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James Serra's Blog

James is currently a Senior Business Intelligence Architect/Developer and has over 20 years of IT experience. James started his career as a software developer, then became a DBA 12 years ago, and for the last five years he has been working extensively with Business Intelligence using the SQL Server BI stack (SSAS, SSRS, and SSIS). James has been at times a permanent employee, consultant, contractor, and owner of his own business. All these experiences along with continuous learning has helped James to develop many successful data warehouse and BI projects. James has earned the MCITP Business Developer 2008, MCITP Database Administrator 2008, and MCITP Database Developer 2008, and has a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Engineering. His blog is at .

Scaling Azure SQL Database

One of the advantages Azure SQL Database has over on-prem SQL Server is the ease in which it can scale.  I’ll discuss the various options for horizontal scaling, vertical scaling, and other similar features.

Horizontal scaling refers to adding or removing databases in order to adjust capacity or overall performance.… Read more

2 comments, 137 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 3 February 2016

Microsoft Azure Stack in Preview!

Microsoft made available the first technical preview of its new Microsoft Azure Stack offering today.  It was announced last week.  Azure Stack brings the cloud model of computing to every datacenter – your own private cloud.  Azure Stack is a new hybrid cloud platform product that enables organizations to… Read more

0 comments, 133 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 1 February 2016

Migrate from on-prem SQL server to Azure SQL Database

This blog describes the various approaches you can use to migrate an on-premises SQL Server database to Azure SQL Database.

In this migration process you migrate both your schema and your data from the SQL Server database in your current environment into SQL Database, provided the existing database passes… Read more

0 comments, 165 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 27 January 2016

HA/DR for Azure SQL Database

Azure SQL Database is a relational database-as-a-service in the cloud.  It uses a special version of Microsoft SQL Server as its backend that is nearly identical to SQL Server (see Azure SQL Database Transact-SQL differences).  While there are many benefits to using SQL Database over SQL Server, in this… Read more

0 comments, 282 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 20 January 2016

Why use a data lake?

Previously I covered what a data lake is (including the Azure Data Lake and enhancements), and now I wanted to touch on the main reason why you might want to incorporate a data lake into your overall data warehouse solution.

To refresh, a data lake is a landing zone,… Read more

7 comments, 1,003 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 29 December 2015

Storage options on Azure

Microsoft Azure is a cloud computing platform and infrastructure, created by Microsoft, for building, deploying and managing applications and services through a global network of Microsoft-managed and Microsoft partner-hosted datacenters.  Included in this platform are multiple ways of storing data.  Below I will give a brief overview of each so… Read more

1 comments, 166 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 1 December 2015

Redundancy Options in Azure Blob Storage

So you have data in Azure Blob Storage and are concerned about reliability.  Have no fear!  There are four replication options for redundancy:

1. Locally Redundant Storage (LRS): All data in the storage account is made highly durable and available within a facility/datacenter by replicating transactions synchronously to three different… Read more

1 comments, 536 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 5 November 2015

Copying data from Azure Blob Storage

In a previous blog I talked about copying on-prem data to Azure Blob Storage (Getting data into Azure Blob Storage).  Let’s say you have copied the data and it is sitting in Azure Blob Storage (or an Azure Data Lake) and you now want to copy it… Read more

0 comments, 223 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 15 October 2015

Azure Data Lake enhancements

I first blogged about Microsoft’s new product, the Azure Data Lake, a few months back (here).  There are already enhancements, as announced at Stata + Hadoop World.  Here they are in brief:

  • The Azure Data Lake has been renamed to the Azure Data Lake Store.  The…

Read more

2 comments, 269 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 29 September 2015

Getting data into Azure Blob Storage

If you have on-prem data and want to copy it to Azure Blob Storage in the cloud, what are all the possible ways to do it?  There are many, and here is a quick review of them:

AzCopy: A popular command-line utility designed for high-performance uploading, downloading, and copying… Read more

2 comments, 289 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 17 September 2015

Relational databases vs Non-relational databases

I see a lot of confusion about the place and purpose of the many new database solutions (“NoSQL databases”) compared to the relational databases solutions that have been around for many years.  So let me try to explain the differences and best use cases for each.

First lets clarify these… Read more

5 comments, 447 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 27 August 2015

Hadoop and Microsoft

In my Introduction to Hadoop I talked about the basics of Hadoop.  In this post, I wanted to cover some of the more common Hadoop technologies and tools and show how they work together, in addition to showing how they work well with Microsoft technologies and tools.  So you don’t… Read more

2 comments, 1,719 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 12 August 2015

Analytics Platform System (APS) AU4 released

The Analytics Platform System (APS), which is a renaming of the Parallel Data Warehouse (PDW), has just released an appliance update (AU4), which is sort of like a service pack, except that it includes many new features.  Below is what is new in this release:

AU4 continues to… Read more

0 comments, 356 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 6 August 2015

Cortana Analytics Suite

Yesterday at the Microsoft World Wide Partner Conference in Orlando Microsoft announced the Cortana Analytics Suite, which is a new package of data storage, information management, machine learning, and business intelligence software in a single convenient monthly subscription.  Microsoft’s Cortana personal digital assistant, until now available to consumers on mobile… Read more

1 comments, 405 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 14 July 2015

Microsoft Azure Data Catalog

Just announced is the Microsoft Azure Data Catalog, which is an enterprise metadata catalog / portal for the self-service discovery of data sources.  It becomes available on Monday next week, July 13, 2015.  Check out this short video on it.  My response to this is – woo hoo!  I have… Read more

0 comments, 440 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 10 July 2015

What is Polyglot Persistence?

Polyglot Persistence is a fancy term to mean that when storing data, it is best to use multiple data storage technologies, chosen based upon the way data is being used by individual applications or components of a single application.  Different kinds of data are best dealt with different data stores.… Read more

5 comments, 626 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 1 July 2015

What is Microsoft Azure Stream Analytics?

Microsoft Azure Stream Analytics (ASA) is a fully managed cloud service for real-time processing of streaming data.  ASA makes it easy to set up real-time analytic computations on data flowing in from devices, sensors, web sites, applications and infrastructure systems.  It supports a powerful high-level SQL-like language that dramatically simplifies… Read more

0 comments, 389 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 3 June 2015

How an MPP appliance solution can improve your future

Massive parallel processing (MPP) is the future for data warehousing.

So what is MPP?  SQL Server is a Symmetric Multiprocessing (SMP) solution, which essentially means it uses one server.  MPP provides scalability and query performance by running independent servers in parallel.  That is the quick definition.  For more… Read more

4 comments, 355 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 27 May 2015

SQL Server 2016 public preview arriving this summer

SQL Server 2016 was recently announced.  Top new features include:

  • Always Encrypted protects data at rest and in motion.  With Always Encrypted, SQL Server can perform operations on encrypted data and best of all, the encryption key resides with the application in the customers trusted environment.  Encryption and decryption of…

Read more

1 comments, 370 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 20 May 2015

Azure Data Lake

At the recent Microsoft Build Developer Conference, Executive Vice President Scott Guthrie announced the Azure Data Lake.  It is a new flavor of Azure Storage which can handle streaming data (low latency, high volume, short updates), is geo-distributed, data-locality aware and allows individual files to be sized at… Read more

10 comments, 565 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 13 May 2015

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