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SQL Azure

SQL Azure is a cloud-based service from Microsoft that uses a special version of SQL Server as its backend.  SQL Azure 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.  It is an elastic platform which provides you the means to instantly increase or decrease your server capacity.  You only pay for what you use and don’t have to estimate capacity needs and buy a reserve capacity.

SQL Azure is getting very popular, and while I think it will be a few years before many companies replace their internal data centers with it, it is a good idea to become familiar with it now.  Unfortunately it does not include SSAS yet, but does include SSRS and you can use SSIS to move data into and out of SQL Azure.  Slowing its adoption is it does not yet support all the SQL Server features such as: integrated security, SQL Server agent, transaction log backups, cross-database references, linked servers, fulltext indexes, connection pooling, multiple database collations, data compression, table partitioning, replication, mirroring.  See SQL Server Feature Limitations (SQL Azure Database) and Unsupported Transact-SQL Statements (SQL Azure Database)

It’s real simple to get to know how SQL Azure works by creating an account for free and playing with it.  Here is how to quickly start:

1) If you have an MSDN subscription, you can create a Windows Azure account for free.  To do this, login to MSDN and go to “My Account” and choose “Activate Windows Azure”.  Check out the benefits.  If you do not have MSDN, you can get a 1 month trial (no credit card required) or a 3 month trial (credit card required).

2) Watch the following short videos SQL Azure at a Glance, SQL Azure: Creating Your First Database, and Interacting with a SQL Azure Database.  Another good resource is Introduction To SQL Azure by the Microsoft Virtual Academy.

That’s it!  I spent about 30 minutes creating my account and watching those videos, and I was then able to create a server, create a database, and tinker around with creating and querying tables.  There is even a wizard to help you migrate databases from SQL Server to SQL Azure.

More info:

Windows Azure Team Blog

SQLAzure – My First Cloud

SQL Azure Tools

Dipping My Toes Into SQL Azure

Dipping My Toes Into SQL Azure – Part 2 – Protection Mechanisms

SQL Azure – why use it and what makes it different from SQL Server?

Windows Azure Learning Plan – SQL Azure

SQL Azure Performance and Elasticity Guide

Video Building Scalable Database Solutions Using Microsoft SQL Azure Database Federations

Video Go Large with SQL Azure Federations

Video Developing with SQL Azure: Tools & Frameworks In Action

Video Getting Started with Cloud Business Intelligence

Video Microsoft SQL Azure Overview: Tools,Demos and Walkthroughs of Key Features

Video Using Cloud (Microsoft SQL Azure) and PowerPivot to Deliver Data and Self-Service BI at Microsoft

Video Microsoft SQL Azure Performance Considerations and Troubleshooting

Video Using Microsoft SQL Azure with On-Premises Data: Migration and Synchronization Strategies and Practices

Video SQL Azure-Design Concepts

SQL Denali T-SQL features in SQL Azure now

Now Available: SQL Azure Q4 2011 Service Release

Migrating a SQL Server database to SQL Azure

Get Started with SQL Azure: Resources

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 (JamesSerra.com) 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.


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