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James Serra's Blog

James is a big data and data warehousing technology specialist at Microsoft. He is a thought leader in the use and application of Big Data technologies, including MPP solutions involving hybrid technologies of relational data, Hadoop, and private and public cloud. Previously he was an independent consultant working as a Data Warehouse/Business Intelligence architect and developer. He is a prior SQL Server MVP with over 30 years of IT experience. James is a popular blogger ( and speaker, having presented at dozens of PASS events including the PASS Business Analytics conference and the PASS Summit. He is the author of the book “Reporting with Microsoft SQL Server 2012”. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.

Data Warehouse Fast Track for SQL Server 2016

Microsoft Data Warehouse Fast Track for SQL Server 2016 is a joint effort between Microsoft and its hardware partners to deliver validated, pre-configured solutions that reduce the complexity of implementing a data warehouse on SQL Server Enterprise Edition.  The Data Warehouse Fast Track program provides flexibility of solutions and customer… Read more

4 comments, 161 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 19 October 2016

Microsoft certification changes

A recent Microsoft blog post announced that they are releasing five new Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) and Developer (MCSD) specialties.  These credentials are aligned to Centers of Excellence, used by the Microsoft Partner Network to identify technical competencies that are widely recognizable by both Microsoft partners and customers.  All… Read more

1 comments, 204 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 5 October 2016

Cortana Intelligence Solutions

Cortana Intelligence Solutions is a new tool just released in public preview that enables users to rapidly discover, easily provision, quickly experiment with, and jumpstart production grade analytical solutions using the Cortana Intelligence Suite (CIS).  It does so using preconfigured solutions, reference architectures and design patterns (I’ll just call… Read more

3 comments, 164 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 29 September 2016

Making sense of Microsoft technology

In my role as a Data Platform Solution Architect (DPSA) at Microsoft, part of my responsibility is to keep up with all the Microsoft on-prem and cloud data-related technology and trends, as well as non-Microsoft technology and trends in areas such as Hadoop and NoSQL.  I work with Microsoft clients… Read more

0 comments, 211 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 21 September 2016

The art of possible with the cloud

One thing I try to do in my role with Microsoft is to get clients to think of possible use cases for building solutions in the Azure cloud.  To set off light bulbs in their heads.  Sometimes this is accomplished by showing them demo’s of existing solutions.  It’s that old… Read more

2 comments, 184 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 8 September 2016

SQL Server 2016 real-time operational analytics

SQL Server 2016 introduces a very cool new feature called real-time operational analytics, which is the ability to run both analytics (OLAP) and OLTP workloads on the same database tables at the same time.  This allows you to eliminate the need for ETL and a data warehouse in some cases… Read more

1 comments, 216 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 24 August 2016

Azure SQL Database new performance level

A new performance level for Azure SQL Database was recently announced, called P15.  This new offering is more than two times more powerful than the next best offering, P11.  P15 offers 4000 database transaction units (DTU) where P11 offered 1750 DTU’s.  Also, the max concurrent workers and concurrent logins increased… Read more

3 comments, 328 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 17 August 2016

Azure SQL Database vs SQL Data Warehouse

I am sometimes asked to compare Azure SQL Database (SQL DB) to Azure SQL Data Warehouse (SQL DW).  The most important thing to remember is SQL DB is for OLTP (i.e. applications with individual updates, inserts, and deletes) and SQL DW is not as it’s strictly for OLAP (i.e. data… Read more

2 comments, 1,385 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 10 August 2016

What is the Lambda Architecture?

Lambda architecture is a data-processing architecture designed to handle massive quantities of data (i.e. “Big Data”) by using both batch-processing and stream-processing methods.  This idea is to balance latency, throughput, scaling, and fault-tolerance by using batch processing to provide comprehensive and accurate views of batch data, while simultaneously using real-time… Read more

2 comments, 2,154 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 5 August 2016

Multi-tenant databases in the cloud

For companies that sell an on-prem software solution and are looking to move that solution to the cloud, a challenge arises on how to architect that solution in the cloud.  For example, say you have a software solution that stores patient data for hospitals.  You sign up hospitals, install the… Read more

1 comments, 315 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 20 July 2016

Azure SQL Data Warehouse is now GA

The Azure SQL Data Warehouse (SQL DW), that I blogged about here, is now generally available.  Here is the official announcement.

In brief, SQL DW is a fully managed data-warehouse-as-a-service that you can provision in minutes and scale up in seconds.  With SQL DW, storage and compute scale… Read more

2 comments, 261 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 13 July 2016

Virtualization does not equal a private cloud

I see a lot of confusion when it comes to creating a private cloud.  Many seem to think that by virtualizing your servers in your local on-premise data center, you have created a private cloud.  But by itself, virtualization falls far short of the characteristics of a private cloud and… Read more

1 comments, 863 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 7 July 2016

Azure SQL Data Warehouse pricing

The pricing for Azure SQL Data Warehouse (SQL DW) consists of a compute charge and a storage charge.  For compute, it is not based on hardware configuration but rather by data warehouse units (DWU).  DWU can be scaled up or down via a sliding bar in just a… Read more

1 comments, 218 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 23 June 2016

SQL Server 2016 is here!

Today is the day: SQL Server 2016 is available for download!  You can download all the versions (enterprise, standard, web, express with advanced services, express, developer) of SQL Server 2016 now if you have a MSDN subscription, and you can also create an Azure VM right now that includes… Read more

1 comments, 370 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 1 June 2016

Azure Storage pricing

Azure storage is a great, inexpensive solution for storing your data in the cloud.  There are many types of Azure storage options, but I wanted to list here the pricing of the most common type: block blob.

The pricing below is based on the East US region (most other… Read more

1 comments, 355 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 25 May 2016

Migrate from on-prem SQL server to Azure VM IaaS

Hopefully you went through my presentations Should I move my database to the cloud?Introducing Azure SQL Database and Implement SQL Server on an Azure VM and are convinced to move your databases to the cloud.  If you are going to migrate to Azure SQL Database and want more… Read more

1 comments, 1,832 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 18 May 2016

Azure Speed Testing

Have you ever wondered what Azure region would be the fastest to host your applications when those applications are accessed from your office?  Obviously the closest data center would probably be the best choice (each region has multiple data centers), but how do you know what data center is the… Read more

0 comments, 1,019 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 11 May 2016

New Azure storage account type

In Azure, there previously has been only one kind of storage account, which is now called a “General Purpose” storage account.  Just introduced is a new kind of storage account, called “Cool Blob Storage”.  When creating a storage account, the “Account kind” will now list two options: the existing type… Read more

4 comments, 541 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 4 May 2016

SQL Server 2016 available June 1st!

Woo hoo!  Microsoft has announced that SQL Server 2016 will be generally available on June 1st.  On that date all four versions of SQL Server 2016 will be available to all users, including brand new ones, MSDN subscribers, and existing customers.

Here is a quick overview of the tons of… Read more

0 comments, 292 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 2 May 2016

Big Data architectures

Over the last few years I have been involved in reviewing the architectures of various companies that are building or have built big data solutions.  When I say “big data”, I’m referring to the incorporation of semi-structured data such as sensor data, device data, web logs, and social media.  The… Read more

4 comments, 2,280 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 29 April 2016

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