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'Full' SQL Server planned for Microsoft's Azure cloud

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MSDN Developer Conference Microsoft plans to make a full version of its popular SQL Server database available in the cloud in response to pressure from partners.

The company told The Reg it's working to add as many features as possible from SQL Server to its fledgling Azure Services Platform cloud as quickly as possible, following feedback.

General manager developer and platform evangelism Mark Hindsbro said Microsoft hoped to complete this work with the first release of Azure, currently available as a Community Technology Preview (CTP). But he added that some features might be rolled into subsequent updates to Azure. Microsoft has not yet given a date for the first version of Azure, which was released as a CTP last October.

"We are still getting feedback from ISVs for specific development scenarios they want. Based on feedback we will prioritize features and get that out first," he said.

"The aim is to get that in the same ship cycle of the overall Azure platform but it might be that some of it lags a little big and comes short there after."

Hindsbro added: "One of the beauties of having an online platform is you can keep running it out."

The evangelist was speaking at the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) Conference in San Francisco, California, a week after Microsoft had updated 500 of its top software partners on roadmaps for Azure, Internet Explorer 8, and Windows 7.

According to Hindsbro, partners want a full SQL Server database in the cloud. The current SQL Data Services (SDS), which became available last March, provides a lightweight and limited set of features. Prior to SDS, Microsoft's database service was called SQL Server Data Services.

"If you go there now you will find more rudimentary database experiences exposed. Not a lot of these apps would be interesting without a full database in the cloud, and that is coming," Hindsbro said.

He did not say what SQL Server features Microsoft would add to Azure, other than to say it'll include greater relational functionality.

Microsoft in a statement also did not provide specifics, but said it's "evolving SDS capabilities to provide customers with the ability to leverage a traditional RDBMS data model in a cloud-based environment. Developers will be able to use existing programming interfaces and apply existing investments in development, training, and tools to build their applications."

The pre-beta SDS restricts what users can do in a number of ways that make it hard to set up and manage and that are limit its usefulness in large deployments.

This is due in part to the fact that the service is pre-release and Microsoft is still testing both the technology and the potential market. It's also likely due to the fact that Microsoft conceived SDS as a lightweight database service targeting web developers instead of something for use in an enterprise cloud.

According to Hindsbro, though, there's growing interest in Azure from enterprise customers.

SDS features limited storage capacity. Flexible and BLOB entities can only run to 2Mb and 100Mb in size respectively, while you can only have 1,000 containers in an authority - which Microsoft defines as equivalent to a single SQL Server instance.

From a programming perspective, you can't update metadata in BLOBs. You have to delete the entire BLOB and start again. You can't delete authorities, and although Microsoft has said SDS supports both REST and SOAP, you actually need a REST interface to handle BLOB entities. Entities list the properties of a container, or database.

Also there's no support for capital letters in naming of containers - something that not only limits creativity at set up but can limit the effectiveness of searches. If you type a capital letter during a search, this can give you an error 404 message. ®

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