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.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2015 9:00:00 AM

You've probably already heard why you should use the in-memory tech built into Microsoft SQL Server: 30 times faster transaction speed, 100 times the query speed, and millions of rows of data analyzed every second. If you want to learn more about the how, check out the Microsoft Ignite session with the no-nonsense title, In-Memory Technologies Overview.

Microsoft SQL Program Manager Kevin Farlee will walk you through all three in-memory technologies contained within SQL Server:

  • In-memory online transaction processing (OLTP)
  • In-memory data warehousing
  • Buffer pool extension (BPE)

He'll cover the thinking behind their inclusion in SQL Server, take a look at the tech behind the scenes, and explore real-world customer benefits. You'll come away with a deeper understanding of these powerful technologies, knowing exactly how to put them to work for your team.

There’s plenty more happening at Ignite. Get email updates by subscribing here. And if you haven’t already, register for Ignite here.

Friday, February 27, 2015 9:59:00 AM

If you are running older versions of SQL Server or use another database management system as your primary data platform, you may be wondering what the latest version of SQL Server has to offer. Upgrading to the latest version of SQL Server enables breakthrough performance, availability and manageability for your mission critical applications – an investment that could pay you back in as little as 9.5 months.1 Learn more about how SQL Server 2012 and 2014 can help run your tier-1, OLTP applications while maintaining lower costs, strong management and high security.

Join our guest speakers, Forrester Research Principal Analyst Noel Yuhanna, Senior TEI Consultant Anish Shah and Principal TEI Consultant Sean Owens for a webinar on SQL Server economics based on research findings from a recent Microsoft-commissioned study*.

Register to view this complimentary webinar to learn about:

  • The SQL Server tier one application market growth and outlook
  • The importance of security and management when considering a database platform
  • Forrester Consulting’s Total Economic Impact commissioned research on SQL Server for data applications
  • Key costs and benefits organizations should consider when evaluating SQL Server for data-intensive applications
  • Customer experience benefits, opportunities and cost savings enabled by SQL Server

Join us on Wednesday, March 4 at 10:00am Pacific. Register now for this webinar on the economic impact of SQL Server 2012 and 2014 to your business.

*Forrester Consulting, The Total Economic Impact(TM) of Microsoft SQL Server, a commissioned study conducted on behalf of Microsoft, July 2014

Wednesday, February 18, 2015 10:00:00 AM

Today at Strata + Hadoop World, Microsoft is announcing the public preview of Azure HDInsight running on Linux, the general availability of Storm on HDInsight, the general availability of Azure Machine Learning, and the availability of Informatica technology on Azure. These new services are part of our continued investment in a broad portfolio of solutions to unlock insights from data.

Head over to the announcement blogs to read more about these exciting developments:

Monday, February 16, 2015 9:00:00 AM

The PASS Business Analytics Conference 2015 is right around the corner!  Listen to some of our favorite Data and BI experts chat about this year’s event, April 20th – 22nd in Santa Clara, California.

Are you a key part of a team delivering business analytics and intelligence for your organization?   Are you finding BA/BI more a part of your day-today work life?  Find out why anyone trying to stay ahead of the analytics curve and position your data career for success should attend PASS Business Analytics Conference. 

Tune in to TechNet Radio to find out about the 60+ how-to sessions, practical case studies with hands-on workshops and expert panels. This is a can’t miss event!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015 1:00:00 PM

We recently released the Automated Backup and Automated Patching features. These features automate the processes of backing up and patching your SQL Virtual Machine to provide an added level of convenience for your VMs. We’d like to outline some best practices for these features to ensure that you get the most out of these features.

Automated Backup

Backup of Encryption Certificates and Data

When backup encryption is enabled, we strongly recommend that you ascertain whether the encryption certificate has been successfully created and uploaded to ensure restorability of your databases. You can do so by creating a database right away and checking the encryption certificates and data were backed up to the newly created container properly. This will show that everything was configured correctly and no anomalies took place.

If the certificate failed to upload for some reason, you can use the certificate manager to export the certificate and save it. You do not want to save it on the same VM, however, as this does not ensure you have access to the certificate when the VM is down. To know if the certificate was backed up properly after changing or creating the Automated Backup configuration, you can check the event logs in the VM (Figure 1), and if it failed you will see this error message:

Figure 1: Error Message Shown in Event Log in VM

If the certificates were backed up correctly, you will see this message in the Event Logs:

Figure 2: Successful Backup of Encryption Certificate in Event Logs

As a general practice, it is recommended to check on the health of your backups from time to time. In order to be able to restore your backups, you should do the following:

  1. Confirm that your encryption certificates have been backed up and you remember your password. If you do not do this, you will not be able to decrypt and restore your backups. If for some reason your certificates were not properly backed up, you can accomplish this manually by executing the following T-SQL query:

    BACKUP MASTER KEY TO FILE = <file_path> ENCRYPTION BY PASSWORD = <password>
    BACKUP CERTIFICATE [AutoBackup_Certificate] TO FILE = <file_path> WITH PRIVATE KEY (FILE = <file_path>, ENCRYPTION BY PASSWORD = <password>)

  2. Confirm that your backup files are uploaded with at least 1 full backup. Because mistakes happen, you should be sure you always have at least one full backup before deleting your VM, or in case your VM gets corrupted, so you know you can still access your data. You should make sure the backup in storage is safe and recoverable before deleting your VM’s data disks.

Disaster Recovery

It is recommended that you select a storage account in a different region for your backups to provide Disaster Recovery for your data. Putting your backups in another region is critical for scenarios when a datacenter goes down and you need uninterrupted access to your data. However, if you have more interest in a short recovery time, rather than disaster recovery, then it may be better to store your backups in the same region. This decision depends on your specific requirements.

Encryption Password

Be sure to use a strong password to protect your certificates. Have some method of ensuring that you remember the password when the time comes to decrypt and restore your backup.

 

Automated Patching

Schedule

Be sure to schedule the Patching window during a time with low workload, but when the VM is still active. If you schedule during a window where the VM will be down, patching will not take place.

Windows Update compatibility boundaries

If you would like to manually install a specific update that you see in the Windows Update UI, you can do this with no interference to Automated Patching. However, keep in mind that turning Windows Update into automatic install mode will cause Automated Patching to be disabled. Despite this, all settings will persist, and you should manually re-enable Automated Patching to continue using it.

Azure only

Both Automated Backup and Automated Patching heavily rely on Azure VM Agent infrastructure. This means that there is no support for on-premises solution. If you plan to move your VM from Azure to any other environment, plan on uninstalling both SQL Server IaaS Agent and Azure VM Agent.

 

Try these features out for yourself at https://portal.azure.com.

If you haven’t already, start a free trial on SQL Server in Virtual Machines today.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015 9:00:00 AM

 Guest post by
Kasper de Jonge, Senior PM
Microsoft

It’s that exciting time of the year again, spring is in the air and conference season is starting up again. Usually one of the first conferences that I am really excited about is the PASS Business Analytics Conference. The PASS BAC is a great place where I love to go and meet peers in the field of data analytics and spend days talking about all the nerdy things that excite us from PivotTables to XIRR, DAX calculations and Tree maps. 

This year I am really excited and happy to talk about some great additions to the new Power BI designer (go here and try it out if you haven’t) and talk about what great features we are adding there around data modelling and analytics. In this demo packed session we will take a look at how the new Power BI designer can solve complex business problems with ease. This session will explore new functionality in the Power BI designer around complex relationships between tables and additions to the DAX language to support new types of business logic. I’ll be mainly demo's using real world examples to highlight these new features.

Check out the full session details here.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Want to learn more about Microsoft business intelligence offerings? Check out the details here

Friday, January 30, 2015 9:00:00 AM

Yesterday we announced exciting news for Power BI – a cloud-based business analytics service (software-as-a-service) for non-technical business users.  The preview introduces a number of new Power BI capabilities including dashboards, new visualizations, support for popular software-as-a-service applications, a native iPad app and live “hybrid” connectivity to on-premises SQL Server Analysis Services tabular models. With just a browser – any browser – or a Power BI mobile app, customers can keep a pulse on their business via live operational dashboards. They can explore their business data, through interactive visual reports, and enrich it with additional data sources.

How does it work with SQL Server?
To interact with SQL Server data in Power BI, connect to SSAS server via the ‘Get Data’ menu. From there, you can connect to a model and run queries for visualizations based on that model. Before your users can connect to an SSAS model, an administrator must configure a Power BI Analysis Services connector.

 

To learn more about the Power BI preview, watch as Michael Tejedor gives Jeremy Chapman from Office Mechanics a first look at what’s new.

Thursday, January 29, 2015 11:15:00 AM

By Tiffany Wissner, Sr. Director for Data Platform Marketing

Today we are announcing general availability for the latest update to Azure SQL Database, introduction of new SQL Database security features, more automation for SQL Server in Azure Virtual Machines and SQL Server on G-Series VMs.  Take a closer look at these exciting new improvements.

1.       New update to Azure SQL Database Generally Available in Europe

Generally available today in Europe, the latest version of SQL Database introduces near-complete SQL Server engine compatibility, greater support for larger databases, and expanded Premium performance. Internal tests on over 600 million rows of data show Premium query performance improvements of around 5x in the new preview relative to today’s Premium SQL Database and up to 100x when applying the In-memory columnstore technology. 

General availability will continue across United States regions on February 9, 2015 with rollout to most datacenters worldwide by March 1, 2015. General availability pricing will take effect for databases on V12 servers worldwide on April 1, 2015.

“As a company committed to maintaining the highest innovation standards for our global clients, we’re always eager to test the latest features,“ said John Schlesinger, Chief Enterprise Architect at Temenos. “So previewing the latest version of SQL Database was a no-brainer for us. After running both a benchmark and some close-of-business workloads, which are required by our regulated banking customers, we saw significant performance gains including a doubling of throughput for large blob operations, which are essential for our customer’s reporting needs.” 

2.       New Security Features for Azure SQL Database

Today also marks the introduction of a suite of security features coming to the latest version of SQL Database; Row-Level Security, Dynamic Data Masking, and Transparent Data Encryption. These security features will join the existing Auditing feature to help customers further protect their cloud data and help further meet corporate and industry compliance policies. Available in public preview today across all of the new service tiers, customers can implement Row-level Security on databases to enable implementation of fine-grained access control over rows in a database table for greater control over which users can access which data.

Coming soon, SQL Database will also preview Dynamic Data Masking which is a policy-based security feature that helps limit the exposure of data in a database by returning masked data to non-privileged users who run queries over designated database fields, like credit card numbers, without changing data on the database. Finally, we are excited to announce that Transparent Data Encryption is coming to SQL Database V12 databases for encryption at rest. As data security is at the top of mind for customers building new applications in the cloud, these new security features will be available the Basic, Standard and Premium service tiers. 

3.       More simplified availability, setup, backup, and patching for SQL Server in an Azure VM

SQL Server AlwaysOn technology provides both the high availability and disaster recovery capabilities needed for mission critical applications.  One of the challenges is getting the HA environment setup, as it’s not trivial.  Now with new auto HA setup capabilities using the AlwaysOn Portal Template added for SQL Server in Azure VMs, this really becomes a simpler task, freeing up your valuable time and resources to focus on other business priorities.  This automated setup provides listener configuration and provisions AlwaysOn VM cluster to meet HA and DR requirements.  This new capability applies for hybrid scenarios where you might be setting up failover for an on-premises SQL Server workload or a cloud only SQL Server workload when you want to setup failover from one Azure region to another.

Backups for data security are easier now as well with the ability to automate full SQL Server backups from an Azure VM to Azure Storage.  Additionally, SQL Server patches delivered through Windows Update also get better with new auto patching capability that gives you more granular control over the windows update scheduler for predictable timing of updates. Monitoring and managing SQL Server instances running in Azure VMs gets better as well with the ability to view and manage SQL Server alerts directly through the Azure Portal.

The new suite of new capabilities along with previously released Azure VM capabilities  helps make running large enterprise SQL Server workloads in Azure VMs more efficient than ever before.

4.       SQL Server on Massive G-Series VMs

The new G-Series VMs are ideal for large SQL Server OLTP workloads, especially combined with SQL Server 2014 in-memory OLTP technology, as the new Azure G-Series VMs offer up to 32vCPUs, 448GB of memory, and 6.59TB of local SSD.  Combine this with the in-memory OLTP technology built-in to SQL Server 2014, you can now maximize the performance of these large VMs by taking advantage of unique parallel processing in-memory architecture that removes database dead locks while ensuring 100% durability.  This means not only can you get x factor transactional performance gains, but you can also gain x factor improvement in concurrency by taking full advantage of 32vCPUs. 

Great options in Azure for your SQL Server enterprise workloads

Whether you are looking to run your SQL Server workload in an Azure virtual machine or via the SQL Database managed service, there’s no better time than now to move your enterprise workloads to the cloud or build new applications with Microsoft Azure.

If you have an ecosystem of IT resources who can continue to manage and maintain your application in the cloud, SQL Server on an Azure Virtual Machine is the ideal option—now with even more built-in productivity, power and scale. If you don’t have an ecosystem of IT resources or don’t want them maintaining and patching every database in your portfolio, the greater SQL Server compatibility, predictable Premium performance, built-in 99.99% availability and upcoming suite of security features make Azure SQL Database an ideal destination.

We’re excited to share these ongoing improvements of our SQL Server cloud offerings with you; helping make SQL Server on an Azure VM and Azure SQL Database two great migration or deployment targets for your enterprise-grade SQL Server workloads.

If you haven’t already, start a free trial on SQL Server in Virtual Machines or Azure SQL Database today!

Thursday, January 29, 2015 11:10:00 AM

In August, we announced the SQL Server AlwaysOn Offering in the Microsoft Azure Portal Gallery. This offering fully automates the configuration of a highly available SQL Server deployment on Azure Infrastructure Services using AlwaysOn Availability Groups.

Now, we have updated this offering with some exciting improvements. Namely, we have added support for using existing domains, and we have optimized the time it takes to deploy, so you save even more time than before!

AlwaysOn Availability Groups in Azure

SQL Server AlwaysOn technology provides the high availability capabilities needed for mission critical applications.  One of the main challenges of this technology is that it requires a complex and time-consuming setup. With the new SQL Server AlwaysOn Template in the Azure Portal, this process is greatly simplified, freeing up your valuable time and resources. After entering the desired settings in the Portal, the setup is automatically completed for you. With this setup you get an Availability Group with two SQL VMs, a listener configured to point to the current primary, a file share witness, failover cluster, and two domain controller VMs for a new or existing domain.

Existing Windows Domain

With this update, you can select between having a new domain created for this configuration and utilizing an existing domain you have pre-configured with all your specific requirements. You can use the new domain option to have a domain fully created and set up for you. This is a good option if you do not have very specific domain requirements, or do not have an existing domain you wish to utilize. You can use the existing domain option if you have very specific requirements or prefer to reuse a pre-configured domain from on-premises or in Azure. With this option selected, the SQL primary, secondary, and file share witness will be successfully added to your existing domain.

To use an existing domain, first select the correct existing Virtual Network for that domain, then select the existing domain with the user credentials, as shown in the screenshot below.

Execution Time Cut in Half

Going through the manual setup of an AlwaysOn Availability Group can take anywhere from 2-6 hours, depending on your level of expertise on the technology. When this feature was initially released, it decreased the amount of work to set this up to 1 minute, and had the configuration completely deployed after about 1.5 hours. Now we have decreased that even further, to around 45 minutes. This saves even more valuable time and allows you that much faster access to highly available SQL VMs to use for your critical business applications.

Thursday, January 29, 2015 11:05:00 AM

In an effort to provide an extra level of convenience, we are releasing two features that will simplify the effort to ensure the health of your SQL Virtual Machine and your data. These features, Automated Backup and Automated Patching, automate the processes of backing up and patching your SQL Virtual Machines. Incredibly easy to set up, these features require little input to manage. And these will just be the initial services to be automated.

These services will be available to you for configuring SQL VMs in Azure via Portal and PowerShell. Via PowerShell, you will be able to enable these services for new and existing SQL VMs. In the Azure Portal, you will be able to enable these services when provisioning new VMs.

Automated Backup

This service enables you to configure a backup schedule on your SQL Server 2014 Enterprise and Standard Virtual Machines in a very convenient manner while ensuring your data is backed up consistently and safely. Automated Backup is configured to backup all existing and new databases for the default instance of SQL Server. This simplifies the usual process of configuring Managed Backup for new databases and then for each existing database by combining it into one simple automated setup.

This feature is disabled by default, and once it is enabled, requires very little effort to configure. If you do not wish to change the default settings, no work is required beyond enabling the service. If you wish to customize the settings, you can specify the retention period, storage account, and whether you want encryption to be enabled. The retention period, as is standard for Managed Backup, can be anywhere between 1 and 30 days. The storage account defaults to the same storage account as the VM, but can be changed to any other storage account. This provides you with a DR option, allowing you to back up your databases to storage in another datacenter. If you decide to encrypt your backups, an encryption certificate will be generated and saved in the same storage account as the backups. In this scenario, you will also need to enter a password which will be used to protect the encryption certificates used for encrypting and decrypting your backups. This allows you to not worry about your backups beyond the configuration of this feature, and also ensures you can trust that your backups are secure.

You can see a screenshot of what you will see in the Azure Portal here:

Automated Patching

Many customers told us that they would like to move their patching schedules off business hours. This feature enables you to do exactly this – define the maintenance window that would keep your patch installs in the range you have specified.

When you look on the settings available for the Automated Patching you could find you are familiar with those, because they mimic settings available from the Windows Update Agent (service that drives patching of your Windows machine). Settings are simple and powerful at the same time. All that you need to define to make sure patches are applied when you want is: day of the week, start of the maintenance window, and duration of the maintenance window. It relies on the Windows Update and the Microsoft Update infrastructure and installs any update that matches the ‘Important’ category for the machine.

This feature allows you to patch your Azure Virtual Machines in effective and predictable way even when those VMs are not joined to any domain and not controlled by any patching infrastructure.

There are a number of ways how you can configure Automated Patching, but the easiest way is to use new Azure Portal, you can see how the configuration screen can look like on the screenshot below.

SQL Server IaaS Agent

Both features are part of the new component that will be installed on the VM when features are enabled and this component is called SQL Server IaaS Agent. It is built in the form of Azure VM Extension meaning all the Azure VM Extension concepts are applicable making it perfect tool for the management of SQL in Azure VMs on scale. You can push this IaaS Agent to a number of VMs at once, you can configure, and you can remove or disable it as well.

This IaaS Agent moves SQL Server one step closer to be the best application to run in Azure VMs.

 

Try these features out for yourself at https://portal.azure.com.

For further details, here is the documentation page for these features.

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