Monday, October 17, 2011

Big Data Updates to SQL Azure Cloud Service Expected in Q4


Big Data Updates to SQL Azure Cloud Service Expected in Q4

The long awaited SQL Azure Federation v1 for scaling out databases using a sharding pattern, is among the expected features.

Microsoft is rolling out a major update of its SQL Azure cloud database service sometime in the fourth quarter.

The updated service will increase the maximum size of SQL Azure databases from 50 GB to 150 GB, according to Microsoft. The company highlighted the upcoming SQL Azure features at the SQL PASS Summit in Seattle last week.

The long awaited SQL Azure Federation v1 for scaling out databases using a sharding pattern, is among the expected features. Microsoft announced Federation for SQL Azure in November 2010 at the Professional Developers Conference. 

The company is also planning to add a cloud backup capability to SQL Server 2012, formerly codenamed "Denali." SQL Server 2012 users will be able to back up data to Microsoft's Windows Azure platform. The cost details, if any, associated with this feature weren't described.

Microsoft plans to improve some management capabilities in the next SQL Azure service release. For instance, improvements to the Management Portal in SQL Azure will make it easier to "monitor databases" and "drill-down into schemas," Microsoft contends. Query capabilities will be improved for "plans, spatial data, indexes/keys and query performance statistics."

New CTPs
Two community test previews (CTPs) showcasing new features, both of which had been available for private testing, were rolled out today for all SQL Azure users to try. However, it's not clear if they will be fully baked into the product in time for Microsoft's fourth-quarter SQL Azure service release.

One of those CTPs is an updated release of the SQL Azure Reporting capability, which can be accessed via the Windows Azure Management Portal here (requires signup). SQL Azure Reporting allows organizations to present business intelligence-type reports while tapping Microsoft's cloud database. This feature may be of interest to organizations that lack the in-house licensing to carry out such reporting tasks or organizations that need to generate reports on a seasonal basis, according to Microsoft's description.

SQL Azure Reporting shares aspects with Microsoft's SQL Server 2008 R2 Reporting Services. Developers can use tools such as the Business Intelligence Design Studio and SQL Server Data Tools (formerly code-named "Juneau"). A table showing the nuances of the two reporting features can be found here.

The second CTP available today is SQL Azure Data Sync. This CTP works with Microsoft's new Management Portal to configure and manage the synchronization of databases, both on-premises and in the cloud. The synchronization works bidirectionally, according to this Microsoft blog. Microsoft added improved filtering at the column and row levels with this CTP release. Moreover, users can now configure the synchronization for "conflict resolution as well as sync direction per group member," according to Microsoft's announcement.

Other PASS News
Microsoft indicated a roadmap shift in September favoring the use of the Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) approach for SQL Server APIs, with a gradual phase out of its Object Linking and Embedding Database (OLE DB) approach. Today, Microsoft tracked back to its ODBC emphasis by announcing it will release a "Microsoft SQL Server ODBC Driver for Linux." The CTP of the new driver is expected in mid-November. The final release of the ODBC Linux driver is planned for the release of SQL Server 2012 next year, according to Microsoft's announcement.

Finally, Microsoft's partner Hewlett-Packard plans to release a database migration solution for virtualized environments in November. The migration product, consisting of HP's hardware and Microsoft's software, is called the "HP Enterprise Database Consolidation Appliance." Microsoft claims that HP's appliance speeds up database deployments to minutes rather than weeks and requires "no application or database changes" for such migrations. The product appears aimed at SQL Server 2008 R2, based on a white paper available here.