User Acceptance Testing and the Application Lifecycle

User Acceptance Testing (UAT) is an important part of the development process. If carried out as early as possible and as regularly as possible, it not only alerts the development team to aspects that don't yet meet the requirements of the users, but also gives governance a better idea of progress. If UAT is delayed, defects become expensive and troublesome to fix. Sophia Segal gives an experienced summary view of UAT… Read more

Using AWS’s Simple Workflow Service (SWF) with C#

Amazon's Simple Workflow Service (SWF) in AWS provides a model of workflow that is simple to understand but is it simple to get a robust and durable workflow in place? Tom Fischer guides you through the bewildering early stages of your first SWF application, and concludes that workflows inherently take time and effort to get right, but SWF provides a formidable cloud-based solution … Read more

Exploring Azure Storage for SQL Server DBAs

If you need to run SQL Server in an Azure Virtual Machine, your choice of Azure storage will have a great effect on its performance. If performance is important, you are likely to discover complications and barriers in the storage options when you come to provision the server. If you get it wrong, you could end up with an expensive service. Joshua explains the value of using a lab environment to allow you to make well-informed VM storage decisions when the time comes to provision your production system. … Read more

How to Build Your First SQL Server Virtual Lab in Windows Azure

If you are a DBA who hasn't so far dived in head-first into using Azure, it is worth setting up an Azure 'Virtual Lab' environment the easy way, using a template. This will then allow you to experiment, try things out with SQL Azure, and get familiar with Resource Groups. Joshua shows how to build a virtual lab, from the ground up in the first of a series that aims to give you a grounding in Azure.… Read more

Why Would I Ever Need to Partition My Big ‘Raw’ Data?

Whether you are running an RDBMS, or a Big Data system, it is important to consider your data-partitioning strategy. As the volume of data grows, so it becomes increasingly important to match the way you partition your data to the way it is queried, to allow 'pruning' optimisation. When you have huge imports of data to consider, it can get complicated. Bartosz explains how to get things right; not perfect but wisely.… Read more

How to Start Big Data with Apache Spark

It is worth getting familiar with Apache Spark because it a fast and general engine for large-scale data processing and you can use you existing SQL skills to get going with analysis of the type and volume of semi-structured data that would be awkward for a relational database. With an IDE such as Databricks you can very quickly get hands-on experience with an interesting technology.… Read more

Azure SQL Data Warehouse: Explaining the Architecture Through System Views

The architecture of Azure SQL Data Warehouse isn't easy to explain briefly, but if you have some useful queries that access the management and catalog views, and diagrams that show how they relate together, you can very quickly get a feel for what is going on under the hood. By using and extending these queries that use these views, you can check on a variety waits, blocking, status, table distribution and data movement in ASDW.… Read more

SQL Database: How to Configure Active Geo-Replication

Active Geo-location is powerful magic for ensuring the high availability of a Azure SQL database, and for disaster-recovery. In choosing the best options, you need to accurately understand the value that the business places on the service you're running, long it will take for a secondary replica to be in synch with the primary replica, the importance of spreading the location of replicas widely, and the maximum tolerable unscheduled downtime. Just clicking all the options could prove to be expensive. … Read more

Windows Containers and Docker

Windows Server 2016 features support for containers. These are not Linux-based, but containers that run on Windows and run Windows on the inside. These conform to the Open Container Initiative (OCI). They allow you to run applications insulated from the rest of the system, within portable containers that include everything an application needs to be fully functional. As they did with Linux, containers will change the nature of the software supply chain for Windows users.… Read more

Taking Azure SQL Data Warehouse for a Test-Drive

Azure SQL Data Warehouse uses SQL to query the data, but there are some differences to SQL Server's dialect of TSQL, and queries don't necessarily work in the same way. DBAs are also required to use SSDT to access Azure SQL Data Warehouse. It is worth taking the time to try the preview of the product, and take it for a 'spin around the block', following Robert Sheldon's walk-through.… Read more

Connecting to SQL Data Warehouse

The most frustrating thing with any new system is often just working out how to connect to it. Oddly, you can't use SSMS with SQL Data Warehouse, but it is fine with SSDT, SSIS, Power BI desktop, sqlcmd, BCP, and a range of Microsoft cloud services - there are PowerShell Cmdlets too. Rob Sheldon provides the details.… Read more

Comparing Networking Options in Azure

What are your options for connecting to an Azure VM? Sure, a Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) connection will get you started but you'll soon need a full secure VPN connection. Azure can provide three different options for doing this: Point-to-Site (P2S), Site-to-Site (S2S), and ExpressRoute, but what are their relative advantages, and which one is right for the way you need to use Azure? … Read more

In Search of the Cortana Analytics Suite

Cortana Analytics Suite is important and significant, but it is difficult to work out why or how from the existing 'information'. After more setbacks than Dr Livingstone, Bob Sheldon emerged from the jungle of marketing hyperbole triumphantly with a small diagram which explained it. Here he reveals the individual components, and finds them, in combination, to be a curiously interesting attempt to bring Big Data under contro… Read more

Azure SQL Data Warehouse

Azure SQL Data Warehouse is a fully-managed and scalable cloud service. It is still in preview, but solid. Not only is it compatible with several other Azure offerings, such as Machine Learning and Data Factory, but also with various existing SQL Server tools and Microsoft products. It talks Power BI. Are we now seeing the final piece of the Azure jigsaw fall into place?… Read more

Using Azure KeyVault with Node.js

Some of the most intractable problems of application design are concerned with how to store credentials for accessing sensitive application data, keys and, configuration settings in code. With Azure Key Vault you don't have to. You can, instead just authorise an application to access and use a Key Vault and perform operations that require authentication against a KeyVault. Christos Matskas shows how an application can interact with the service, using a node.JS application as an example.… Read more

How to Build and Deploy Azure IaaS VMs with PowerShell

The whole point of using a cloud service is to be able to use it intensively for a brief period just when it is needed and then clear out all your work when you've finished. This means automation to make the process as quick and easy as possible. It is likely to mean creating a VM, provisioning it from scratch and spinning it up using PowerShell. Relax, grab the popcorn, and let Adam Bertram show you how he does it in Azure.… Read more