As promised, I wanted to only blog about the bits of the PDC that relate to SQL / Database / Data Services, and not every session within the PDC that I am attending. Many of the sessions have been interesting, but I am viewing them with my Architect’s hat on, and not from the viewpoint of my personal passion for SQL Server. I feel fortunate to be here and listening to the speakers and chatting to them offline instead of watching the PDC on the released videos after the event.
The keynote today contained a number of very interesting looking prospects on the data side of the fence, primarily ‘compered’ by Ray Ozzie, Chief Software Architect at Microsoft. There were also some demos, some of which were quite good, whilst others suffered from over-scripting. I am sure twitter was going wild at times during the keynote as people were giving real-time feedback about what they thought. (Whether that is a good thing or not I am not sure, walking off stage to find a few hundred bad reviews can not be nice.) But this is not about the demos but about the SQL / Data stuff.
A lot of work Microsoft have been doing and the phrase repeated throughout was ‘3 screens and a cloud’, using the 3 screens of mobile, computer and tv to represent 3 different delivery paradigms, but fundamentally using the same technology stack to deliver all 3.
The Azure data centres were announced to be going into production on Jan 1st 2010, and billing for those services will commence on the 1st Feb. However, the European and far eastern data centres were not listed as coming online until late in 2010, so the only data centres that will be up and running will be the Chicago and San Antonio data centres.
This may not seem a big problem, and in fact having 3 pair’s of data centres around the world is far more ideal and a single centralised resource, but for Europeans there are data protection laws in place that prohibit the movement of personal data outside of the bounds of Europe. In effect, you may not move the data into another jurisdiction where the data laws remove the legal protection the data subject owns. So from a data angle, it will be more interesting when the Dublin / Amsterdam data centre comes online in 2010, at which point storing data in the Azure cloud has a better data protection story.
SQL Azure has clearly been ‘beefed’ up and can now be connected to via SQL Server Management Studio just like a normal database, and be administered / interacted with – even supporting transactions. The disaster recovery and physical administration of the SQL remains out of sight and handled by the cloud, and not the application / vendor. SQL Azure understands TDS, so connecting to the SQL Azure is pretty seamless and appears like a regular SQL server. It has clearly matured as a platform, and rightly so.
Another project, codenamed ‘Dallas’ was announced which forms part of pinpoint. Pinpoint is a products / services portal, which instantly made me think of Apple’s ‘AppStore’ but for windows products and companies offering services. The interesting part is the ‘Dallas’ section, which is something like a ‘Data Store’ – allowing the discovery and consumption of centralised data services.
There has always been an issue when consuming data from other sources, that you are required to download it, understand the schema of the data and often ETL it from the format it is being supplied in, such as CSV, XML, Atom etc into a format that you can work with. Each data source often has its own schema and delivery mechanism and handling updates to the data remains an operational issue.
With ‘Dallas’ you are buying into the data being held within the cloud and it will auto-generate the proxy class for the data being consumed, so the schema of the data is available to you within code on the development side. This is an awesome concept and if they can tie in some form of micro-payment structure, you could easily visualise a set of data services that you consume within an application on an as needed basis. Without the micro-payments, you would have to have purchased a license, whether that is a one off cost, or a monthly subscription, neither deals with the ‘elastic’ nature of the applications that are being placed onto the cloud and one of the key benefits in that the data centres can scale up / down as your apps require. Given the billing of that is based on usage and you specifically want to take advantage of the elasticity of the infrastructure provision, it would make sense to have a similar elasticity in the data service charging arena.
This is definitely a technology to keep a close eye on, and I will be signing up an account to get access to the free data services that they are going to expose.