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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.

Azure SQL Database pricing

Pricing Azure SQL database is difficult because various database service tier options such as database transaction units (DTU’s), max database size, disaster recovery options, and backup retention days are used to determine pricing instead of hardware (CPU/RAM/HD).  Generally I recommend starting out with a low service tier and scaling as… Read more

1 comments, 1,365 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 22 April 2016

Analytics Platform System (APS) AU5 released

The Analytics Platform System (APS), which is a renaming of the Parallel Data Warehouse (PDW), has just released an appliance update (AU5), which is sort of like a service pack, except that it includes many new features.  Below is what is new in this release:

The AU5 release… Read more

0 comments, 369 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 14 April 2016

Scaling Azure VM’s

There are so many benefits to the cloud, but one of the major features is the ease of use in scaling a virtual machine (VM).  A common scenario is when you are building an application that needs SQL Server.  Simply create a VM on the Azure portal that has SQL… Read more

1 comments, 300 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 5 April 2016

My latest presentations

I frequently present at user groups, and always try to create a brand new presentation to keep things interesting.  We all know technology changes so quickly there is no shortage of topics!  There is a list of all my presentations with slide decks and videos in some cases.  Here are… Read more

0 comments, 336 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 29 March 2016

Data loading into Azure SQL Data Warehouse

Azure SQL Data Warehouse (SQL DW) is a new platform-as-a service (PaaS) that distributes workloads across multiple compute resources, called massively parallel processing (MPP).  Loading data into a MPP data warehouse requires a different approach, or mindset, than traditional methods of loading data into a SMP data warehouse.

To help… Read more

1 comments, 330 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 23 March 2016

Microsoft Azure Government

I’m sure you are aware of Microsoft Azure, but are you aware there is special version of Azure for U.S. governments?

Microsoft Azure Government is a cloud computing service for federal, state, local and tribal U.S. governments.  It was generally available in December 2014 after a year in preview.… Read more

0 comments, 305 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 15 March 2016

SQL Server on Linux!

Looks outside: pigs are flying!

In an announcement yesterday, SQL Server will be made available on Linux.  The private preview of SQL Server on Linux is available now, and Microsoft is targeting availability in mid-2017.  Microsoft will offer both on-premises and cloud versions of the product (via Linux VMs).… Read more

1 comments, 562 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 8 March 2016

Cross-database queries in Azure SQL Database

A limitation with Azure SQL database has been its inability to do cross-database SQL queries.  This has changed with the introduction of elastic database queries, now in preview.  However, it’s not as easy as on-prem SQL Server, where you can just use the three-part name syntax DatabaseName.SchemaName.TableName.  Instead, you… Read more

9 comments, 402 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 2 March 2016

HP Superdome X for high-end OLTP/DW

No, Superdome X is not the name of the stadium where they played in the last Super Bowl.  Rather, Superdome X is HP’s top of the line server running Windows Server 2012 R2 and SQL Server 2014.  It can handle up to 288-cores and 24TB of memory!  It use the… Read more

1 comments, 953 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 24 February 2016

Azure SQL Database security

Life we be so much easier if we could just trust everyone, but since we can’t we need solid security for our databases.  Azure SQL Database has many security features to make you sleep well at night:

  • Transparent data encryption (TDE).  This encrypts your databases, associated backups, and transaction…

Read more

2 comments, 620 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 17 February 2016

Azure SQL Database monitoring

Even though an Azure SQL Database stores all data on the Azure cloud, it does not mean that your options for managing and monitoring the databases are limited compared to on-prem databases.  In fact, the options available are very similar to on-prem, including 3rd-party products that support Azure SQL databases.… Read more

0 comments, 435 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 10 February 2016

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

4 comments, 409 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, 1,416 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

1 comments, 541 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, 521 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

13 comments, 1,458 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, 324 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, 754 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, 399 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, 496 reads

Posted in James Serra's Blog on 29 September 2015

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