It’s Scary in the Cloud

darkcloudAs I mentioned in my last post I have been learning as much as I can about Windows Azure SQL Database (SQL Database or WASD to those who work with it).  I did a lot of research and some demo projects for my presentation on WASD at SQL Saturday #237 in Charlotte, but I know there is more for me to learn. In fact one of the challenges with WASD is that it can change as quickly as DBA’s and developers can learn. I’ve had a lot of conversations about Azure over the last few weeks. These have ranged from in-depth case studies using WASD for a SaaS product offering to people who have never looked at Azure. To help me and maybe others have a baseline for learning about Windows Azure SQL Database I wanted to ask some experts a few questions. The first person that comes to mind for me from the DBA perspective on Azure is the Scary DBA, Grant Fritchey (B|T). Grant is a Product Evangelist for Red Gate Software and his blogging and presenting have had an Azure focus lately. I traded some emails with Grant and he agreed to answer my five cloudy questions.

[Me] Why should DBAs care about Windows Azure SQL Database?

[Grant] Two reasons, first, and most importantly, the resources exposed by Windows Azure are accessible by anyone within your organization. You will begin to see development teams take advantage of the fast, easy and inexpensive development mechanisms Azure, and specifically WASD, provides. As a DBA then, you need to understand this technology in order to better support and assist these development teams as they move applications past simple development or prototyping into production. If you don’t know what you’re doing with WASD, it’s strengths, it’s weaknesses, you may find yourself in a bad situation. Second, WASD is a powerful tool. It’s a specialized tool, but powerful within its specialty. The ability to add capacity programmatically through WASD makes sharding a very amazing mechanism to allow for rapid data growth, and shrinkage, on demand without requiring massive resource outlay that might not be used on your systems. Developing knowledge of how and when you can put WASD to work to both save your company money and expand its capacities makes you a more valuable resource for your company. In short, it’s here, learn it.

[Me] There is a lot of information about your work with Azure at the Home of the Scary DBA blog. What other resources would you recommend to DBA’s and Developers learning WASD?

[Grant] Scott Guthrie’s blog is a must. You can also look to the SQL Azure CAT blog. There are books. My favorite is by Scott Klein. But, as much as I like the book, it does age quickly since there are constant updates to Azure occurring.

[Me]  In your opinion what will be the hardest thing for grounded DBAs to learn or get used to about WASD?

[Grant] The biggest issue for everyone is the lack of control. People think about servers, instances, memory, disk and CPU. These are just not immediately applicable concepts within WASD. Making that mental leap is just killing people. Oh, and the lack of backups. I love watching the shock on DBAs faces when I tell them there are no backups. Yeah, there are a number of ways around it, but we’ve become very attached (for good reasons) to the command BACKUP DATABASE. Look to Red Gate Cloud Services for a few workarounds on the backup issue.WordsLearnIt2

[Me]  What features do you hope to see added to WASD in the near future? down the road? (Any cool features that Red Gate will be adding to their tools for Cloud DBAs?)

[Grant] Funny enough, I’m excited about the ability to get a point in time recovery process in place. I know I make fun of the lack of backups, but let’s face it, it is a little bit of a shortcoming. I’d also like to see them fix Federations rather than scrap the concept (which seems to be happening).

Red Gate is supporting Azure in every possible way. Our core products like SQL Compare and SQL Data Compare already support connecting to Azure. We also have partial support with SQL Prompt. Those are going to be expanded on so that full functionality, and then some, is there. I already mentioned Cloud Services, but that’s going to continue to grow. We’re also actively expanding our offerings from Cerebrata to give you even more management tools to make working with Azure easier and easier. I won’t say we’re “all in” on the cloud (like Microsoft), but we really do believe Azure, and other cloud-based technology, has a future and that Red Gate is going to be right at the heart of that future.

[Me] And lastly, what is your best performance tip/or favorite feature that you like about SQL Database?

[Grant] I really love what they’ve done with execution plans on the Database Management Portal. The updated interface with the ability to highlight operators, rearrange the cost, quickly switch views without losing your spot on the plan, that’s all really cool stuff. I’m frankly disappointed that it’s not in SQL Server 2014.

Thank you to Grant Fritchey for taking the time to answer my WASD questions and I hope to have a few more posts on WASD and Azure coming soon.


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