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SQL Azure Is PDC Ready in CTP 2

The features in the SQL Azure October preview, launched on Wednesday, mirror what is expected in the commercial launch of the cloud database service at PDC next month. This is the second CTP of SQL Azure, the SQL Server component of Microsoft's cloud that was radically changed after it was first announced as part of the Azure Services Platform's SQL Services data technologies in October 2008.

SQL Server Data Services was renamed SQL Data Services, which was under the umbrella of SQL Services. SQL Data Services used a schema-less data model that consisted of geo-located units called authorities housed in Microsoft's data centers. The authorities held containers, which consisted of queryable entities that were made up of properties.

Instead of learning a whole new model, developers wanted a relational database in the cloud and Microsoft changed course, releasing the first SQL Azure CTP in August. Windows Azure also offers unstructured data storage in the form of Blobs up to 50 GB, tables and queues.

"That first SQL Data Services looked like a non-relational data store but it was highly scalable and the plan was to keep adding functionality until we got closer and closer to that relational database model but build on that massive scale thing," said Steve Marx, technical strategist for the Windows Azure team, in an interview in late September. "What we heard resoundingly from customers was that there was a big opportunity for us to be the only ones really who came out and had a really good relational database story in the cloud. And we wanted to get there anyway but there was a shorter path to it and that was to kind of rethink things and start instead with a relational database and to grow in the direction of bigger and bigger scale. So now what we have with SQL Azure, in this first CTP that came out, is something that is a little limited in scale but provides the rich query capabilities that people want in a database."

That limited scale of only 10 GB remains in CTP 2 and presumably the November commercial release, unless Microsoft misses its publicized launch date. According to the SQL Azure Team blog, the October CTP includes the complete PDC feature set and for the first time offers the ability to select and create a Web Edition ($9.99 per month, up to 1 GB of relational data) or Business Edition ($99.99 per month, up to 10 GB). The October CTP adds firewall, bulk insert and more T-SQL support, among other improvements, such as tweaks in the SQL Azure portal.

The latest CTP is hosted on a go-live production cluster that is separate from the machine cluster used by the developer portal. According to the team blog:

"When SQL Azure Database becomes generally available, this environment will automatically roll over into a fully supported production environment and all your databases and data in this environment will be converted into an active subscription to the SQL Azure Database service based on the subscription offer you choose."

Microsoft offered a free trial of SQL Azure in August, which is ongoing through the November launch. On Wednesday, the SQL Azure team reported that "tens-of-thousands" have signed up for the service.

What do you think of Microsoft's decision to change course and start with a relational database with limited scale in the cloud? Have you tried SQL Azure? Express your thoughts below or drop me a line at [email protected]

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 10/15/2009

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