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Microsoft Details New Features in Upcoming SQL Azure Release

Microsoft outlined some of the new features coming in the next release of SQL Azure -- which the company said will arrive in Q4 2011 -- during Day 2 of the PASS Summit, taking place this week in Seattle.

The new release will allow a maximum database size of 150 GB (the previous maximum was 50 GB). It will also come with a SQL Azure Federation feature, which would enable databases to "be elastically scaled out using the sharding database pattern based on database size and the application workload," according to Microsoft's announcement. Users can expect some improvements to SQL Azure's management capabilities, as well. For instance, improvements to the Management Portal in SQL Azure will make it easier to "monitor databases" and "drill-down into schemas," Microsoft said. Query capabilities will be improved for "plans, spatial data, indexes/keys and query performance statistics."

Two community test previews (CTPs) showcasing new features, both of which had been available for private testing, were rolled out on Thursday for all SQL Azure users to try. However, it's not clear if they will be fully baked into the product in time for the Q4 SQL Azure service release. One of those CTPs is an updated release of the SQL Azure Reporting capability, which can be accessed via the Windows Azure Management Portal here (requires sign-up). SQL Azure Reporting lets organizations present business intelligence-type reports while tapping Microsoft's cloud database. This feature may be of interest to organizations that lack the in-house licensing to carry out such reporting tasks, or to organizations that need to generate reports on a seasonal basis, according to Microsoft's description. SQL Azure Reporting shares aspects with Microsoft's SQL Server 2008 R2 Reporting Services. Developers can use tools such as the Business Intelligence Design Studio and SQL Server Data Tools (formerly code-named "Juneau"). A table showing the nuances of the two reporting features can be found here

The second CTP made available on Thursday is SQL Azure Data Sync. This CTP works with Microsoft's new Management Portal to configure and manage the synchronization of databases, both on-premises and in the cloud. The synchronization works bidirectionally, according to this Microsoft blog. Microsoft added improved filtering at the column and row levels with this CTP release. Moreover, users can now configure the synchronization for "conflict resolution as well as sync direction per group member," according to Microsoft's announcement.

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Microsoft also revealed that SQL Server 2012, the relational database management system previously code-named "Denali," will include a cloud backup capability would let users back up data to Microsoft's Windows Azure platform. However, Microsoft did not reveal any details about this feature's cost, if any.

Microsoft indicated a roadmap shift in September favoring the use of the Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) approach for SQL Server APIs, with a gradual phase-out of its Object Linking and Embedding Database (OLE DB) approach. On Thursday, Microsoft tracked back to its ODBC emphasis by announcing it will release a "Microsoft SQL Server ODBC Driver for Linux." The CTP of the new driver is expected in mid-November. The final release of the ODBC Linux driver is planned for the release of SQL Server 2012 next year, according to Microsoft's announcement.

Finally, Microsoft partner Hewlett-Packard plans to release a database migration solution for virtualized environments in November. The migration product, consisting of HP's hardware and Microsoft's software, is called the "HP Enterprise Database Consolidation Appliance." Microsoft claims that HP's appliance speeds up database deployments to minutes rather than weeks and requires "no application or database changes" for such migrations. The product appears aimed at SQL Server 2008 R2, based on a whitepaper available here.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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