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Microsoft plugs away on SQL Azure

Microsoft is chipping away at SQL Azure, trying to bring it to full parity with on-premises with the company’s on-premises  SQL Server 2008 R2.

“We have the principal of symmetry to guide us. We’re moving quickly to move all SQL Server features into SQL Azure,” Ted Kummert, senior vice president of Microsoft’s business platform division told reporters on a conference call Wednesday announcing the near-availability of SQL Server 2008 R2.

SQL Azure, like the overall Azure cloud environment, remains a work in process, although Microsoft started rolling out Azure services commercially in February. 

“Make no mistake, we’re heading to expose full capabilities of SQL Server, the core relational engine as well as the other workloads,”  in the cloud, Kummert reiterated.

In theory that would mean developers would use the same programming model, the same tools to create and deploy database applicatoins inside their firewalls and in the Microsoft cloud.

The company has already pledged to increase the database partition size to 50GB, to support multiple active row sets and to support non-relational or spatial data types, he said.

People want to know how soon they will be able to move applications between on-premises SQL Server and SQL Azure, and the answer to that is unclear.   “Specific to application and multi-server management, providing you’re using the subset of features now available on Azure, you can deploy both on premises as well as on Azure,” said Tom Casey, GM of SQL Server BI. But that subset of features isn’t huge. 

The promise jazzes Andrew Brust, director of new technology for twentysixnewyork, a specialist in databases and business intelligence.

 “SQL Azure is an intriguing product, and Microsoft is clearly racing to achieve feature parity between it and the on-premises SQL Server SKUs.  Once the database size limit is eliminated or so-called ‘sharding’  technology [is] included , then I think we’ll see Azure start to become a feasible platform for cloud-based data warehousing.  When that happens, I’ll be very excited, as it will remove barriers to entry to BI for smaller firms and individual business units within larger ones,” Brust said via email.

 For people who’ve tried to work with Azure as is, there is some disappointment.

 An east coast developer who has kicked the tires and who specializes in building commerce sites for customers is very much underwhelmed with what he’s seen thus far from Microsoft Azure. 

 “The pricing model is way off. It’s a ton more expensive than Amazon services. The prices Microsoft quotes are per process, not per PC and that is a huge difference. The security model is also sadly lacking,” said one east coast VAR who has kicked the tires but continues to work primarily with Amazon services.


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