Microsoft Azure Data Updates Continue Open Source Trend

One day after Big Data player Pivotal Software Inc. changed its business model by open sourcing core technologies, Microsoft today announced related product updates with a definite open source slant.

The "new and enhanced" data services include an Azure HDInsight preview that runs on Linux, and the general availability of Storm on HDInsight, Azure Machine Learning, and Informatica technology on the Microsoft Azure cloud.

"Just about every interesting innovation that's going on -- in data today, in machine learning and other areas -- has its roots in an open source ecosystem," Pivotal CEO Paul Maritz said yesterday at a live streaming event.

Perhaps an exaggeration, but the underlying meaning was grokked by Microsoft years ago, and the company is in the middle of a swing to openness and interoperability, led by new CEO Satya Nadella and top lieutenants such as T. K. "Ranga" Rengarajan, head of the data platform.

"Azure Machine Learning reflects our support for open source," stated a blog post today authored by Rengarajan and machine learning exec Joseph Sirosh. "The Python programming language is a first-class citizen in Azure Machine Learning Studio, along with R, the popular language of statisticians." Microsoft acquired stewardship of the R language earlier this year.

Data developers can now use the Machine Learning Marketplace to discover appropriate APIs and prebuilt services for common concerns such as recommendation engines, detecting anomalies and forecasting.

The open source story continues with Storm for Azure HDInsight. Azure HDInsight is Microsoft's cloud service based on 100 percent Apache Hadoop technology, open sourced by the Apache Software Foundation.

"Storm is an open source stream analytics platform that can process millions of data 'events' in real time as they are generated by sensors and devices," Microsoft said. "Using Storm with HDInsight, customers can deploy and manage applications for real-time analytics and Internet-of-Things (IoT) scenarios in a few minutes with just a few clicks. We are also making Storm available for both .NET and Java and the ability to develop, deploy and debug real-time Storm applications directly in Visual Studio. That helps developers to be productive in the environments they know best." Microsoft added Storm integration last fall.

Of course, there's nothing more open source than the Linux OS, and Azure HDInsight is now available as a preview project running on Ubuntu clusters. Ubuntu is a popular Linux distribution, described by Microsoft as "the leading scale-out Linux."

Adding Linux support in addition to Windows "is particularly compelling for people that already use Hadoop on Linux on-premises like on Hortonworks Data Platform, because they can use common Linux tools, documentation, and templates and extend their deployment to Azure with hybrid cloud connections," Microsoft said.

Also, to increase customer options for leveraging technology from Microsoft partners, the Redmond software giant announced that Informatica data integration technology will be available in the Azure Marketplace.

"Today, Informatica is announcing the availability of its Cloud Integration Secure Agent on Microsoft Azure and Linux Virtual Machines as well as an Informatica Cloud Connector for Microsoft Azure Storage," Informatica exec Ronen Schwartz said in a blog post today. "Users of Azure data services such as Azure HDInsight, Azure Machine Learning and Azure Data Factory can make their data work with access to the broadest set of data sources including on-premises applications, databases, cloud applications and social data."

All the Microsoft news comes during the Strata + Hadoop World conference underway in San Jose, Calif.

"These new services are part of our continued investment in a broad portfolio of solutions to unlock insights from data," Microsoft said. "They can help businesses dramatically improve their performance, enable governments to better serve their citizenry, or accelerate new advancements in science. Our goal is to make Big Data technology simpler and more accessible to the greatest number of people possible: Big Data pros, data scientists and app developers, but also everyday businesspeople and IT managers."

Posted by David Ramel on 02/18/2015 at 10:27 AM0 comments


Azure SQL Database Gets Closer to Pure SQL Server

Microsoft announced a bevy of improvements to its cloud-based data products, including the Azure SQL Database Update V12 (preview), sporting new security features and bringing it closer to full SQL Server engine compatibility.

The new security mechanisms available now or on tap include row-level security, dynamic data masking and transparent data encryption. These will be added to the existing auditing feature so users can further protect cloud data and comply with corporate and industry policies, Microsoft said.

Company exec Tiffany Wissner said in a blog post yesterday that row-level security was available now as a public preview. "Coming soon, SQL Database will also preview dynamic data masking, which is a policy-based security feature that helps limit the exposure of data in a database by returning masked data to non-privileged users who run queries over designated database fields, like credit-card numbers, without changing data on the database," Wissner said. She added the transparent data encryption is coming to SQL Database V12 databases to encrypt data at rest.

Already rolled out in Europe but coming to the United States soon, the updated SQL Database V12 has near-complete compatibility with the company's flagship SQL Server relational database management system (RDBMS) engine. The cloud service has always lacked some features of the regular SQL Server but has steadily been catching up.

The latest SQL Database will also better support larger databases -- this is the age of Big Data, after all -- and improved performance on the Premium tier.

"Internal tests on over 600 million rows of data show Premium query performance improvements of around 5x in the new preview relative to today's Premium SQL Database and up to 100x when applying the in-memory columnstore technology," Wissner said.

The new SQL Database version will start rolling out in the United States on Feb. 9 and should be available to most global datacenters by the end of that month.

Microsoft also announced simplified management of SQL Server running in Microsoft Azure Virtual Machines (VMs). For example, while mission-critical applications can benefit greatly from the SQL Server AlwaysOn high availability (HA) and disaster recovery (DR) capabilities, such environments can be difficult to set up.

"Now with new auto HA setup capabilities using the AlwaysOn Portal Template added for SQL Server in Azure VMs, this really becomes a simpler task, freeing up your valuable time and resources to focus on other business priorities," Wissner said.

Backups, patching, and the monitoring and managing of SQL Server instances were also improved, Microsoft said.

"As a company committed to maintaining the highest innovation standards for our global clients, we're always eager to test the latest features," the company quoted exec John Schlesinger at customer company Temenos as saying. "So previewing the latest version of SQL Database was a no-brainer for us. After running both a benchmark and some close-of-business workloads, which are required by our regulated banking customers, we saw significant performance gains including a doubling of throughput for large blob operations, which are essential for our customers' reporting needs."

Along with pure data-related enhancements, Microsoft also announced other Azure updates affecting its enterprise mobility offerings and Azure Media Services.

"To enhance application access management, Microsoft Azure Active Directory is introducing, in public preview, conditional access policies that can enforce multi-factor authentication per application," said company exec Vibhor Kapoor in his own blog post yesterday. Also in public preview, Connect Health helps monitor and gain insights into the identity infrastructure used to extend on-premises identities to the cloud, such as Active Directory Federation Services (AD FS).

He also announced an Azure Rights Management Services (RMS) migration toolkit to help enterprises move from Active Directory RMS or Windows RMS to Azure RMS while maintaining access to existing RMS-protected content and policies.

For Azure Media Services, Kapoor said the content protection feature is now available for live and on-demand workflows, helping to address piracy concerns.

"Whether you are looking to run your SQL Server workload in an Azure VM or via the SQL Database managed service, there's no better time than now to move your enterprise workloads to the cloud or build new applications with Microsoft Azure," Kapoor said.

Current Azure subscribers can sign up to test the preview.

Posted by David Ramel on 01/30/2015 at 10:25 AM0 comments


Dell Updates SQL Server Tools

The software arm of Dell Inc. yesterday announced new versions of a bevy of products for the caretaking and development of SQL Server relational database management systems (RDBMSes).

Dell Software updated five different tools for monitoring, managing, protecting and boosting the performance of SQL Server databases, highlighted by version 11 of its Spotlight on SQL Server Enterprise.

That tool provides operational monitoring, diagnostics, administration and automatic tuning of physical on-premises, cloud-hosted or virtualized databases.

Reflecting the new "mobile-first" industry mindset, Spotlight on SQL Server Enterprise 11 features a new mobile app for remotely diagnosing issues from a smartphone. The app is available in native versions for Apple iOS, Google Android and Microsoft Windows Phone platforms.

The updated monitoring software also adds new multi-dimensional workload analysis and a new System Center Operations Manager management pack for users of the Microsoft cross-platform datacenter management software for OSes and hypervisors.

Spotlight also works with the new Toad for SQL Server 6.5, which helps developers and DBAs check system health and performance analytics.

The Dell data management Toad tool has been updated to work with the latest versions of SQL Server 2014 Enterprise and SQL Server Express running on the Amazon EC cloud or the Microsoft Azure cloud, as well as other Microsoft platforms such as SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS), Azure Marketplace, Azure Table services and SharePoint.

The company also announced "the newly released Foglight for SQL Server 5.7, for real-time and historical database performance monitoring of both virtualized and non-virtualized databases." Dell said it features the new SQL Performance Investigator for workload analytics.

Another updated tool is LiteSpeed for SQL Server 8.0 for backup and recovery, now supporting the Amazon S3 storage service and SQL Server 2014. It also has a new UI and multiple-database restore functionality.

While the aforementioned products are available now, Dell said it plans to introduce later in the year version 8.6 of SharePlex for database replication and integration.

"The updated solution enables IT staff to offload reporting, migrate data and provide immediate data integration services from Oracle databases to Microsoft SQL Server for better business insight," Dell said. The tool now provides replication support for eight platforms: Oracle, SQL Server, Apache Hadoop, SAP ASE, Open Database Connectivity (ODBC), Java Message Service (JMS), SQL flat files and XML files.

Dell said developers and DBAs will be able to see the new products at next week's PASS Summit.

Posted by David Ramel on 10/29/2014 at 10:16 AM0 comments


Cloudera Big Data Partnership Adds Azure Options

In Microsoft's new era of openness, interoperability and increased customer options, the company continues to hedge its Big Data bets with a stream of new partnerships, services and initiatives.

The company's continued expansion of data developer services in Microsoft Azure cloud was highlighted this week by a partnership with Cloudera Inc., one of the "big three" Big Data players with enterprise offerings based on Apache Hadoop.

Cloudera Enterprise this week achieved Azure Certification to offer more Big Data options for Microsoft cloud customers, and further integration of Cloudera technology with other Microsoft data services is on tap.

"As a result of this certification, organizations will be able to launch a Cloudera Enterprise cluster from the Azure Marketplace starting Oct. 28," Microsoft said in a blog post. "Initially, this will be an evaluation cluster with access to MapReduce, HDFS and Hive. At the end of this year when Cloudera 5.3 releases, customers will be able to leverage the power of the full Cloudera Enterprise distribution including HBase, Impala, Search and Spark."

Just last week, Hortonworks Inc. -- another of the top three Hadoop vendors and a principal competitor to Cloudera -- announced Azure certification for its Hortonworks Data Platform (HDP). This expands on the partnership of Microsoft and Hortonworks, which last year teamed up for the Microsoft cloud-based Hadoop service, HDInsight, and earlier developed HDP for Windows.

Also last week, Microsoft announced HDInsight integration with Apache Storm for real-time Big Data analytics.

In the latest move with Cloudera, Azure customers will have more Big Data options, especially after Cloudera 5.3 is released in December. Then, Cloudera said, customers will be able to:
  • Deploy Cloudera directly from the Microsoft Azure Marketplace.
  • Import data into Cloudera from SQL Server.
  • Use Microsoft Power BI for Office 365 for self-service business intelligence.
  • Use Azure Machine Learning for cloud-based predictive analytics.

The SQL Server functionality is a further sign of Microsoft's tremendous effort to keep its traditional flagship relational database management system (RDBMS) relevant in the new world of Big Data analytics powered by non-relational NoSQL databases. Partnerships with Big Data vendors are key to that strategy, and Microsoft has now teamed up with two of the leading enterprise offerings in major initiatives.

"Microsoft and Cloudera are collaborating to help customers realize Big Data insights with the cloud," said Microsoft exec Scott Guthrie in a statement. "Now Azure customers can deploy Cloudera Enterprise with a few clicks, visualize their data with Microsoft Power BI and gain insights to transform their business -- all within minutes."

Stay tuned for further partnership news, possibly even with the third leading Hadoop vendor, MapR Technologies Inc.

Posted by David Ramel on 10/23/2014 at 1:44 PM0 comments


Apache Storm Integration Leads Expansion of Azure Data Services

Microsoft today announced Apache Storm technology for real-time Big Data analytics will be integrated with Microsoft Azure, highlighting several expansions of the company's cloud computing platform.

"We're announcing support of real-time analytics for Apache Hadoop in Azure HDInsight and new machine learning capabilities in the Azure Marketplace," said Microsoft exec T.K. Rengarajan in a blog post. "Our partner and Hadoop vendor Hortonworks also announced how they are integrating with Microsoft Azure with the latest release of the Hortonworks Data Platform." Hortonworks Inc., curator of one of the leading Big Data enterprise software distributions, teamed up with Microsoft to develop the HDInsight Hadoop-based service in the Azure cloud.

Storm is an open source, distributed, fault-tolerant real-time computation system, sometimes described as "real-time Hadoop." In addition to real-time analytics, the incubator project stewarded by the Apache Software Foundation can be used for online machine learning; continuous computation; and distributed remote procedure calls (RPC) and extract, transform and load (ETL) jobs, among other use cases described on the project's Web site.

"The preview availability of Storm in HDInsight continues Microsoft's investment in the Hadoop ecosystem and HDInsight," Rengarajan said. "Recently, we announced support for HBase clusters and the availability of HDInsight as the first global Hadoop Big Data service in China. And together with Hortonworks, we continue to contribute code and engineering hours to many Hadoop projects."

On Wednesday, Microsoft introduced Apache Storm for real-time analytics for Hadoop.
[Click on image for larger view.]Microsoft introduced Apache Storm for real-time analytics for Hadoop.
(source: Microsoft)

Also available in preview is Microsoft Azure Machine Learning, designed to help customers develop and manage predictive analytics projects. Use case examples for machine learning include search engines, online recommendations for products, credit card fraud prevention systems, traffic directions via GPS and mobile phone personal assistants.

"Today, we are introducing new machine learning capabilities in the Azure Marketplace enabling customers and partners to access machine learning capabilities as Web services," Rengarajan said. "These include a recommendation engine for adding product recommendations to a Web site, an anomaly detection service for predictive maintenance or fraud detection and a set of R packages, a popular programming language used by data scientists. These new capabilities will be available as finished examples for anyone to try."

The Microsoft exec also announced that the Hortonworks Data Platform (HDP) from its partner has achieved Azure certification, noting that the Hadoop vendor will include hybrid data connectors in the next HDP release to enable customers to extend on-premises deployments of Hadoop to Azure for easier backup, scaling and testing.

Posted by David Ramel on 10/15/2014 at 12:24 PM0 comments


Espresso Logic Back-End Service Adds Azure Integration

The Espresso Logic Backend as a Service (BaaS) that can "join" SQL and NoSQL database calls now integrates with Microsoft Azure, the company announced yesterday.

The tool, which lets developers span multiple data sources with one RESTful API call via a point-and-click interface, now works with SQL Server, MongoDB and other services available on the Microsoft cloud.

The Silicon Valley startup last month announced its reactive programming-based universal API for "joining" calls to SQL and MongoDB databases, for example, while also providing the ability to apply business logic, authentication and access control, and validation and event handling to specific data stores.

"Espresso provides the fastest way to create REST APIs that span multiple data sources including SQL, NoSQL and enterprise services," the company said. "Using a unique reactive programming approach, Espresso enables developers to write clear and concise business rules to define logic and specify fine-grain security in a fraction of the time it takes using other approaches."

The Espresso Logic approach
[Click on image for larger view.] The Espresso Logic Approach(source: Espresso Logic Inc.)

Reactive programming is a declarative approach in which variables are automatically propagated through the system when referenced values are changed, as in a spreadsheet where cells that contain a formula to present a value are automatically updated when values in dependent cells are changed.

"With reactive programming business rules, any rules defined on business objects perform many types of calculations and validations," the company said. Developers can further extend the logic using JavaScript.

The Espresso service previously worked with Azure SQL Database as a cloud-hosted database, but is now available as a service hosted in Azure and integrated with other Microsoft cloud services.

Espresso says its RESTful BaaS integrates with Visual Studio and Microsoft's own back-end, Azure Mobile Services, accelerating the development of mobile and Web apps. It can also work with other Microsoft technologies such as Azure Active Directory identity and authentication, Microsoft Dynamics, Azure Scheduler, Message Bus and API Management tools.

"As many enterprise customers using Microsoft technologies move to using cloud, we hear time and time again that Azure support is high on their list," said company CEO R. Paul Singh in a statement. "With this integration, we want to make it easier and faster for enterprises and integrators developing new mobile and Web applications on Azure -- regardless of their data source."

The Espresso service is available for a free trial, with a paid developer version costing $50 per month and a production version starting at $500 per month.

Posted by David Ramel on 09/18/2014 at 11:01 AM0 comments


Now All Windows Phone Developers Can Respond to Reviews

Windows Phone developers have spoken and Microsoft has listened: Mobile app builders can now respond to reviews of their wares posted in the store.

After a pilot program that started in April, the functionality is being rolled out to "all eligible Windows Phone developers," said Bernardo Zamora in a blog post yesterday, though it wasn't clear what makes a developer eligible.

You can find out if you're eligible from the Dev Center, where you select the dashboard, click on one of your published apps and look at the review screen. If a "Respond" button appears in the lower-right corner, you're eligible.

This capability was by far the most-requested feature posted on the Windows Platform Developer Feedback site, garnering 2,450 votes compared to 1,337 for the second-place item. More than 48 comments were posted to the "Provide ability for developers to respond to user reviews/feedback" item, which was dated April 17, 2011 (ok, so it took them a while to listen). In fact, a related post, "Rate and Review enhancement," received 945 votes, listing "Ability for Devs to contact the reviewer" as the first suggested enhancement.

"We are over 2,000 votes on this," read one comment posted just before the pilot program started. "Clearly it's something that developers want and Google Play has had this for a long time."

Responding to a review.
[Click on image for larger view.] Responding to a review. (source: Microsoft)

Zamora wrote yesterday, "The feedback from all developers who have been able to respond to reviews has been very positive so far, with developers using this feature to help users resolve questions, inform them of a new version of the app, and increase user satisfaction with their apps."

He cautioned developers to only use the new feature for those aforementioned purposes, as it "should not be used to spam your users, reengage with previous users, or advertise additional apps or services, as described in the Respond to Reviews guidelines."

Among other things, those guidelines state:

Respond to reviews lets you maintain closer contact with your customers: You can let them know about new features or bugs you've fixed that relate to their reviews, or get more specific feedback on how to improve your app. This feature should not be used for marketing purposes. Note that Microsoft respects customer preferences and won't send review responses to customers who have informed us that they don't want to receive them. Also note that you won't receive the customer's personal contact information as part of this feature; Microsoft will send your response directly to the customer. This feature is available for reviews sent from:
  1. Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 8 devices with Country/Region set to United States.
  2. Any Windows Phone 8.1 device.

If developers don't follow the rules, Microsoft said customers can report inappropriate review responses from a developer via the Report Concern link in the Details section of an app's Store description. "Microsoft retains the right to revoke a developer's permission to send responses when developers don't follow the guidelines," Zamora wrote yesterday.

He also announced that developers can use PayPal as a payout method in a bunch more countries, bringing the total number of markets that offer that functionality to 41.

Posted by David Ramel on 08/13/2014 at 11:14 AM0 comments


Microsoft Encourages Oracle Migrations to SQL Server 2014

Microsoft yesterday unveiled an updated SQL Server Migration Assistant (SSMA) to ease moving existing Oracle databases to SQL Server 2014.

It's the latest back-and-forth effort between the two companies to help users of competitors' RDBMS products switch to each company's own offering.

The free SSMA tool was announced on the TechNet SQL Server Blog.

"Available now, the SSMA version 6.0 for Oracle databases greatly simplifies the database migration process from Oracle databases to SQL Server," Microsoft said. "SSMA automates all aspects of migration including migration assessment analysis, schema and SQL statement conversion, data migration as well as migration testing to reduce cost and reduce risk of database migration projects."

SQL Server 2014 -- officially released in April -- features a new, much-publicized in-memory OLTP capability, and the new SSMA for Oracle can automatically move Oracle tables into SQL Server 2014 in-memory tables. Microsoft said SSMA can process up to 10,000 Oracle objects in one migration and boasts increased performance and report generation.

The new tool supports migrations of Oracle 9i databases and later to SQL Server 2005 editions and later. It's now available for download.

In addition to the in-memory OLTP capability, SQL Server 2014 features in-memory columnstore to boost query performance and hybrid cloud-related features such as the ability to back up to the cloud directly from SQL Server Management Studio. Microsoft also touted its ability to use the Microsoft Azure cloud as a disaster recovery site using SQL Server 2014 AlwaysOn. SQL Server 2014 is available for evaluation.

Oracle: your turn.

Posted by David Ramel on 07/25/2014 at 9:44 AM0 comments


New MongoDB Service On Microsoft Azure

The latest addition to the Microsoft Azure cloud offerings is a new manifestation of the NoSQL database MongoDB service.

The Microsoft Azure Store now offers a fully managed, highly available, MongoDB-as-a-Service add-on.

It runs MongoDB Enterprise edition and comes with support from MongoDB Inc. The company provides replication, monitoring and the MongoDB Management Service, which provides point-in-time recovery of deployments.

Announced at the database vendor's MongoDB World conference, the offering is a team effort with Microsoft, its Microsoft Open Technologies subsidiary and MongoLab, which provides the cloud service version of the popular database.

Microsoft Open Technologies' Brian Benz, blogging from the conference site, said the Database-as-a-Service (DBaaS) offering is the only one available directly from MongoDB Inc. and the only one backed up by MMS.

MongoDB instances have been available in Azure for a while now, but the new service add-on offers new support and development options.

"This is a significant milestone in a multi-year relationship between Microsoft Open Technologies, Microsoft Azure and MongoDB to provide developers with additional choices for a database designed for modern applications," said Microsoft Open Technologies exec Gianugo Rabellino in a statement. "A scalable, resilient and supported MongoDB is now just a few clicks away from our Azure customers, enabling new and exciting scenarios for cloud developers."

Posted by David Ramel on 06/26/2014 at 1:20 PM0 comments


Survey Shows SQL Dominates NoSQL in the Cloud

Recent research sponsored by Database as a Service (DBaaS) company Tesora shows SQL databases are holding their own in cloud usage.

The start-up, which is developing a DBaaS product for the open source Trove DBaaS project introduced in the April "Icehouse" release of the open source OpenStack cloud platform, today released a report titled ""Database Usage in the Public and Private Cloud: Choices and Preferences." More than 500 developers in North American open source developer communities responded, providing insights into database usage in public and private clouds.

Of those respondents, 79 percent were using a SQL database, while 16 percent were using NoSQL.

Which database(s) does your company currently use?
[Click on image for larger view.] Which Databases Does Your Company Currently Use?(source: Tesora)

"Use of relational databases remains well ahead of NoSQL, whether as a traditional database system or as a service, and whether it is provided in a public or private cloud," Tesora said in a news release announcing the new research.

The research report itself provided more details. "The leaders were the 'Big Three' relational databases: Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL and Oracle," it stated. "MongoDB was the most popular NoSQL DB with slightly more than 10 percent, behind all relational database choices."

So much for SQL becoming obsolete in the new era of Big Data, mobile and cloud computing.

The new findings echo recent similar research, such as a recent "data connectivity" study, and reports of SQL usage in Big Data scenarios.

The whole SQL-vs.-NoSQL thing should have been long over by now, but the new research must be heartening to SQL Server developers whose livelihoods seemed to be threatened by upstart database movements not that long ago.

SQL Server was reported in use by 57 percent of respondents, followed by MySQL (40 percent), Oracle (38 percent), DB2 (14 percent) and PostgresSQL (13 percent). "The results suggest that relational databases still dominate despite rapid adoption of NoSQL solutions by high-profile enterprises like Twitter and Facebook," the survey report said.

Of course, things might change.

"Going forward, this gap can be expected to close since NoSQL databases have only been on the market for a few years or less, as opposed to decades for some of the incumbents," the report stated. "The results seem to indicate the need for coexistence rather than displacement (at least in large, established organizations), with relational databases running in tandem with NoSQL for specialized workloads."

Microsoft didn't fare so well in some other areas. For example, Azure placed third in public cloud usage, at just 8 percent of respondents, behind Amazon AWS (24 percent) and Google Compute Engine (16 percent).

A report caveat noted: "This is a survey of open source software developers, and surveys of other groups will have different results."

Tesora used SurveyMonkey to conduct the survey (available for download after registration), while The Linux Foundation, MongoDB and Percona helped distribute it.

Posted by David Ramel on 06/18/2014 at 12:40 PM0 comments


Couchbase Lite for .NET in Beta

The owner of "the most complete NoSQL database" is targeting the Microsoft .NET Framework for a new open source release. Sound strange? Welcome to the new world of cross-platform interoperability. Developers write their code once and -- with some automatic optimization -- it will run on anything, anywhere, even leveraging native device functionality.

In this case, Couchbase Inc. has partnered with cross-platform kingpin Xamarin to put into beta a native Couchbase Lite for .NET database, "the world's first and only full-featured, flexible, mobile JSON database that runs locally on the device and is built from the ground up for mobile devices."

The two companies will work together to make the new embedded database targeting mobile users generally available this fall. They will also make the code portable, targeting iOS and Android through the Xamarin technology. And, of course, the .NET product will work on phones, tablets and desktops running Microsoft OSes.

Now available for .NET apps, connected or not
[Click on image for larger view.] Now available for .NET apps, connected or not
(source: Couchbase Inc.)

Couchbase Lite is now generally available in 1.0.0 releases for iOS, Android and Java, in both enterprise and free community editions. Couchbase also provides plug-in connectors for Xamarin and Adobe PhoneGap, another popular cross-platform development tool that uses HTML 5, CSS and JavaScript. The Xamarin approach differs from PhoneGap -- closely related to the open source project Apache Cordova -- in that developers write C# code that gets targeted for multiple platforms. Preview tooling support for Cordova was recently added to Visual Studio in the 2013 Update 2. Now, .NETdevelopers using Xamarin can more easily integrate the small-footprint database in their apps.

Couchbase is known for its Couchbase Server -- formerly called Membase -- a cloud-based JSON database for which it offers SDKs for programming in Java, Ruby, .NET, C, PHP and Python.

Couchbase Lite is combined with Sync Gateway under the newly available Couchbase Mobile umbrella to offer offline functionality for users on the go. Sync Gateway is used to synchronize data stored in the embedded Couchbase Lite database on a device with Couchbase Server when connectivity is available. Off-grid peer-to-peer support is provided through REST APIs.

"Our goal is to enable developers to build the next generation of mobile applications," said Couchbase exec Rahim Yaseen in a statement. "Xamarin has a community of more than 600,000 developers building native mobile apps for iOS, Android and Windows in C#. Building a native .NET version of Couchbase Lite gives that community a faster, easier way to handle mobile data synchronization, eliminating one of the biggest challenges to building always-available, always-responsive applications."

Coincidentally, a recent Visual Studio Magazine blog post by Keith Ward explored the notion of Microsoft buying Xamarin. That would make things really interesting, judging from the hundreds of social shares and a bunch of reader comments.

Posted by David Ramel on 05/22/2014 at 2:09 PM0 comments


New High-Memory MongoDB Instances Available on Microsoft Azure

MongoDB just won't go away. Two weeks after a major update to the popular NoSQL database, Microsoft announced new high-memory instances were available on its Microsoft Azure cloud platform.

The cloud-served MongoDB instances come from MongoLab, a fully managed database service provider that works with major cloud platforms such as those provided by Amazon and Google. The service has been available on Microsoft Azure since October 2012, but with some limitations.

"We have been working with MongoLab for a long time to bring a fully managed Database as a Service offering for MongoDB to Microsoft Azure," said Microsoft exec Scott Guthrie. "With full production support for all VM types across all datacenters, we are excited and optimistic for the future of MongoDB on our cloud platform."

The details were explained in a blog post yesterday by Brian Benz, who announced "the arrival of our newest high-memory MongoDB database plans, with virtual machine choices that now provide up to 56GB of RAM per node with availability in all eight Microsoft Azure datacenters worldwide."

Along with the new memory capacity, the service provides management tools for backups, performance monitoring of key metrics, analysis to speed up queries and index recommendations. Support is also provided via e-mail or an around-the-clock emergency hotline, depending on the plan.

Developers connect to the service using standard language-specific drivers or through a JSON-based REST API. JSON is the bedrock of MongoDB, which stores data in collections of JSON documents composed of fields with key-value pairs rather than relational tables and columns. This facilitates Big Data analytics, and the database is used by major organizations such as CERN, eBay, Craigslist, SAP and many others. The open source MongoDB database, which was developed by MongoDB Inc., is the most popular NoSQL system in use, according to the latest report from DB-Engines.com, which lists it as No. 5 among all databases.

On Microsoft Azure, MongoDB plans are available ranging from a free "sandbox" that includes 500MB of storage to a 56GB dedicated cluster that costs $5,200 per month.

Benz details how to set up a MongoLab service in a Microsoft Open Technologies blog post.

Are you planning to use MongoDB on Microsoft Azure? Please comment here or drop me a line.

Posted by David Ramel on 04/23/2014 at 9:27 AM0 comments


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