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Microsoft unveils cloud-mounting SQL Server

'New generation' of Visual Studio tools promised

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The next installment of Microsoft's SQL Server story starts Tuesday, with plans for easier-to-use programming apps for on-site servers and the cloudy SQL Azure.

Microsoft is scheduled to make available for download the first preview of Denali, the code name for the next version of SQL Server, to subscribers on MSDN and TechNet. The Community Technology Preview will be released at the annual Professional Association for SQL Server conference in Seattle, Washington.

Denali introduces Juneau, what Microsoft is calling a "new-generation" Visual Studio development tool for SQL Server that will bridge the gap between building and deploying apps for on-site and on cloud.

Quentin Clark, general manager Microsoft SQL Server Database Systems Group, said the goal is to make developing for SQL Azure and on-site SQL exactly the same, and to do so as soon as possible.

"We have this surface area of T-SQL, but in Danali we are starting to add very specific model and build capabilities in the development tools to let people develop to one surface area that's deployable on and off premises," Clark told The Reg.

SQL Server and SQL Azure share a core relational database management system (RDBMS), but programming apps for them is slightly different. If you are very prescriptive in how your SQL Server app should work, it likely will hit problems in SQL Azure.

If you use Data Definition Language (DDL) to specify where a log file should go in SQL Server on premises, for example, your app likely won't work in the Azure cloud because SQL Azure already takes care of where log files should be deployed. That's because Microsoft has tried to abstract away such details to make programming for its cloud easier.

Juneau — which will be demonstrated at PASS on Tuesday — will let devs do offline validation of apps, and will feature a table designer and query function that'll work with Visual Studio's Intellisense. Developers will be able to tell in real time as they build or package an application what potential problems they might hit when moving their app to the cloud, Clark promised.

Juneau will initially ship as a set of plug-ins to Visual Studio 2010, and will be folded into the next edition of Microsoft's development environment.

Denali chucks in some other cloud wrapping, but the real meat is in improved mission-critical performance for apps and some new business intelligence (BI) capabilities.

There's new columnar technology called Apollo, which Clark claimed could boost certain queries by between 10 and 50 times. Apollo puts algorithms into the database engine from the VertiPak storage engine used in Excel to compress and manage millions of rows of data in memory.

And then there's Crescent, a web-based data visualization and presentation feature to let the suits easily built interactive charts, graphs, and reports. It provides a reporting element to the work done in SQL Server 2008 R2's Project Gemini for "self-service" BI, which became SQL Server PowerPivot for SharePoint 2010 — an Excel plug-in for SQL Server 2008 R2.

A new service. SQL Server AlwaysOn, is an online support and analysis tool that provides best practices and is designed to help SQL Sever users troubleshoot configuration problems. It covers high-availability and disaster recovery, spanning reliable secondaries, multiple secondaries, faster failover and better reconnect and retry.

Also, Microsoft has announced a planned service codenamed Atlanta that will allow users to oversee their SQL Server configuration to — Microsoft said — ensure best operational practices.

While it looks to Denali, Microsoft is also finishing up on the most recent release of SQL Server. Microsoft will announce general availability of its SQL-Server appliance, SQL Server R2 Parallel Data Warehouse edition, targeting customers with hundreds of terabytes of data running on pre-configured iron from server giants. Coming with Data Warehouse edition is Microsoft's Critical Advantage Program, which provides dedicated support.

Bootnote

Denali is the Native American name for Alaska's Mount McKinley and Juneau is a city in Alaska. While clearly seeking inspiration for its codenames above the lower 48 on SQL Server, we should at least be grateful that Microsoft didn't turn to the state's other claims to fame besides oil and outstanding wilderness, the Palins, and go with "Todd" and "Sarah". ®

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