Updated CTP for SQL Azure Database includes complete feature set for PDC 2009!

[This article was contributed by the SQL Azure team.]

imageA few short weeks ago we announced the SQL Azure Database August CTP. Since the announcement, tens of thousands in the community have signed up for the service and have provided us with a tremendous amount of positive feedback. Today, the SQL Azure Database October CTP (CTP 2) update is another major milestone as we get ready for the Professional Developers Conference (PDC) on November 17th – 20th, 2009. We are also excited to announce that this CTP represents the complete feature set that will be available in the SQL Azure Database at PDC. 

“We see SQL Azure as the perfect fit for information that needs to be kept in one safe, well-structured, accessible spot. Partitioning the data helps ensure scalability as more and more users interact with the site, and it also isolates tracking resources, helping avoid single points of failure,” said Luigi Rosso, Chief Technology Officer at leading interactive firm, Archetype. “To establish the kind of default redundant installation we get with SQL Azure, we’d have to purchase at least two dedicated servers and hire IT staff to administer them. A reliable system in place that is managed, efficient, and fast is critical for us. With SQL Azure, we don’t have to buy servers or manage and monitor them for capacity to ensure availability for our customers.”

The October CTP has been deployed to one of our go-live production clusters. This production cluster is significantly larger and more powerful than the machine cluster that is supporting the August CTP but is a completely separate machine cluster serviced by a dedicated developer portal (https://sql.azure.com). Accounts for all existing users of the current CTP (August CTP) have been automatically provisioned for access to the new October CTP and environment. Simply go to the developer portal (https://sql.azure.com) to activate your account and create servers on the new environment. Servers you create on this new environment will be reachable through a new address(<servername>.database.windows.net – we’ve dropped the ‘ctp’ moniker from the base address name).

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.

Note: Existing servers and databases that you created in the August CTP environment will still be fully accessible and available through the current service URL (<servername>.ctp.database.windows.net), in parallel with the October CTP environment. The developer portal for the August CTP environment will also continue to be available, although through a new URL (https://ctpportal.database.windows.net ). As noted above, the previous URL will be re-used to support the new production environment.

As the August CTP is running on hardware below our production standard, that environment will not roll over into a production environment as part of our go-live plans. That environment will be decommissioned by the end of the year (Dec ’09).

We invite you to begin to use the new cluster to take advantage of all the cool new relational features available as part of the updated service!

 

The key new features included in this October CTP are listed below.

  • Firewall Support – The new firewall features allows a customer to specify an allow list of IP address that can access their SQL Azure Server. Security is a concern for companies looking at storing data in the cloud and with this new feature you can rest assured that only hosts you specify will be allowed to connect. Please be aware that your firewall will deny all connections by default, so please go to the SQL Azure Portal and configure your allow list so that existing clients can continue to connect.
  • Support for Bulk Insert – One of the pain points we heard from customers was around the speed at which they were able to load data into the system. We have taken this feedback and have enabled support for Bulk Insert. This will improve the rate at which you are able to load data into the system by a few orders of magnitude. This change also enables you to use the SqlBulkCopy class from within ADO.Net
  • Database Edition Selection – This allows you to select which SQL Azure Database edition (Web Edition (up to 1GB relational database) or Business Edition (up to 10GB relational database)) is created during the database provisioning process. This is surfaced both in the SQL Azure Portal and in the T-SQL Create Database statement. For example, to create a Business Edition database the T-SQL command would be as follows:

            CREATE DATABASE foo (MAXSIZE = 10GB)

  • Updates to SQL Azure Portal – We have made numerous functionality changes and bug fixes in the portal. These include database edition selection when creating a database in the portal, viewing the size of your database and also the ability to configure your firewall settings.
  • Additional T-SQL Support – Due to customer demand, we have enabled support for additional T-SQL statements. The complete list can be found on MSDN and it includes support for items like Synonyms, Types, Table Value Parameters, additional systems views and more.
  • Updated SQL Azure Server Properties – We have finalized the internal SQL Server engine properties so you can reliably tell if you are connecting to an instance of SQL Server on premises or connecting to SQL Azure in the cloud. The major changes include a new value for Edition of “SQL Azure” and a new Engine Edition value of “5”. For further details please refer to the SQL Azure documentation on MSDN.
  • Updated SQL Azure Error Messages – We have enhanced the error messages returned should an error occur. Our goal to ensure that should you experience an error, the message received is meaningful and actionable by you.

Consuming data stored in SQL Azure Database is also critical, so as a reminder, the updated SQL Server Driver for PHP 1.1 with support for SQL Azure Database was recently released and can be found here. In addition to SQL Azure Database support, this release includes significant enhancements for PHP development including support for PHP version 5.3, performance improvements, and new features such as scrollable results sets, row count, and support for UTF-8 encoding. If you would like to find out more, you can check out the documentation on MSDN. Also, you should download the refreshed Windows Azure Platform Training Kit that reflects the changes in this October CTP.

A good portion of the new features and enhancements for this CTP came to us as requests from the user community. We listen to and appreciate your feedback as it helps us to build a better platform that will provide you critical capabilities for your database workloads. Please keep the feedback coming.

When we started this journey our goal was to extend the SQL Server Platform to the cloud and to provide our customers with relational database features and availability with cost efficiencies. We are on track to deliver that goal at PDC. There is much more to come as we continue to light up new scenarios and experiences. There will be more on this at PDC ‘09 and the SQL Azure team hopes to see everyone there.

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