Getting started with SQL Azure

  • Comments posted to this topic are about the item Getting started with SQL Azure


  • Many thanks Jacob for taking the trouble to post this;

    I had been wondering about Azure, and now have much more confidence to step into a trial of it.

    About pricing: this link[/url] shows how it works both during CTP and commercially.

    kind regards


  • How do we think the Cloud will affect the 'employability' of the DBA?

    Do we think it will reduce the amount of DBA jobs available? (as a results of adavantage 'Free from administrative headaches?')

    does the cloud mean and end to the DBAs Job?


  • You beat me to the punch, and nicely I might add. Not finding ANYTHING on this subject, I just submitted an intro article on SQL Azure to SSC. I didn't know about these other clients, so thanks for letting me know!

  • Thanks for a insightful, informative primer on Azure!

    There's no such thing as dumb questions, only poorly thought-out answers...
  • Jacob and others,

    I may be a neophyte, but I am curious as to what you and others believe the Azure environment will provide over an existing IIS and web based applications...I don't see the return on investment in the model....Hence, can you expound on why an organization would buy azure space versus the traditional IIS and browser based applications? Thanks.

  • bwieland (10/22/2009)

    Jacob and others,

    I may be a neophyte, but I am curious as to what you and others believe the Azure environment will provide over an existing IIS and web based applications...I don't see the return on investment in the model....Hence, can you expound on why an organization would buy azure space versus the traditional IIS and browser based applications? Thanks.

    I'm no expert in SQL Azure, I haven't even had my invitation code yet, also I'm not sure on what the pricing model will be once the CTP is over so this is all speculative, but for us there could be a number of possibilities.

    We're never going to be able to get directors to buy in to putting sensitive or critical data out in the cloud straight away, but there are a few database candidates here where it could work out a lot more cost effective to farm them out to the cloud.

    One example: We sell insurance, and the majority of our retail business comes via the web. Our main site relies on a tiny SQL database that just contains 'reference data', like drop downs, up to date motor info etc. Nothing sensitive, risk info etc all goes elsewhere via other web services. But if that database wasn't available the site wouldn't work and we'd lose a lot of business. It costs to have the high availability clusters and the DR redundant hardware and data centres that it takes to keep that one database online 24/7 come hell or high water, and I wonder what the cost difference will be in hosting that on Azure?

    EDIT: typo

    [font="Tahoma"]I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by. -Douglas Adams[/font]

  • Rob Goddard (10/22/2009)

    also I'm not sure on what the pricing model will be once the CTP is over

    See the link on reply number 1 for pricing.

  • GRE-452109 (10/22/2009)

    How do we think the Cloud will affect the 'employability' of the DBA?

    Do we think it will reduce the amount of DBA jobs available? (as a results of adavantage 'Free from administrative headaches?')

    does the cloud mean and end to the DBAs Job?

    reading an article by Brent Ozar he mentions

    "...I don't think DBAs are the target market for SQL Server in the cloud. If a company has enough database needs to hire a full-time DBA, then they also probably have enough needs to build their own database server infrastructure internally as well."

    I certainly hadnt considered it that way before I must admit... certainly everywhere you look microsoft seem extremely keen to point out this isnt the end of the dba as we know it etc .. is this because they need dba "buy in" for the concept ... maybe the equivalent of the "no further redundancies planned at this stage" speech Im sure a few of us of have heard before....

    Patric McElroy was obviously keen to state it would increase the richness of the features a dba can offer.... hmmmmmmmm


  • We will likely never use cloud computing for a number of reasons, most of which are legal issues. Many of these issues go back to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986. That was the law that required companies whose computing equipment that are a part of the e-mail infrastructure to retain copies of all e-mail messages that pass through their servers for at least 90 days. Current pending legislation that has already passed in the House of Representatives and is awaiting passage in the Senate would extend that holding period to two years.

    Existing case law indicates that rights to privacy seem to vanish when data of any kind is stored in any more or less public repository. For example, in United States v. Councilman (case #03-1383, 6/29/2004), it was decided that defendant Councilman did nothing illegal when he directed his ISP to produce a program for internal use that would read e-mail messages sent to his customers from before those messages had been delivered to their intended recipients. The basis of that decision was that the messages were in temporary storage in RAM or on hard discs. Google "processes" gmail subscribers' e-mail messages at the specific direction of its advertisers in order to enable them to target their advertising to users more precisely. In short, putting anything in a cloud environment sacrifices rights to privacy and confidentiality. Companes that say they keep tight reins on information obtained from their customers and which at the same time use cloud computing in order to mitigate expenses are either engaging in self-deception or sophistry.

    Taking things a bit further, let's say that a company were to be sued civily. Current legal practices emphasize the use of e-discovery, a process that requires opposing parties to produce volumes of digital evidence in response to demands from their counterparties. The scope of such demands include all e-mail messages; instant messages; electronic documents; exact copies of entire hard discs from workstations and servers either on premises or off including those owned by 1099 contractors, home computers (if companies allow employees to do work from home), and off shore developers; cached files produced by web browers; recoverable deleted files; cell phones and PDAs; and other forms of electronic communication that have the capacity to be persisted in some form of storage.

    Let's say that a company were to use Google's services for storage of data. Google maintains data centers around the globe, some of them in Eastern Europe and Russia. Some of the data centers where it holds data are not owned by Google itself; instead it leases space in those facilities. Now let's say that a client company gets sued and a demand for production of data commences. Imagine the cost and complexity of obtaining data from a data center located in Russia that is operated by Russian nationals under Russian law.

    How expensive can it get? In the 2001 case of Rowe Entertainment, Inc v. William Morris Agency just shy of $11 million was spent on e-discovery before the litigants even appeared on the first day of the trial. Most patent infringement cases today cost around $4.5 million, most of that being e-discovery costs. It is assumed by many in the legal profession that the average case involving a small- to medium-sized company would entail between $2-3.5 million in e-discovery costs.

    Let's take a much smaller and more personal example. A friend of mine who runs a one-man software company recently sued a client for reverse engineering and decompiling software that he provided the client under license prohibiting such acts. The actual monetary damages were not yet realized, but had they been, the amount would have been in the range of $150-200 K. The trial itself which lasted four days cost him $80,000. The e-discovery costs preceeding the trial amounted to more than $300,000.

    The latest fashion in computing management of documents is "de-duplication," a technique of data storage that keeps only the most current versions documents and data in archives intended for either later reference or disaster recovery. Anyone who has ever worked with an attorney will know that attorneys are paper-centric in their thought processes. They don't want to see what you have now but rather what you had 3 years ago that you sent to the person who is now suing you. They want to see the revisions of documents, the process of communication, the promises made in the ebb and flow of the relationship before everything went sour. Those are the pieces of information that they would use to build your defense in court. De-duplication destroys every shred of that grist for the defense.

    CTOs, DBAs, and application programmers often take the initiative to do things that promise to streamline operations and reduce capital costs. That is an excellent motive, but often in the hindsight afforded to a litigator such actions can be the death knell for a company. Destruction of evidence, even if unintentional, can lead to charges of spoliation which can eviscerate a company's defense.

    I am not an attorney, but I have come to believe that either a staff attorney or outside counsel should be made a part of the decision making group when it comes to data practices in a company. Most attorneys couldn't put a simple Lego toy together in under 24 hours let alone pretend to know what class inheritance or an iterative loop is. What they do know, however, is what the court system will expect to be produced in litigation, and it behooves any company that believes that it will eventually have to step into a courtroom as a defendant (i.e. everyone) to maintain its data accordingly.

    What are the implications of this? It means that when data is stored, it needs to be stored in two entirely different ways, each with their own disaster recovery plans. The first way is the tradition IT way - minimal footprints, keeping only the most current data for purposes of recovery, and being able to produce a quick restore to get things running when bad things happen.

    The second way targets the needs of the business as a legal entity. Data has to be categorized based on its likely use in a legal defense. Things can only be deleted according to specific, legally defensible written policies after so many months have elapsed. Revisions of documents have to be maintained as well as the final documents. When a final document has been produced, a hash of the document has to be produced and published so that later pretenders can be disproven to be authentic. The computational method for producing the hash has to be saved along with all software and operating systems that were used to produce the documents. Cloud computing should only be used for things that contain ABSOLUTELY NOTHING that is confidential, private, or even remotely so since cloud storage forfeits any rights to privacy. That includes e-mail messages (which are usually the most damning pieces of evidence), documents and memos, and databases.

    Your reaction might be, "If that's the case, is it really cheaper to store anything digitally instead of on paper?" Your reaction might be right. The nice thing about paper is that when a final document is produced, the possibility for alteration becomes severly limited. It can be locked in a vault, and that's the end of the life cycle for that document. Paper consumes natural resources and space, however, and it was the urge to reduce those costs that helped fueled the drive toward electronic storage. Now, however, the digital world has taken on a life of its own, and the space required to store the data contained in electronic documents is being overwhelmed by the space requirements and computing costs for the storage and manipulation of the meta data, or data about the data.

    On a closing note, serious thought needs to be given to the way that humans behave in a natural environment. Deforestation led to electronic storage out of good intentions, but now the power consumed to maintain what is admittedly the fragile state of data threatens to do even more harm. The sources of power used to keep the growing millions of servers, workstations, phones, televisions, lighting systems, cooling systems, and communication devices operating are generally fueled by coal. The delivery systems for the physical equipment and the people who operate them are generally fueled by fossil fuels. The technology that permits the use of these fuels assumes that robbing the atmosphere of oxygen and then dumping the byproducts produced from combustion back into the atmosphere is an acceptable practice. In the face of what is increasingly appearing to be unstoppable climate change, the computing industry's initiative has been toward so-called "green" computing. The intention is good, but if the growth of the scope and intensity of computing activity and resource consumption continues unabated, green computing will mean nothing. Which is more important, losing trees or losing air? The IT industry, like many other industries, is rapidly approaching a point at which it must become sufficiently self-aware to be able to say that perhaps it needs to throttle its own growth as an act of social conscience.

  • Incidentally, I work in the IT industry. My truly little company focuses on reclaiming e-mail privacy and providing consulting services for companies that lack planning for the preservation and categorization of data that could be required in eventual litigation.

  • This is not just a United States issue; it is global. European law is far more restrictive than the United States with respect to what is private and what is not, and as companies become global in their scope, they wil have to contend with a wide range of privacy regulations.

  • GRE-452109 (10/22/2009)

    How do we think the Cloud will affect the 'employability' of the DBA?

    Do we think it will reduce the amount of DBA jobs available? (as a results of adavantage 'Free from administrative headaches?')

    does the cloud mean and end to the DBAs Job?

    The short answer is no.

    First, for several reasons a lot of data will not migrate to the cloud. The Cloud certainly has a place, and I make extensive use of certain services, but there are some things that for a variety simply will not fit there for the forseeable future. For one thing, if the database is anything truly mission critical than many executives are leery of loosing control over it. For another, use of the cloud does bring up privacy and security issues that can be challenging to work out if the data is at all sensitive. And finally, there is the loss of, at least in some cases, the ability to fully customize the service.

    Even with data that does fully migrate to the cloud, in most organizations the DBA is the person most knowledgeable in terms of properly structuring it and protecting the logical integrity of the data. So, in that situation the DBA may shift more towards a Development DBA/Data Arhitect but there will still be plenty of room for the DBA.

    Timothy A Wiseman
    SQL Blog:

  • Robert DeFazio, I am truly impressed with your answer. It seems well thought out and researched. But you seem to see no value in the Cloud whatsoever.

    As an individual, I make use of certain select Cloud services. As a DBA, I currently do not make use of any cloud base databases professionally, but I could see a niche for them, especially when dealing with data that was not particularly sensitive.

    Do you think there is any room for Cloud services alongside more traditional approaches?

    Timothy A Wiseman
    SQL Blog:

  • Timothy,

    I think the cloud has a role for any company that deals with the public through the Internet. In fact, if you have a website, you are in the so-called "cloud." We, however, also have to live in the real world where attorneys and courts can deep six a company in nothing flat depending on how pathetic a picture they paint of the suffering of an alleged victim of corporate misdeeds.

    The cloud could be used for non-sensitive information, but what information in a company qualifies for being non-sensitive information? Let's say that a customer sees something on a website that induces him to buy a product. Later, the product proves to be defective, and in the course of using it, the customer is injured seriously. He hires an attorney who requests production of a copy of the website page upon which the customer relied to make the purchase. You, the company representative have reviewed the copy of the page as it existed at the time of the customer's purchase, and you note that due to a mistaken sentence on the page, it could be understood why the customer went ahead with the purchase. On another page that existed at the time of the purchase more explanatory material detailed the hazards of using the product, but on the page in question, the wording would suggest to some that the company concealed a hazardous flaw.

    From a legal strategy point of view, delaying the production of the web page in electronic format would be to your advantage and could spare your company millions of dollars in a court judgment, especially if your attorney is successful in obtaining a settlement before the case goes to trial. Unfortunately, the page is archived in a database located in the cloud, so opposing counsel simply subpoenas the digital version of the page from the hosting company, forcing your hand prematurely.

    The cloud existed before it became fashionable to give it a name. In the 1980s, there were computer bulletin boards. In the 1990s, there was the seminal Internet. In the early part of this decade, there were application service providers (ASPs), and now this continuous presence has a name...the "cloud." It is not new, however. It is the same thing it has always been, namely an aggregation of service providers who offer to give companies and individuals the capacity to perform work with sophisticated software and tools at prices lower than those if they had to buy them outright. Insofar as the spectrum of services is concerned and the multiplicity of their uses, what we have now is certainly much better than what existed in 1980, but what is lacking is the common business sense that asks the question, "Is it wise to put certain kinds of information into the hands of people we cannot control directly, especially when we know that once the information is public, it cannot be retracted?"

    That was why I said in my earlier post that an attorney should be involved in the inner group of persons in a company that determine how data is backed up and preserved. Minds that are engaged in other areas of business operations need to have a say in how data is used, where it is used, and how it is preserved. The IT world has always been a kind of glass ceiling world. Even within software companies, the people who are responsible for managing the servers that control workers' e-mail and house the databases used in the process of creating software never tend to rise into the inner circles of company management. The natural tendency of people is to reach for either money, power, or both. When money doesn't come easily, power is the next ring to reach for, so it is not at all surprising to see CTOs and CIOs build small fiefdoms out of their departments. Decisions are often made that do not necessarily comport with the objectives of general management, decisions such as putting the e-mail addresses of company personnel on websites, providing glowing testimonials about the educational background of the company president and his family and how the company is a family-owned business.

    Now, let's suppose that information is put into the cloud, and an old rival of the president from his college days who has nursed a grudge against him since then happens to come across the information. He lays a trap for him and attempts to harm him physically, resulting in severe injury. The president's wife, after the shock of it all wears off, calls her attorney and sues the company for negligently exposing her husband and family to grave risks and emotional distress. $10 million later, the court case is over, the company is defunct, and the data is still in the public domain called the "cloud."

    Good judgment is what spells the difference between a successful business leader and a flop. Good judgment is what is missing in most businesses, and when it is missing in a company with an active IT department, disaster is only a few short steps away.

    So, yes, there is a place for the cloud, but it like a loaded revolver can either be an effective tool in warding off assailants or an instrument producing a self-inflicted wound. The difference between the two cases is the wisdom of the person that handles it.

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