About Me

I now work for Microsoft Federal in Chevy Chase, MD.

Dedicated to providing customer-driven, results-focused solutions to the complex business problems of today... and tomorrow.

At SQLTrainer.com, LLC  we understand that the technical challenges faced by businesses today are much greater in both scope and complexity than they have ever been. Businesses today are faced with understanding both local IT infrastructures as well as cloud-based technologies.

What is SQLTrainer.com?

Founded in 1998 by Ted Malone, SQLTrainer.com is a technical consulting, training and content development firm dedicated to the following core principles:

  • Technology Alone is NOT the Answer! - Implementing a particular technology because it is interesting or "cool" will not solve customer problems.
  • Technology Solutions do NOT need to be Overly Complex! - Many times developers and technical practitioners will attempt to build the most clever solution possible. While this serves to stroke the egos of those involved, it doesn't provide a maintainable solution.
  • Consultants Should be Mentors First! - When looking to hire an external consultant, businesses should look to the consultant who's willing to train themselves out of a paycheck.

Why the name, SQLTrainer.com?

SQL (pronounced See-Quell) stands for Structured Query Language, which is at the heart of every modern-day relational database system. Since many technology solutions today rely on some form of database storage or interaction, it was only logical to find a way to incorporate SQL into the name of the organization. Given that one of our core principles is to be a mentor/training above everything, the name SQLTrainer made sense. Since we also wanted to represent our embracing of the cloud, it seemed logical to add the ".com", referring to the biggest "cloud" of them all.

Live Feeds

Thursday, October 8, 2015 10:00:00 AM

The previous two blogs (here and here) in this series discussed how to evaluate the cost effectiveness of SQL Server and the Microsoft data platform and leveraging the asset of an expert community. As part of that discussion, experts in the data community identified several factors that contribute to the value of the Microsoft platform. Interestingly, the built-in SQL Server capabilities that the experts highlighted are also the keys to addressing the five data challenges facing the industry today: performance and scale, security, business intelligence (BI), big data and analytics, and how to make the best use of the cloud. To show how addressing these challenges with the Microsoft data platform can make organizations more successful for less cost, the next blogs in this series will look at each of these five challenges and how customers are using the Microsoft data platform to make their organizations more successful. You can learn more about how to tackle the top five data management challenges by attending the first webinar in the new Microsoft Data management series, which will be live on October 29, 2015, at 10:00 PST (GMT-7).

Performance and Scale

The first challenge is to ensure your data platform provides outstanding performance and scalability so that you can quickly respond to customers and internal queries and without taxing your systems. SQL Server includes in-memory technology to accelerate mission-critical application performance up to 30x so that you can meet this challenge. In addition, in-memory Columnstore, can result in up to 100x faster query performance.
But what does this technology mean in to you in concrete business terms? Real-world customer stories can demonstrate the business value you can gain by deploying the latest version of SQL Server.


When it comes to database performance and scale, NASDAQ OMX Group (a leading global provider of trading services, stock exchange technology, and market insight) undisputedly has vast and essential needs. Stanley Orlowski, NASDAQ’s Director of Database Structures, explains, “Just our US Options and Equity data archive handles billions of transactions per day, stores multiple petabytes of online data, and has tables that contain quintillions of records about business transactions.”

With this technology, Orlowski notes, “With SQL Server 2014, we can reduce 250 TB of page-compressed data to 125 TB using in-memory columnstore. After we migrate all of our US data archives to SQL Server 2014, we expect to reduce our storage footprint by half a petabyte. We’ve seen on average a 50 percent reduction in the amount of data that’s physically stored on disk. And not only does it help us save money, but it also helps us more efficiently and effectively deliver data to our consumers.”

Further advantages include reducing maintenance time, decreasing the storage needed by half, and accelerating decision making. You can watch the video of how NASDAQ addressed the performance and scale challenge here and read the story here.

Experience Speaks

When you’re looking at and comparing products, the most trusted resource is feedback from people who have tried the product and can speak from experience. NASDAQ is just one of many SQL Server customers that have benefitted from SQL Server in-memory OLTP and columnstore technology. You can read the facts about other customers such as Dell, which has doubled applications speeds and made transaction processing nine times faster; Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, which has cut query time by 75 percent and experienced dramatic benefits for patients; and Progressive Insurance, which demonstrated quadrupled data performance without upgrading hardware; and more.

Another source of trusted information comes from independent performance and scalability benchmarking. In contrast to data platform vendors that have licensing agreements that forbid benchmark testing, Microsoft confidently participates in industry and partner benchmarking. You can examine and download SQL Server benchmark results here and see the outstanding performance achieved by SQL Server 2014’s updateable in-memory columnstore technology.

The upcoming blogs in this series will discuss the other top five data challenges, security, BI, big data and analytics, and cloud scenarios. In the meantime, be sure to register today for the upcoming webinar to learn more.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015 10:00:00 AM

As discussed in the previous blog in this series, an Ernst and Young study, CFO-CIO: a growing collaboration, finds that “To succeed, organizations must make bold technology investment decisions that are driven by corporate strategy.” To achieve this goal, CIOs and CFOs need to work together with business leadership to ensure that, beyond cost effectiveness, IT purchasing decisions such choosing as a data platform are based on meeting strategic business objectives. Once the team understands strategic goals, they can evaluate a data platform based on a combination of positive Total Economic Impact (TEI) and built-in cost-effective mission-critical capabilities.

As part of this evaluation, the CFO and CIO examine the prospective data platform. They need to look at the technology’s contributions to day-to-day efficiency in IT and the opportunities that the platform offers to provide strategic value to the business. One asset they can call on during this process is the engaged and expert community that has developed around the Microsoft data platform. Members of this community are a valuable resource for gathering input on how Microsoft’s data platform performs in the real world.

In an informal poll of a random selection prominent data platform experts, we asked for their opinions about the value proposition of SQL Server and the Microsoft platform. In combination with an assessment such as the Forrester TEI framework, such comments help by providing perspective for anyone performing an evaluation of a strategic data platform. Here’s what the experts had to say:

Andy Leonard of Andy Leonard Consulting, noted speaker and author (see Andy’s blog here):

“I believe Microsoft SQL Server and the Microsoft suite of hosted data services and solutions offer tremendous value to customers. SQL Server and Azure highlight something Microsoft has always done well—integration. The ease with which developers can access on-premises and cloud data, combined with the similarity of the user experience [across products], further combined with the total cost of ownership, make for a compelling data strategy. Throw in Microsoft's engagement with the SQL Server community (MVP Program, sponsorship of the Professional Association for SQL Server, Microsoft Partners, etc.) and you have a recipe for success that keeps delivering value.

Douglas McDowell, CEO, North America, SolidQ Consulting, Microsoft Most Valued Professional (MVP), and noted speaker and writer:

“Firstly, SQL Server does as much as or more than Oracle or IBM, but it just costs a lot less. I am not just talking about feature comparison and licensing. I mean all-up total cost of ownership (TCO), how much the hardware or virtual environment costs (acquisition, operation), dependability, and especially the cost of the skilled personnel required to develop and operate it. And platform migrations (re-platforming) from another platform to SQL Server are now very smooth and cost-effective processes.”

John Sterrett, Group Principal, Linchpin People consulting (see John’s blog here):

“Cost, simplicity and built in tools. When I was at [a major server hardware company], we were moving over databases like crazy from Oracle to SQL Server. SQL Server ease of use allows customers to have a higher ratio of instances and databases managed by less people. I have known DBAs that would make sure they had SQL Server license so they could use [SQL Server Integration Services] SSIS and [SQL Server Reporting services] SSRS because they are much easier than built-in tools for Oracle.”

Stephen Wynkoop, MVP, founder of sswug.org:

“The cloud-functionality that I think is really going to help pull people forward is the hybrid hosting - where you have on-premises and cloud-based solutions in play. Having SQL Server ‘burst’ to the cloud, having SQL Server backup to the cloud—these are great examples of doing different pieces of the work where they're best done.”

Stuart Ainsworth, Linchpin People Consulting (See Stuart’s blog here):

“There are multiple approaches to performance issues, and SQL Server gives you a lot of options to address issues: You can tune stored procedures or SQL statements, you can manipulate indexes or objects (like columnstores), or you tune hardware. Not every solution is viable for every situation, so having that flexibility is exciting when you're faced with performance problems. The other thing is that the SQL Server license includes a lot of built-in capabilities (e.g., the database engine, SSRS, SSIS, StreamInsight, etc.). I've been in situations where people are still passing around Excel spreadsheets, and their eyes have popped wide open when I showed them how easy it is to build reports in SSRS.”

Strategy at the Forefront

As CFOs and CIOs work to build a data infrastructure that furthers their organizations’ business strategy, they have many ways to ensure that the data platform they choose gives them the value they need and the technology that enables innovation.

To learn more about Microsoft’s data platform, click here and follow us on @SQLServer to stay up to date on the latest news from our team.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015 4:00:00 AM

Twitter contest time! Need a ticket to PASS Summit 2015? Tell us why you deserve a free pass in 140 characters in the form of a HAIKU. Contest starts Tuesday, 9:00 AM PDT October 6, 2015 and we will announce the winner at 5:00 PM PDT, Friday, October 9, 2015. Read the official rules below.


These are the official rules that govern how the Microsoft “Why I should win a pass to PASS Summit 2015” Haiku Contest promotion will operate (“Contest”).

In these rules, “we,” “our,” and “us” refer to Microsoft Corporation, the sponsor of this Contest. “You” refers to an eligible Contest entrant.


There is no purchase or product ownership required to enter. This is a skill-based Contest. The object of this Contest is to create the best (as determined by Microsoft judges) haiku about why they should win a pass to PASS Summit 2015.

All eligible entries received will be judged using the criteria described below to determine the winners of the prizes described below.


This Contest starts at Tuesday, 9:00 AM PDT October 6, 2015 and we will announce the winner at 5:00 PM PDT, Friday, October 9, 2015.


You are eligible to enter this Contest if you meet the following requirements at time entry:

  • You are a legal resident of the 50 United States and District of Columbia, and are 18 years of age or older.
    • If you are 18 of age or older, but are considered a minor in your place of residence, you should ask your parent’s or legal guardian’s permission prior to submitting an entry into this Contest; and
  • You are NOT an employee of Microsoft Corporation or an employee of a Microsoft subsidiary; and
  • You are NOT involved in any part of the administration and execution of this Contest; and
  • You are NOT an immediate family (parent, sibling, spouse, child) or household member of a Microsoft employee, an employee of a Microsoft subsidiary, or a person involved in any part of the administration and execution of this Contest.

This Contest is void outside the geographic area described above and wherever else prohibited by law.


Write an original haiku about why you should win a pass to PASS Summit 2015.

To enter, you must do all of the following:

  1. Sign in to your Twitter account. If you do not have an account, visit Twitter to create one. Twitter accounts are free!
  2. Once logged into your Twitter account, follow the links and instructions to become a follower of @SQLServer.
  3. From your own account, publically post your reply (messages marked private are not eligible) to the question tweeted by @SQLServer.
  4. Your tweet must contain the #SQLHaikuContest hashtag to be eligible for entry.

Limit one entry per person. For the purposes of these Official Rules, a “day” Tuesday, 9:00 AM PDT October 6, 2015 and we will announce the winner at 5:00 PM PDT, Friday, October 9, 2015. (“Entry Period”). If you reply with more than one Haiku you will be automatically disqualified.

We are not responsible for entries that we do not receive for any reason, or for entries that we receive but are not decipherable for any reason, or for entries that do not include your Twitter handle.

We will automatically disqualify:

  • Any incomplete or illegible entry; and
  • Any entries that we receive from you that do not meet the requirements described above.

All eligible entries received will be judged using the criteria described below to determine the winners of the prizes described below.

We are not responsible for entries that we do not receive for any reason, or for entries that we receive but are not decipherable for any reason.


To be eligible for judging an entry must meet the following content/technical requirements:

  • The haiku must contain 140 characters or less
  • 140 characters must include hashtag #SQLHaikuContest
  • The haiku topic must be about “Why I should win a pass to PASS Summit 2015”
  • The haiku must be submitted in English for English-speaking judges

In addition:

  • your entry must be your own original work; and
  • your entry cannot have been selected as a winner in any other contest; and
  • you must have obtained any and all consents, approvals or licenses required for you to submit your entry; and
  • your entry may not include any third party trademarks (logos, names) or copyrighted materials (music, images, video, recognizable people) unless you have obtained permission to use the materials. You may include Microsoft trademarks, logos, and designs, for which Microsoft grants you a limited license to use for the sole purposes of submitting an entry into this Contest.

Entries may NOT contain, as determined by us, in our sole and absolute discretion, any content that:

  • is sexually explicit, unnecessarily violent or derogatory of any ethnic, racial, gender, religious, professional or age group; profane or pornographic;
  • promotes alcohol, illegal drugs, tobacco, firearms/weapons (or the use of any of the foregoing) or a particular political agenda;
  • is obscene or offensive;
  • defames misrepresents or contains disparaging remarks about other people or companies;
  • communicates messages or images inconsistent with the positive images and/or good will to which we wish to associate; and/or violates any law.

We reserve the right to reject any entry, in our sole and absolute discretion, that we determine does not meet the above criteria.


Other than what is set forth below, we are not claiming any ownership rights to your entry. However, by submitting your entry, you:

  • are granting us an irrevocable, royalty-free, worldwide right and license to: (i) use, review, assess, test and otherwise analyze your entry and all its content in connection with this Contest; and (ii) feature your entry and all content in connection with the marketing, sale, or promotion of this Contest (including but not limited to internal and external sales meetings, conference presentations, tradeshows, and screen shots of the Contest entry in press releases) in all media (now known or later developed);
  • agree to sign any necessary documentation that may be required for us and our designees to make use of the rights you granted above;
  • understand nd acknowledge that the Sponsor(s) may have developed or commissioned materials similar or identical to your submission and you waive any claims you may have resulting from any similarities to your entry;
  • understand that we cannot control the incoming information you will disclose to our representatives in the course of entering, or what our representatives will remember about your entry. You also understand that we will not restrict work assignments of representatives who have had access to your entry. By entering this Contest, you agree that use of information in our representatives’ unaided memories in the development or deployment of our products or services does not create liability for us under this agreement or copyright or trade secret law;
  • understand that you will not receive any compensation or credit for use of your entry, other than what is described in these Official Rules.

Please note that following the end of this Contest your entry may be posted on a website selected by us for viewing by visitors to that website. We are not responsible for any unauthorized use of your entry by visitors to this website. While we reserve these rights, we are not obligated to use your entry for any purpose, even if it has been selected as a winning entry.

If you do not want to grant us these rights to your entry, please do not enter this Contest.


On or around the close of the Entry Period, a panel of Microsoft judges will review all eligible entries received and select two Grand Prize winners based upon following judging criteria:

  • 30.00% - Creativity
  • 30.00% - Entertainment value
  • 40.00% - Relevancy to “Why I should win a pass to PASS Summit 2014?”

In the event of a tie between any eligible entries, an additional judge will break the tie based on the judging criteria described above. The decisions of the judges are final and binding. If we do not receive a sufficient number of entries meeting the entry requirements, we may, at our discretion, select fewer winners than the number of Contest Prizes described below.

Contest Prizes

(1) Prize: One Full three-day pass to PASS Summit 2015. Approximate Retail Value each US $2,395.00.

Prize does not include meals, travel or hotel accommodations.

If you are a potential winner, we will notify you by sending a message to the Twitter account provided at time of entry within seven (7) days following completion of judging. If the notification that we send is returned as undeliverable, or you are otherwise unreachable for any reason, we may award to a runner-up.

If there is a dispute as to who is the potential winner, we will consider the potential winner to be the authorized account holder of the e-mail address used to enter the Contest. If you are a potential winner, we may require you to sign an Affidavit of Eligibility, Liability/Publicity Release and a W-9 tax form or W-8 BEN tax form within 10 days of notification. If you are a potential winner and you are 18 or older, but are considered a minor in your place of legal residence, we may require your parent or legal guardian to sign all required forms on your behalf.

If you do not complete the required forms as instructed and/or return the required forms within the time period listed on the winner notification message, we may disqualify you and select a runner-up.

If you are confirmed as a winner of this Contest:

  • You may not exchange your prize for cash or any other merchandise or services. However, if for any reason an advertised prize is unavailable, we reserve the right to substitute a prize of equal or greater value; and
  • You may not designate someone else as the winner. If you are unable or unwilling to accept your prize, we may award it to a runner up; and
  • If you accept a prize, you will be solely responsible for all applicable taxes related to accepting the prize; and
  • If you are otherwise eligible for this Contest, but are considered a minor in your place of residence, we may award the prize to your parent/legal guardian on your behalf; and
  • Unless otherwise noted, all prizes are subject to their manufacturer’s warranty and/or terms and conditions.

We will only award one (1) prize per person and they will be connected with directly on Twitter upon determining winner.


By entering this Contest you agree:

  • To abide by these Official Rules; and
  • To release and hold harmless Microsoft and its respective parents, subsidiaries, affiliates, employees and agents from any and all liability or any injury, loss or damage of any kind arising from or in connection with this Contest, or any prize won; and
  • That Microsoft’s decisions will be final and binding on all matters related to this Contest; and
  • That, by accepting a prize, Microsoft may use of your proper name and state of residence online and in print, or in any other media, in connection with this Contest, without payment or compensation to you, except where prohibited by law.


This Contest will be governed by the laws of the State of Washington, and you consent to the exclusive jurisdiction and venue of the courts of the State of Washington for any disputes arising out of this Contest.


If someone cheats, or a virus, bug, catastrophic event, or any other unforeseen or unexpected event that cannot be reasonably anticipated or controlled, (also referred to as force majeure) affects the fairness and/or integrity of this Contest, we reserve the right to cancel, change or suspend this Contest. This right is reserved whether the event is due to human or technical error. If a solution cannot be found to restore the integrity of the Contest, we reserve the right to select winners from among all eligible entries received before we had to cancel, change or suspend the Contest.

If you attempt to compromise the integrity or the legitimate operation of this Contest by hacking or by cheating or committing fraud in ANY way, we may seek damages from you to the fullest extent permitted by law. Further, we may ban you from participating in any of our future Contest, so please play fairly.


We will post the name of the winner on @SQLServer at 5:00 PM PDT, Friday, October 9, 2015. This will remain posted one month after Wednesday, September 30, 2015.


Microsoft Corporation
One Microsoft Way
Redmond, WA 98052

Monday, October 5, 2015 10:00:00 AM

April 12, 2016, is an important date for organizations still running SQL Server 2005. That’s the day Microsoft extended support ends. And although next year may seem like a long way off, this year is the time to implement a plan to upgrade your aging technology to Microsoft SQL Server 2014. Not convinced an upgrade is the right move? Consider these top 10 reasons that modernizing your 10-year-old database technology is a smart business decision.    

1. Options. Modernizing your data platform is not an all-or-nothing venture. Microsoft offers a unique level of flexibility — you can update your existing servers, run SQL Server 2014 on virtual machines in the cloud, or implement a combination of both. SQL Server 2014 is designed to work the same on-premises or in the cloud, creating consistent hybrid environments. New tools in SQL Server make it even easier to build backup and disaster recovery solutions with Microsoft Azure. These tools also provide an easy on ramp to the cloud for on-premises SQL Server databases, enabling customers to use their existing skills to take advantage of Microsoft’s global datacenters. For more about the pros and cons of different migration options, download Migrating from SQL Server 2005.

2. ROI. You may think the least expensive option is sticking with what you’ve got. Not so. Modernizing your data platform is a wise business investment. According to a July 2014 Microsoft commissioned study from Forrester on the Total Economic Impact of SQL Server, businesses achieved a 9.5-month payback when migrating to SQL Server 2014 and a 113 percent ROI, in part from a 20 percent improvement in IT resource productivity.

3. Performance. SQL Server 2014 has been benchmarked to be 13 times faster than SQL Server 20051 and 5.5 times faster than SQL Server 2008.2 And that’s before the incredible performance gains available with in-memory technology. In-memory OLTP delivers, on average, 10 times faster transaction processing — and in some cases up to 30 times faster. For data warehousing, the new updatable in-memory columnstore can query 100 times faster than legacy solutions. And, SQL Server 2014 is better together with Windows Server 2012 R2, which allows scale up across computing, networking and storage — up to 640 logical processors.

4. High availability. In SQL Server 2014, AlwaysOn availability groups are better than ever with up to 8 readable secondaries and synchronous or asynchronous commit modes. When it comes to high availability, SQL Server 2014 delivers the high 9s you need for your mission-critical applications.

5. Security and compliance. When it comes to data security, there have been significant changes since 2005. SQL Server 2014 was engineered for security from the ground up. Features such as security roles for separation of duties, full-featured auditing and transparent data encryption make it possible for any organization to meet its regulatory compliance standards, such as PCI-DSS for credit card transactions, HIPAA for medical patient privacy, and GLBA for financial institutions. SQL Server has had the least vulnerabilities of any major database the past six years running, as tracked by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.3

6. Productivity. SQL Server 2014 can help every user in your organization make better, faster decisions through its complete BI platform that speeds how they access, analyze and shape both internal and external data. And with insights achieved using familiar tools like Microsoft Excel and leveraging the power of the cloud through Power BI, the learning process is faster and cheaper. The right information at the right time in the hands of the right people can drive increased productivity and better results that spell success for your employees and your business.

7. Customer satisfaction. Today’s customers want to do business with companies that provide a secure, easy and seamless experience. Slow performance, service disruptions or a data breach will quickly send customers to your competition. SQL Server 2014 provides the speed, AlwaysOn availability, and security that drives customer satisfaction. In addition, SQL Server 2014 offers business intelligence tools and enterprise data management software that can provide valuable insights about customer behavior and pain points, allowing you to respond proactively and avoid customer churn and the related costs.

8. Support. None of the great features in Microsoft SQL Server 2014 matter unless you have the support you need in case of issues or failures. Unlike the situation you’ll face next April for applications running on SQL Server 2005, with SQL Server 2014 you’ll receive the mission-critical support you expect for your mission-critical workloads, along with all timely security updates and hotfixes to help your organization meet security and compliance requirements and audits.

9. EoS. That stands for End of Support — for your SQL Server 2005. And that means no more security updates and hotfixes from Microsoft, opening the door to potential business interruptions. Without security updates you may fail to comply with standards and regulations that can seriously hamper your ability to do business. End of support also means higher maintenance costs because your IT team may need to take over managing aging hardware, keeping intrusion detection systems and firewalls up to date, handling network segmentation, and so on.

And last, but definitely not least …

10. Help. Figuring out which technology upgrades are best for your organization can be daunting. But you don’t have to go it alone. Microsoft and its partners are standing by to help. Tapping the expertise of a partner can make the upgrade process more efficient and ensure that nothing gets overlooked, especially since so many applications use SQL Servers. Whether you engage outside help or go it alone, you’ll want to take a look at the Microsoft SQL Server upgrade website. You’ll find insights and practical resources for planning and implementing your upgrade, including a technical upgrade guide, upgrade advisor and database migration wizard. You can even download the trial version of SQL Server 2014 or start a free Microsoft Azure trial to experience Microsoft Azure SQL Database.

To learn more about SQL Server 2005 end of support and have your questions answered, join us for a webinar on October 14, 2016 at 9am PST – SQL Server 2005 Upgrade: The Path to Better Database Performance and Security, hosted by Debbi Lyons, Sr. Product Marketing Manager for SQL Server. Register here.

1  13x gain based on TPC-E benchmark results published for SQL Server 2014 (www.tpc.org/4069), SQL Server 2005 (www.tpc.org/4001) as of Oct. 8, 2014.
2   5.5x gain based on TPC-E benchmark results published for SQL Server 2014 (www.tpc.org/4069), SQL Server 2008 (www.tpc.org/4023) as of Oct. 8, 2014.
3  National Institute of Standards and Technology Comprehensive Vulnerability Database, Jan. 21, 2015.

Thursday, October 1, 2015 10:00:00 AM

According to a recent Ernst and Young study, CFO-CIO: a growing collaboration, in the past three years, 71 percent of CFOs have increased their involvement in IT purchasing decisions. The report points out that this is true even though many CFOs admit they have “insufficient understanding of IT issues” and are more focused on “managing costs and profitability” than on assuring that IT adds strategic value to the organization. However, the study states that, “To succeed, organizations must make bold technology investment decisions that are driven by corporate strategy.” This means finance and IT must work with business leadership to identify solutions that meet strategic, technical, and financial objectives that advance the business.

From this starting point, the CIO can help business leadership and the CFO to identify the technology capabilities necessary to drive the business strategy. For example, the business strategy might require a data platform that includes business intelligence (BI) features: BI might help the organization increase sales by understanding factors such as customer purchasing patterns. If a potential data platform includes BI functionality at no extra charge, it can be a better strategic acquisition and more cost effective than a platform that requires additional purchases to gain BI capabilities. Or perhaps the strategic business need is for faster point-of-sales (POS) responsiveness to improve the customer experience at the cash register: Faster credit card approval, for example, means customers don’t have to endure long waits at checkout. In this case, if a data platform includes functionality such as in-memory processing to speed responsiveness, that platform will have more strategic value and better ROI than a platform that charges for the features necessary to meet strategic goals.

Another strategic consideration is the platform vendor’s partner ecosystem. It’s important to know that a wide range of trusted third-party experts, applications and services are available to help extend the value of the data platform. As the world’s most widely used data platform, Microsoft has a worldwide network of more than 70,000 SQL Server partners, and 9,500 Microsoft-certified Gold and Silver partners in business intelligence and OLTP, as well has partners that provide applications for nearly every industry and expert services. Click here to learn more about Microsoft’s partners.

A Methodology to Determine Value

Once the strategy and necessary technical functionality have been identified, a potential platform solution such as SQL Server can be investigated. The CIO can ensure that the recommended solution is financially sound. A Forrester Consulting report, “The Total Economic Impact Of Microsoft SQL Server: Cost Savings And Business Benefits Enabled By Microsoft SQL Server 2014 And SQL Server 2012 For Mission-Critical Transaction Processing Applications,” gives CFOs a methodology for determining the Total Economic Impact (TEI).

As a starting point, the Forrester TEI study serves as a framework “to identify the cost, benefit, flexibility, and risk factors that affect the investment decision.” The study is based on a survey of SQL Server customers to determine how SQL Server performs in mission-critical scenarios. The survey covers “key assessment requirements,” such as:

  • “The performance and speed of applications running on the platform.
  • “Security and data privacy requirements.
  • “Reliability and minimization of downtime of applications.
  • “Ability to provide data access to the right people.
  • “The ability to integrate efficiently across other organization systems and applications.
  • “The ease of migration and expansion of cloud capabilities.”

Adding the Data Expert Perspective

As CFOs examine the key factors listed above, they can incorporate IT’s expertise into the assessment. For each of these key assessment requirements, CIOs can provide input gained from their own experience and that of the community of Microsoft data platform experts. Their knowledge gained from day-to-day experience with the technology can add the dimension of real-world understanding of the platform’s value and thus round out the assessment.

The next blog in this series will discuss the perspectives of data platform experts as they explain how they see SQL Server and the Microsoft data platform adding value in real-world scenarios and serving as the underpinning of compelling data and business strategy.

In the meantime, to learn more about how the Microsoft data platform can help advance your organization’s strategic agenda, visit https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/server-cloud/data-management/overview.aspx.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015 10:46:00 AM

The SQL Server 2016 Community Technology Preview (CTP) 2.4 is now available for download!  This release fully embraced the “Cloud First” tenet, as this release build was deployed to SQL Azure Database service first, running in production prior to the release build.

In SQL Server 2016 CTP 2.4, part of our new rapid preview model, we made enhancements to several features.  You can try them now in your SQL Server 2016 development and test environments. 

As part of our new rapid release model, you don’t have to wait several months for responses to feedback or to test new capabilities.  This means you can accelerate testing and time to production.  The frequent updates are also engineered to be of the same quality as major CTPs, so you don’t have to be concerned about build quality.  You also have the flexibility to choose which CTPs you will deploy for development and test environments and won’t be forced to upgrade to the most recent preview release.

In SQL Server 2016 CTP 2.4, available for download today, you will see enhancements in several areas:

  • Operational Analytics and In-Memory Data Warehouse improvements
  • x86 server deprecation
  • SQL Server Smart Maintenance Plans for effective database maintenance
  • Tempdb scalability improvement
  • SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) improvements, including design-time control over layout of report parameters, export to PowerPoint, and a new printing feature that works across modern browsers

CTP 2.4 also contains multiple improvements to SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS).

For additional details, please visit the detailed SQL Server 2016 CTP 2.4 Engineering blog, SQL Server 2016 CTP 2.4 Management Studio blog, and SQL Server 2016 CTP 2.4 Reporting Services blog.

Download SQL Server 2016 CTP 2.4 preview today!

As the foundation of our end-to-end data platform, SQL Server 2016 is the biggest leap forward in Microsoft's data platform history with real-time operational analytics, rich visualizations on mobile devices, built-in advanced analytics, new advanced security technology, and both on-premises and in the cloud.

To learn more about the release, visit the SQL Server 2016 preview page.  To experience the new, exciting features in SQL Server 2016 and the new rapid release model, download the preview or try the preview by using a virtual machine in Microsoft Azure and start evaluating the impact these new innovations can have for your business.  Have questions?  Join the discussion of the new SQL Server 2016 capabilities at MSDN and Stack Overflow.  If you run into an issue or would like to make a suggestion, you can let us know at Connect.  We look forward to hearing from you!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015 10:46:00 AM

The SQL Server engineering team is pleased to announce the immediate availability of SQL Server 2016 September public preview release CTP 2.4.  This release advances the “Cloud First” tenet; the build has already been deployed to SQL Azure Database worldwide.

To learn more about the release, visit the SQL Server 2016 preview page.  To experience the new, exciting features in SQL Server 2016 and the new rapid release model, download the preview or try the preview by using a virtual machine in Microsoft Azure and start evaluating the impact these new innovations can have for your business. 

Have questions?  Join the discussion of the new SQL Server 2016 capabilities at MSDN and Stack Overflow.  If you run into an issue or would like to make a suggestion, you can let us know using Microsoft’s Connect tool.  We look forward to hearing from you.

Operational Analytics and In-Memory Data Warehouse improvements in this release include:

1. Frictionless operational analytics. Existing nonclustered columnstore indices (NCCI) are updateable without requiring index rebuild.

2. Parallel Index build of nonclustered columnstore index (NCCI). Starting with CTP 2.4, NCCI can now be built in parallel, leveraging available cores/logical processors available on the server for significant performance improvement.

3. INSERT operations performance in delta Rowgroup. Prior to CTP2.4, the delta rowgroup data was PAGE compressed, which added overhead for Insert operations. With CTP2.4, the data in delta rowgroup is no longer PAGE compressed.

4. Better query performance with nonclustered columnstore index (NCCI).

a. String predicate pushdown.
b. Improved query path when processing deleted rows by bypassing delete buffer when possible.

x86 server deprecation - Starting with the CTP 2.4 release, we have removed x86 server from SQL Server 2016 starting with CTP2.4 release, although all the x86 client tools and components are still available. Extensive customer research has shown that the x86 server instance has no adoption in new server deployments, primarily because server hardware have evolved to be x64 only. At setup, if you select the x86 option, you will only be able to install client components.


SQL Server Smart Maintenance Plans for effective database maintenance.

Multi-TB SQL Server databases have become commonplace; at the same time, the global business economy demands increased database availability, consequently narrowing allowed maintenance windows.  Frequently, the traditional plans of maintaining database no longer not fit inside customers’ narrow maintenance windows. Running past the maintenance window can cause poor application performance, which in turn can lead to ever-increasing infrastructure and operational costs for the customer and can negatively affect business efficiency. Smart Maintenance Plan integrates best practices, and can identify optimal strategies on the fly. Changes can be made to existing maintenance plan allow it to scale with the database.

1. Consistency-checking strategy: based on database and table sizes to distribute the task across different maintenance windows. More options are added to the user controlled consistency-checking tasks UI.

2.   Index and statistics maintenance strategy: based on index size/page count, degree of fragmentation, and usage frequency to decide what operations to perform. More options are exposed in REBUILD indexes task UI for better usability:

Tempdb scalability improvement creates multiple files during setup based on number of cores, this will reduce allocation contention on system pages in tempdb. The improvement also includes optimistic latching of system pages when dropping temp tables. SQL Server 2016 CTP 2.4 setup provides a separate tab for tempdb configuration. You can choose number of tempdb files, and customize initial and auto-growth size for tempdb files.


SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) improvements in this release include:

  1. Complex data feed including Data Streaming destination.
  2. Balanced data distributor (BDD).
  3. Excel 2013 source and destination (requires Access runtime 2013).
  4. AlwaysOn support.
  5. oData v4 source component in addition to oData v3.

SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) improvements in this release include:

  1. Design-time control over layout of report parameters, including the ability to have more than two columns of parameters and to control the position of each parameter within the Parameters pane.
  2. Export to PowerPoint.
  3. A new printing feature that works across modern browsers and doesn’t require installing an ActiveX control.

You can read the Reporting Services blog to learn more about these improvements.

Monday, September 28, 2015 7:01:00 AM

By T. K. “Ranga” Rengarajan, corporate vice president, Data Platform

In July of this year, Satya Nadella shared our broad vision for big data and analytics when he announced Cortana Analytics. Building on this vision, today we’re announcing a new and expanded Azure Data Lake that makes big data processing and analytics simpler and more accessible. The expanded Microsoft Azure Data Lake includes the following:

  • Azure Data Lake Store, previously announced as Azure Data Lake, will be available in preview later this year. The Data Lake Store provides a single repository where you can easily capture data of any size, type and speed without forcing changes to your application as data scales. In the store, data can be securely shared for collaboration and is accessible for processing and analytics from HDFS applications and tools.

  • Azure Data Lake Analytics, a new service built on Apache YARN that dynamically scales so you can focus on your business goals, not on distributed infrastructure. This service will be available in preview later this year and includes U-SQL, a language that unifies the benefits of SQL with the expressive power of user code. U-SQL’s scalable distributed query capability enables you to efficiently analyze data in the store and across SQL Servers in Azure, Azure SQL Database and Azure SQL Data Warehouse.

  • Azure HDInsight, our fully managed Apache Hadoop cluster service with a broad range of open source analytics engines including Hive, Spark, HBase and Storm. Today, we are announcing general availability of managed clusters on Linux with an industry-leading 99.9% uptime SLA. HDInsight will be able to take advantage of capabilities in the Store for increased throughput, scale and security.

Supporting the Azure Data Lake:

  • Azure Data Lake Tools for Visual Studio, provide an integrated development environment that spans the Azure Data Lake, dramatically simplifying authoring, debugging and optimization for processing and analytics at any scale.

  • Leading Hadoop ISV applications that span security, governance, data preparation and analytics can be easily deployed from the Azure Marketplace on top of Azure Data Lake.

Azure Data Lake

Azure Data Lake includes all the capabilities required to make it easy for developers, data scientists, and analysts to store data of any size, shape and speed, and do all types of processing and analytics across platforms and languages. It removes the complexities of ingesting and storing all of your data while making it faster to get up and running with batch, streaming, and interactive analytics.  Azure Data Lake works with existing IT investments for identity, management, and security for simplified data management and governance. It also integrates seamlessly with operational stores and data warehouses so you can extend current data applications.  We’ve drawn on the experience of working with enterprise customers and running some of the largest scale processing and analytics in the world for Microsoft businesses like Office 365, Xbox Live, Azure, Windows, Bing and Skype. Azure Data Lake solves many of the productivity and scalability challenges that prevent you from maximizing the value of your data assets with a service that’s ready to meet your current and future business needs.

“Hortonworks and Microsoft have partnered closely over many years to further the Hadoop platform for big data analytics, including contributions to YARN, Hive, and other Apache projects,” said Rob Bearden, CEO at Hortonworks. “Azure Data Lake, including Azure HDInsight powered by Hortonworks Data Platform, demonstrates our shared commitment to make it easier for everyone to work with big data.”


Azure Data Lake Store – A hyper-scale repository for big data processing and analytic workloads

The value of a data lake resides in the ability to develop solutions across data of all types – unstructured, semi-structured and structured. This begins with the Azure Data Lake Store, a single repository to capture and access any type of data for high-performance processing and analytics and low latency workloads with enterprise-grade security. For example, data can be ingested in real-time from sensors and devices for IoT solutions, or from online shopping websites into the store without the restriction of fixed limits on account or file size unlike current offerings in the market. As part of Azure Data Lake, the store supports development of your big data solutions with the language or framework of your choice. The store in Azure Data Lake is HDFS compatible so Hadoop distributions like Cloudera, Hortonworks®, and MapR can readily access the data for processing and analytics.

"Cloudera is pleased to be working closely with Microsoft to integrate our enterprise data hub with the Azure Data Lake Store,” said Mike Olson, founder and chief strategy officer at Cloudera. “Cloudera on Azure benefits from the Data Lake Store which acts as a cloud-based landing zone for data in your enterprise data hub. Because the store is compatible with WebHDFS, Cloudera can leverage Data Lake and provide customers with a secure and flexible big data solution."

Azure Data Lake Analytics – a new distributed processing and analytics service

Azure Data Lake Analytics lets you focus on the logic of your application, not the distributed infrastructure running it. Instead of deploying, configuring and tuning hardware, you write queries to transform your data and extract valuable insight. Built on Apache YARN, and designed for the cloud, the analytics service can handle jobs of any scale instantly by simply setting the dial for how much power you need. The analytics service for Azure Data Lake is cost-efficient because you only pay for your job when it is running, and support for Azure Active Directory lets you manage access and roles simply and integrates with your on-premises identity system
We know that many developers and data scientists struggle to be successful with big data using existing technologies and tools.  Code-based solutions offer great power, but require significant investments to master, while SQL-based tools make it easy to get started but are difficult to extend. We've faced the same problems inside Microsoft and that’s why we introduced, U-SQL, a new query language that unifies the ease of use of SQL with the expressive power of C#.  The U-SQL language is built on the same distributed runtime that powers the big data systems inside Microsoft. Millions of SQL and .NET developers can now process and analyze all of their data with the skills they already have. The U-SQL support in Azure Data Lake Tools for Visual Studio includes state of the art support for authoring, debugging and advanced performance analysis features for increased productivity when optimizing jobs running across thousands of nodes.

“U-SQL was especially helpful because we were able to get up and running using our existing skills with .NET and SQL,” says Sam Vanhoutte, Chief Technology Officer at Codit. “This made big data easy because we didn’t have to learn a whole new paradigm. With Azure Data Lake, we were able to process data coming in from smart meters and combine it with the energy spot market prices to give our customers the ability to optimize their energy consumption and potentially save hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Azure HDInsight - Fully Managed Hadoop, Spark, Storm and HBase

Azure Data Lake also includes HDInsight, our Apache Hadoop-based service that allows you spin up any number of nodes in minutes. As one of the fastest growing services in Azure, HDInsight gives you the breadth of the Hadoop ecosystem in a managed service that’s monitored and supported by Microsoft. Furthering our commitment to productivity, we’ve updated our Visual Studio Tools for authoring, advanced debugging, and tuning for Hive queries and Storm topologies running in HDInsight.

Today, we are announcing the general availability of HDInsight on Linux. We work closely with Hortonworks and Canonical to provide the HDP™ distribution on the Ubuntu Operating System that powers the Linux version of HDInsight in the Data Lake. This is another strategic step by Microsoft to meet customers where they are and make it easier for you run Hadoop workloads in the cloud.

Leading Hadoop ISVs on the Azure Data Lake

There are a growing set of leading data management applications for Azure Data Lake. This includes applications that provide end-to-end big data analytics like Datameer, technologies that address big data security and governance like Dataguise and BlueTalon, unified stream and batch with DataTorrent, and tools that give business users the ability to visualize and analyze data in compelling ways like AtScale and Zoomdata. Support from our partners ensures that you have the best applications available as you get started with Azure Data Lake.

We will continue to invest in solutions for big data processing and analytics to make it easier for everyone to work with data of any type, size and speed using the tools, languages and frameworks they want to in a trusted cloud, hybrid or on premise environment. Our goal is to make big data technology simpler and more accessible to the greatest number of people possible. This includes developers, data scientists, analysts, application developers, and also businesspeople and mainstream IT managers..

You can hear more about these announcements during my keynote at our free, virtual event AzureCon tomorrow or on-demand, and at Strata + Hadoop World in NYC.

Thursday, September 24, 2015 10:00:00 AM

“Technical debtor’s prison” is a term I recently came across in a Forrester Research report, "CIOs' Top Five Career-Ending Digital Transformation Challenges" by Bobby Cameron with Peter Burris, Rachael Klehm, and Rachel Birrell. The idea is that CIOs sometimes feel indebted to the specific technology that has a history of serving the organization well over time. They stick with that legacy technology because it’s the easiest course of action, works for what they’ve always done, they’re locked into a particular vendor, or because they don’t want to invest in upgrading to a different platform. But by failing to examine what other options and advances are available, those CIOs may be limiting opportunities to advance their business and their career. They’re locking themselves into technical debtor’s prison.

To move your business forward, you need to make sure you’re aware of and taking advantage of the best technology available today. This is particularly true in light of all the recent advances in data technology. The example of a global top-five energy company illustrates how understanding and testing data platform advances cannot only save you from technical debtor’s prison, but can also benefit your staff, customers, and ultimately your business.

Get out of jail

This particular global top-five energy company makes a point of knowing and testing its options when it comes to its crucial data platform. Recently, the company was concerned about supporting its growing customer base. They needed to increase data throughput to keep information flowing to their operations in countries across the world.

“We always have to think about increasing the productivity of our database infrastructure,” said the company’s team lead for database engineering design.

With increased productivity in mind, the company decided to test SQL Server 2014 Online Transaction Processing (OLTP) with built-in In-Memory processing capabilities. The result of the tests determined that SQL Server 2014 increased the throughput of the energy company’s database repository application by up to 17 times. In addition, with this test implementation, the company achieved improved reliability, allowing database administrators to decrease the amount of time they spent on troubleshooting and reactive maintenance. In fact, SQL Server has enabled the company to double the productivity of its database administrators.

This energy company avoided technical debtor’s prison by learning about new technology advances and testing them. In this way, the company demonstrated for itself that Microsoft is demonstrating a leadership position in enterprise data solutions, providing built-in In-Memory OLTP. In addition, SQL Server includes business critical advances in increasing application performance, continues to underscore its commitment to security, and builds on proven scalability and availability. As the energy company’s supervisor for database operations, puts it, “Each version of SQL Server includes new features that make it more reliable, more productive, and more cost-effective to use. That’s why it’s our preferred choice.”

Pay attention

In a recent conversation, Douglas McDowell, North America chief executive officer of respected consulting firm, Solid Q, talked about his experience with clients who are exploring data platforms. McDowell underscored the importance of staying abreast of technology to make sure your organization is benefitting from the best technology available today: “Microsoft is innovating at a heart-pounding speed that has moved them into leadership positions in most every category. So if Microsoft is the cost leader and innovation leader, anyone who isn’t looking at the Microsoft data platform is probably not paying much attention.”

To make sure you’re paying attention and avoiding technical debtor’s prison with your mission critical applications, read this white paper or visit our new data management and analytics site.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015 10:00:00 AM

Knowing your data means knowing your business. Your data platform is what gains you that knowledge. Data has become one of the most valuable assets for organizations and is increasingly the focus for understanding customers, the market, and future opportunities. What may come as a surprise, however, is that the use of data in driving business decisions translates into a concrete financial advantage.

Consider the findings of a recent IDC study, which identified “financial and productivity benefits directly linked to better data-driven decision making.” In concrete terms, these benefits translate to a $1.6 trillion opportunity over the next four years for organizations that maximize the value from data. That “data dividend” is 6 percent more than companies can expect if they aren’t getting the most value from their data. ("Capturing the $1.6 Trillion Data Dividend," by Dan Vesset, Henry D. Morris, and John F. Gantz, May 2014.)

This IDC study identifies four key areas of investment, each of which, the study says, “delivers value to organizations and can improve the success of data and analytics projects.” Table 1 lists these for areas and how they benefitted the organizations participating in the study.

Table 1: Key Areas of Investment to Capture the $1.6 Data Dividend

Area of Investment Description  Value when implemented New Data Types and Sources Adding new data types and sources: e.g., supplementing transactional data with customer behavior/demographics; geolocation applications, mobile devices, social media, document management systems Exceeded expectations by 50 percent more often than organizations that did not expand data types and sources New Analytics  Expanding the number and type of analytic techniques, e.g., adding predictive analytics , using such techniques as MapReduce with SQL Server Exceeded expectations by 100 percent more often than organizations that did not expand data types and sources New Users  Expanding the number and type of users with access to the organization’s data and analytics, and outputs  Exceeded expectations by 78 percent more often than organizations that did not expand data types and sources

SQL Server is the world’s most widely used enterprise data platform. If you want to capture the data dividend, The Microsoft data platform delivers the capabilities required and assures you the best Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). SQL Server experts who work with customers every day attest to the value that SQL Server provides to their clients. For example, Kevin Hazzard (a C# MVP and Software Development Practice Leader of SQL Server consulting firm, Linchpin People) speaks from experience when he says, “It’s the stability and price/performance ratio that keeps our customers happy with SQL Server. They are sticking with or moving to Microsoft’s database platform because it’s solid and has a reputation for heavy lifting at a reasonable price.”

Serving Your Data Platform Needs

As you evaluate your current data platform to determine its fitness for helping you thrive in today’s data-driven economy, you’ll hear a lot about each vendor’s features and functionality and what you get for your investment. With all the claims, today, it’s more important than ever that you really understand what you really get from features that sound similar and that you truly see what differentiates one data platform from another. That’s why this blog will be focusing on industry challenges and trends and how you can make decisions that will help you address the today’s needs and future growth.

As SQL Server continues to evolve, you’ll see Microsoft expand and improve on the data platform’s built-in capabilities while remaining focused on ensuring your data’s security, offering the best performance, maintaining mission-critical support, and providing the highest return on investment (ROI) and TCO. To help you understand how SQL Server and the Microsoft data platform can help you collect the data dividend for your organization, let us know what challenges you face, what concerns you have, and what your decision-making process demands. We want to hear from you. Use the comments feature to let us know what you think of this post, or email us at SQLServerSocialMedia@microsoft.com. To learn more about getting faster insights from any data, please visit our new data management and analytics site.

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