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SQL Azure: Simpler Management

This is a follow-up to my previous post on SQL Azure: Getting Started. This time I’m going to show you how to do things simpler. Thanks to SQL Server Management Studio 2008 R2 (currently in November CTP) you can now connect without any hacks or tricks to your SQL Azure instance. This will make it much quicker and easier for you to connect, create and modify your SQL databases.

Get SQL Server 2008 R2

The first thing you need to do is get SQL Server 2008 R2 from this download page. Choose the proper edition (32- or 64-bit) for your computer and start the download. The installation is a hefty 1.3GB so depending on your connection it might take a while.

Installation of 2008 R2 is very similar to 2008, on the first screen when you can specify edition I suggest choosing the “Enter the product key” option. The input field in filled with —- which is OK, just leave it as default and go with Next. This is an technology preview, so there are no need for a real license key. It’s nice to see that you can actually install an Express instance for the same installation medium.

Installation Options

Depending on previous installations of SQL Server 2008 or SQL Server Express and what management tools you have installed, there are different things that might happen. My suggestion is to go with the upgrade option if you’re using a development machine, but remember there are always risks involved with using pre-release software.

My own machine had SQLEXPRESS already installed Management Studio 2008 and blocked a new installation of R2. Therefore I had to run the upgrade option, on which I choose to upgrade the shared features, see screenshot below.

UpgradeSQL 

After a few minutes the installation/upgrade is complete and you’re ready to connect to SQL Azure in a much simpler way than previously possible.

Connecting to SQL Azure

To connect to your SQL Azure instance, you need to get the instance server URL. This is available on sql.azure.com when you login in to your account. The instance URL is the full URL, like for example o555n7czrm.database.windows.net.

Make sure the firewall settings are correct, as mentioned in the previous post. Fill out the server name, choose SQL authentication as SQL Azure doesn’t support Windows authentication. The login can be custom login you create, as mentioned in the previous post, or the main administrative account you create on the SQL Azure administrative web interface.

SQLConnect 

When you’re logged in, you should now be able to see all your databases, tables, views, stored procedures, security and a lot more in the Object Explorer. This is a great improvement from previous experience.

Creating a new SQL Azure table

The really cool thing about SQL Server Management Studio 2008 R2 is the fact that it now includes ready scripts that have been aligned with the features of SQL Azure. This means when you right click on any of your databases, you get a template SQL script that conforms to the feature-set of SQL Azure – which is limited compared to the on-premises SQL Server.

SSMS2008R2

In the above screenshot you can see how much of the functionality in Management Studio which is now compatible with SQL Azure. This means most of the previous manual tasks of working with SQL Azure no longer applies, but it’s of course still entirely possible to do your database management “the hard way”.

Hope this quick introduction to SQL Server Management Studio 2008 R2 is helpful and it should make the introduction and adoption of SQL Azure much smoother.

Here is the million dollar question: Do you have any projects which could save time and money from utilizing SQL Azure for a project instead of a huge investments in large-scale on-premises hardware running expensive SQL Server software? You might for a production environment end up with an on-premises SQL Server, and you could utilize SQL Azure as a manner to ramp up an development environment faster than ever before.

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