might want to learn, I can easily search for and play the entire song right from my phone, right then and there.
Still yet another example: I love the free Windows Live Essentials applications; especially Live Photo Gallery. As the unofficial family photographer and digital historian, I have thousands of family photos all tagged and organized using noting more than that awesome, FREE tool, which also syncs to SkyDrive or Facebook or Flickr accounts.
“Isn’t that the one that Microsoft shows off in one of those strange ‘To the cloud!’ commercials?”
Um.. yeah. More about that tomorrow. But do you want to know what the biggest, most important, and yet least-thought-about free software service is?
“Sure.. what is it?”
It’s Windows Update. Think about it. Millions of computers all getting updates (it could happen!) from Microsoft on the 2nd Tuesday of the month. Can you even fathom the amount of scale and reliability required to pull that off? It’s mind-blowing.
Hey.. just thought of another example: I play XBOX Live games on my phone now. I get gamer achievements, too.
“Okay already! Enough examples! I get it. Microsoft has some great services.”
You’re welcome. What’s your favorite? Tell us in the comments.
Check back for Part 5 tomorrow. I’m going to trash those stupid “to the cloud!” commercials.
Just last week (March 29) I had the pleasure of speaking to Chris Van Wesep. Chris is a Group Product Manager in the Management & Security Product Group, and as such he is a key person at Microsoft responsible for many of the System Center management tools and vision. As you may be aware, much of the news coming out of Microsoft at the Microsoft Management Summit (MMS) 2011 was cloud-related.
“Really? No.. I hadn’t noticed.”
(Seriously? My other voice can actually get sarcastic? I need help.)
Anyway, I really enjoyed my chat with Chris and a couple of additional Program Managers. They filled me in on the details around SCVMM 2012, and the other new and exciting additions to the System Center suite.
Check out this recorded session here.
And if you’re interested in the other recordings or scheduled events in the series, here is the series page. Plus.. here are the feeds for subscribing to all of our IT Manager Chats, just in case you want to use your Zune or iTunes software:
WMA | MP3
Greetings! Welcome to my 31-part series of articles all about this thing called “the cloud”.
“Seriously, Kevin? Is this some warped April-Fools joke? Haven’t we heard enough about ‘the cloud’?”
I’m going to answer that question with another question: What have you heard?
“It means something I use is hosted somewhere else. But honestly… every company out there has added the word ‘cloud’ to their products just to get people interested.”
Yeah.. that’s what I thought. Your answer is typical of what many IT Pros and IT and business managers believe. They understand that it’s something important. They know it has to do with services or platforms or infrastructures that are delivered in a different (external? hosted? measured?) way. An overwhelming majority of companies are looking to use or expand their use of hosted services. Many are considering how to deliver IT as services to their business units, rather than just adding servers. Massive Virtualization alone is good, but not sufficient to gain and support the kinds of scale that a well-designed, self-healing, self-provisioning, measured service can provide.
“So we buy a new product that has the word ‘cloud’ slapped on the label?”
I wish it were that simple. (But in some cases, it just might be!)
“And so you’re going to be blogging this month about all that ‘the cloud’ is?”
You obviously read the subject line. Yes, indeed! What I am going to do is give you one-article-per-day for the month of April; each pertaining to some aspect of cloud computing; whether it’s pointers to great resources, commentary on cloud-as-it-relates-to-IT, how IT is being transformed (and probably your job as well), or just my own ramblings and $.02 opinions. I promise you will be informed, entertained (hopefully), and encouraged to consider new ways to improve your skills, your IT infrastructure, and your businesses.
April showers? Perhaps. My hope is that the clouds I bring you will not deliver rain, but will help the flowering of new IT insights and possibilities bloom and flourish.
“Gee, Kevin…That was beautiful. Poetic, even.”
Sorry. It won’t happen again.
Check back tomorrow for part 2. We’re going to address right off the bat the 100lb gorilla in the room: The Cloud Ate My Job!