I saw a post the other day that you should definitely go check out. It’s a cost/benefit decision, and although the author gives it a quick treatment and doesn’t take all points in the decision into account, you should focus on the process he follows. It’s a quick and simple example of the kind of thought process we should have as data professionals when we pick a server, a process, or application and even platform software.
The key is to include more than just the price of a piece of software or hardware. You need to think about the “other” costs in the decision, and then make the right one. Sometimes the cheapest option is the cheapest, and other times, well, it isn’t. I’ve seen this played out not only in the decision to go with a certain selection, but in the options or editions it comes in. You have to put all of the decision points in the analysis to come up with the right answer, and you have to be able to explain your logic to your team and your company. This is the way you become a data professional, not just a DBA.
You can check out the post here – it deals with Azure, but the point is the process, not Azure itself: http://blogs.msdn.com/eugeniop/archive/2010/03/19/windows-azure-guidance-a-simplistic-economic-analysis-of-a-expense-migration.aspx
OK, sort of.
I've been a fan of the Economist magazine since a friend of mine in Florida introduced me to it years ago. Imagine my shock when I check out the latest issue and find a story about - Big Data! This is the kind of thing we think about all the time in the SQL Server group here at Microsoft. Then when I read the article, I find this stunning bit of information: did you know that Wal-Mart handles more than 1m customer transactions every hour, feeding databases at more than 2.5 petabytes – the equivalent of 167 times the books in Americ’s Library of Congress?
And Wal-Mart uses SQL Server. And SQL Server 2008, no less - with Policy Based Management at the forefront of helping them track this all. Also, if you read the article, you'll see that Craig Mundie (Microsoft) and Eric Schmidt (yeah, the boss of Google) both sit on a presidential task force dealing with health care data.
This is heady stuff. Sometimes I get asked if SQL Server can scale, if it's really different than it used to be - and since I live and breathe the database world, I'm surprised by the question. But when I think how quickly we've moved into the upper tiers of the enterprise, I'm not as surprised.
Definitely check out the article here: http://www.economist.com/specialreports/displayStory.cfm?story_id=15557443. For more about a REALLY big SQL Server, check this out: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa226316%28SQL.70%29.aspx. and Gizmodo (a must-follow blog) has a good story on Pivot (hit the link if you don't know what that is) here: http://gizmodo.com/5488641/, Awesome.
There has been a lot of buzz lately about "the
cloud" and what it means for IT, and the organizations they serve. I
just finished watching Steve Ballmer deliver Microsoft's vision for the cloud,
wondering if it would be different than the offerings of other firms. It feels
like it is different. So what is that
strategy, and more importantly, what does that mean to the data professional?
First, let's recap what Steve mentioned for
Microsoft's strategy. The word "cloud" can mean a lot of things, from
hosting data (often called "somebody else's hard drives) to running
software where the user logs into an application hosted on a web server somewhere
(called Software as a Service, or SaaS). Microsoft actually has both. In fact,
we've had things like Hotmail (which is a service) and the various Live
offerings for quite some time. And we've had XBox Live, which is a hosted
environment that is kind of a hybrid - there's a "fat" or hardware
client that talks to the main server out on the web. There's also an offering
of a complete Microsoft Office, SharePoint services and even LiveMeeting in the
cloud - nothing to install, runs on lots of platforms, and more (details here).
But there's something new. Microsoft has two new
offerings, called Azure, and SQL Azure. Azure is more of a programming platform
that can host data, and SQL Azure is SQL Server in the cloud. But SQL Azure
isn't just a server you rent - we actually maintain the systems, handle the
optimizations and so on. You create databases and database objects. You can
take the data from SQL Azure and send it to a local SQL Server, and vice-versa.
There's also the ability (through something called Sync Services) to replicate
data between the two.
So how does the Data Professional meld in the
"cloud" to our day-to-day systems? How do we use Microsoft's strategy
in our own strategies? I've seen a couple of interesting uses so far from those
that are trying it out:
Start, Back-End Archive: In this
mode, companies spin up an application quickly (with no server build) into
Azure, backed by SQL Azure. They are able to quickly deploy the app, and if it
grows they can bring that data in-house or even bring a subset of that data
locally for reporting, keeping a smaller data-set up in SQL Azure.
There, Stay There: Some of the
companies I've seen are taking the application ideas and starting them in SQL
Azure or Azure (or both). No capital expense, no hardware purchases, no
installs, nothing to deploy. When the app is developed, you just point your
clients there and off they go. It's a pay-as-you-use system, so the costs mimic
There, Come Here: In other cases,
organizations want to start projects quicker than they can get hardware and
software installed. So they follow the previous process, and then bring the
code and the database in-house when they are ready.
There are other strategies, such as using the cloud
as part of High Availability/Disaster Recovery or a remote-office access system
and so on, but whatever your reasons, you need to spend a little time getting
familiar with the cloud - and Azure and SQL Azure should be high on your
research list. Here's some places to get started:
Azure Overview: http://tinyurl.com/y8s52vh
Windows Azure Training Kit: http://tinyurl.com/5vrt7q
Writing a Azure Program in 5 steps: http://tinyurl.com/ye6chog
Azure Data Sync: http://tinyurl.com/ylsykfb
Future of programming with Azure Video: http://tinyurl.com/ykqsbsf
Reference list for Windows Azure: http://tinyurl.com/yze9azr