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Alin Irimie

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New CTP for SQL Azure

The SQL Azure October CTP 2 was released

The SQL Azure October CTP 2 was released. This CTP represents the complete feature set that will be available in the SQL Azure at PDC.

The October CTP has been deployed to one of Microsoft’s 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).

When SQL Azure 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 the go-live plans. That environment will be decommissioned by the end of the year (Dec ’09).

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 – This feature 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 – There are 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 – There is now 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 – You can reliably tell now 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 – There are new enhancements to the error messages returned should an error occur. If 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.

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Alin Irimie is a software engineer - architect, designer, and developer with over 10 years experience in various languages and technologies. Currently he is Messaging Security Manager at Sunbelt Software, a security company. He is also the CTO of RADSense Software, a software consulting company. He has expertise in Microsoft technologies such as .NET Framework, ASP.NET, AJAX, SQL Server, C#, C++, Ruby On Rails, Cloud computing (Amazon and Windows Azure),and he also blogs about cloud technologies here.