At this point there should be no question that Microsoft is fully embracing the cloud. Windows Azure and SQL Azure launched earlier this year and have been receiving positive feedback. I’ve been happily using SQL Azure for several months. One of the great aspects of SQL Azure is the integration with the standard tooling, e.g. SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS). This is sort of like how I can connect Outlook to my personal e-mail account with my service provider.
However, I‘m not always on a machine with Outlook or with Outlook configured for my mail account. In these cases I opt for the browser email client provided by my service provider. Up until last week the only option provided by Microsoft for using SQL Azure was SSMS. If you didn’t already have SSMS you could download and install it, which isn’t always a practical solution. You’ll notice I said up until last week. Last week we announced a Community Technology Preview (CTP) for Project Houston. In short, Houston is a Silverlight client for managing your SQL Azure database, developed by none other than my team
Mary-Jo Foley recently wrote about Project Houston: http://www.zdnet.com/blog/microsoft/microsoft-delivers-test-build-of-tool-for-cloud-database-development/6910
In addition, a simple Twitter search on the tag #SQLHouston will yield a plethora of results. We’re also tweeting about it under the user name @SQLHouston.
You can access the CTP of Project Houston @ https://manage.sqlazurelabs.com/ and be sure to send us your feedback and suggestions. You can learn more about Project Houston and how to send us your feedback here: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/sqlazure/archive/2010/07/26/10042571.aspx
Most of us have some help we can provide back to the community. Even if you're new, you can write down some of the things you've learned. And there are several easy ways to to that - you can certainly jump in on the forums (http://social.msdn.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/category/sqlserver/) and answer any questions you know the answer for and you can even participate by helping to write a form of documentation - did you know we run a Wiki, where you can edit the documentation? Check it out here: http://social.technet.microsoft.com/wiki/
So take some time, peruse those resources, and write something up. We learn best when we teach others, so don't think that you can't give back - you can!
The SQL Server Best Practices Analyzer (BPA) came out for SQL Server 2008 R2 recently, and I’ve been asked what the difference is between the BPA and Policy Based Management (PBM) that was introduced in SQL Server 2008.
While it’s true both of these tools can do similar things, each has strengths and weaknesses. The Best Practices Analyzer has a long history, and has various “rules” that compare settings on a server and provide guidance through some very nice reports. Many of these rules became Policies in SQL Server 2008. The BPA requires a separate install, PBM is installed with SQL Server 2008, and the reports are something you would have to create yourself. PBM can be run on a schedule, from a SQL Server Agent Job step or inside PowerShell, and BPA doesn’t do that out of the box. PBM also has a “SQL” task where you can define whatever you would like, BPA doesn’t have that capability in exactly that same way.
Probably the biggest difference between the two tools, however, is that PBM can be set (under certain circumstances) to prevent an action from being taken. For instance, you can actually stop a developer from naming a database object in a certain way. Again, there are restrictions on this feature, but you can use it from time to time.
So which is better? Neither! Both have their uses, and in fact I use them both. One of the greatest strengths of Microsoft products is that you can usually do the same task in multiple ways. Of course, it’s one of our great weaknesses as well!
So as usual, the answer is “it depends”. You should learn more about both, and figure out what works best for you.
Today I'm here in Washington DC, demo-ing in Bob Muglia's keynote at our Worldwide Partner Conference. This time, I'm showing something quite new - not just a new product, but a new concept in data - Microsoft's premium information marketplace codenamed "Dallas."
"Dallas" may be better known as a village of 200 or so people in northern Scotland, but now it has a new claim to fame. "Dallas" is a place where developers on any platform as well as information workers can find data from commercial content providers as well as public domain data. They can consume this data and construct new BI scenarios and new apps…
To illustrate how easy it will be for ISVs to integrate this content into their apps and to showcase a BI scenario, in the keynote demo I'll be using United Nations data from "Dallas" integrated in an early build of Tableau Software's solution to create a visualization answering study abroad trends around the world. This took only a few minutes to create using "Dallas" and Tableau Public.
To break down the demo, here are the three key pillars behind this scenario:
Discover Data of All TypesMicrosoft Codename "Dallas" makes data very easy to find and consume. The vision is to be able to post and access any data set, including rich metadata, using a common format.
Explore and ConsumeUsing Tableau and "Dallas" together means you can explore any data set simply by dragging and dropping fields to visualize it. This is a very powerful idea: anyone can easily explore and understand data without doing any programming.
Publish and ShareOnce you've found a story in your data you want to share it... Using Tableau Public you can embed a live visualization in your blog, just like the one above.
"Dallas" creates a lot of opportunities for a company like Tableau. It makes it possible for bloggers, interested citizens and journalists to more easily find public data and tell important stories, creating a true information democracy. "Dallas" also makes it easier for Tableau's corporate customers to find relevant data to mash up with their own company data, making Tableau's corporate tools that much more compelling.
For more information on how you can be a provider or how an ISV can plug into the Dallas partnership opportunities, send mail to DallasBD@Microsoft.com.
I’ve been using SQL Azure for several months now both for messing around (kicking the tires if you will) and for hosting a real database. I have a database with research data running in SQL Azure and I use Excel to connect to the database. I even share this out with others on my team. It works great and I don’t have to worry about back-ups, patching, up-time, etc.
I bet your sitting there thinking you should try out this cloud database stuff but you’re not sure where or how to get started, am I close? I have some good news for you, we recently published a getting started guide for SQL Azure. You can download it here. The guide provides step-by-step instructions, with pictures, for setting up your Windows Azure Platform subscription and configuring your SQL Azure environment.
Be sure to read carefully the section regarding firewall settings. I got hung up on this and it took me a little while to get it properly configured; your internal and external IP Addresses may be different. The “Add Firewall Rule” window will show you your external IP address. This is the one you want to use when enabling an IP range, not your internal IP Address.
The guide also contains links to more information on developing and deploying databases on SQL Azure, managing databases and logins, and a Transact-SQL reference – remember SQL Azure is a subset of the full Transact-SQL query language.
We’re working on a Silverlight-based database management tool for SQL Azure under the code name “Houston”. You can read and see more here. In the meantime you’ll want to download SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) from here for an interactive experience. For more information on which tools support SQL Azure check out the SQL Azure team’s blog here.
Getting started with SQL Azure is fast and easy. You’ll be up and running faster than you can say “now which folder did I download SQL Server to?”
One of the great things about using SQL Server is the amount of resources you can find for it. One of those resources is the Developer's Training Kit - and there's a new version of it that you can download and learn from. This kit is full of videos, demonstrations, labs and sample code that you can use to get up and running with the latest version of SQL Server.
This isn't just for the developer, however. Whether you're a Database Administrator, Database Developer or Business Intelligence Professional, you'll find something new to learn and try out in this kit. The best part? It's free!