Two Days Off

I almost couldn’t believe this when I saw the article. The Verizon Cloud is shutting down for 48 hours. Apparently they have maintenance scheduled for this weekend and notified their customers that their virtual machines will be shut down early Saturday morning. There are some legacy Verizon cloud-type services that will be available, but the platform they’ve been pushing to customers will be down.

This isn’t good news for Verizon or their customers, but it also doesn’t help the cloud overall as a service. This outage reinforces the idea that reliability isn’t necessarily better for vendors than individuals. If costs for the cloud are anywhere near that of on-premise hosting, this event would certainly make me think twice about moving anything really important in my organization to a single cloud vendor.

I suspect that most cloud vendors have outages like this, but they don’t shut down their entire clouds. When a large amount of maintenance is needed at a data center, most vendors would migrate customers to a separate data center or another part of their cloud while they perform their work. Either this mainenance is a major change to Verizon’s entire infrastructure that can’t be staged on just a part of their system, or they’ve poorly planned their architecture and maintenance.

Either way, this weekend will certainly be a good DR test for enterprises that might have important applications hosted with Verizon. It will also be a chance to test how these clients notify their own customers of potential issues or how they respond to problems. I wouldn’t want to have an application hosted with Verizon as it would be a lot of work for me and likely a weekend away from family, but I know I’d learn a lot about how well I’ve prepared my own systems for fault tolerance.

Steve Jones

The Voice of the DBA Podcast

Listen to the MP3 Audio ( 2.2MB) podcast or subscribe to the feed at iTunes and LibSyn.

Load Balanced IIS Machines

I noticed a contest this week while working on the Database Weekly newsletter. It’s the Cloud Hero contest, with the chance to win a Surface Pro 3. I could always use another device, or at least a device I could give away, so I decided to enter.

There are a few things you can do, all of which are interesting to me in terms of a direction that I, and Red Gate, want to move. I don’t know if Azure works everywhere, but we are considering moving SQLServerCentral, or perhaps parts of it, to Azure, so this was a good chance for me to try out some new Azure stuff.

I’ve messed with a few things in Azure, but mostly on the PaaS side. That interests me more, and I’ve done little with IaaS. I certainly haven’t really worked with IIS much in Azure. I decided to go through the VM setup, to create two IIS machines, load balanced on the same URL. I used this blog post with a cartoon and demo to run through the process.

It was a bit more than 10 minutes, mostly because some of the allocation stuff in Azure took time, and the responsiveness from the VM in Azure was slow. From the time I connected to the time Server Manager popped up was over two minutes for each machine. Since I was going through some of the steps sequentially, that meant it was slow to get going.

The video and the portal bring to light some of the issues of Azure. It’s a great tutorial and I was able to get the two machines load balancing IIS in 20 minutes (or less). It was surprised how quickly it went, but I also had to stop and think. The load balancing and cloud services are different now than they were when the post was written.

I’m sure that’s the case with lots of Azure content. In some sense, this means that we will have lots of issues with people trying to learn how to use Azure as they’ll find content and information that is woefully out of date, sometimes quickly. I wonder if we need to think about having some code on blogs for Azure that marks the content as potentially out of date after it’s been out for 6 months.

It’s a challenge to keep the content up to date, and luckily the changes weren’t too different in the portal.

I am glad that I was able to get to IIS machines up and load balanced, delete them, and bring them back. That makes me think I may find some use for this Azure stuff, yet. I have a few projects in mind, including rebooting my personal site. Perhaps Azure will be the place I give it a go.

The Next Five Years

On one hand, the next five years don’t seem too far away. Five years, that’s a year more than most of us spent in high school or college. On the the other hand, 5 years ago was a long time in the computer world. Azure first gave us the ability to create a database, as opposed to just a key value store. SQL Server 2008 was the current version of the platform. SQL Saturday #26 was held the first weekend in October in Redmond. 8GB was the large size for flash drives and the iPad hadn’t started the current tablet revolution.

The world of data has grown dramatically in 5 years. Our cell phones and other devices are drastically changed the amount of data that is collected and consumed. Advances in bandwidth have almost removed the need for us to move all but the largest sizes of data without any physical media. If we look to the next five years, does anyone think they can accurately predict how much storage we’ll maintain in our pockets or how fast we’ll expect to move data on a daily basis?

I ran across a prediction of surprising things in the next five years, and while I’m not sure I think they will all come true, I do think that similar things will come to pass because of two things: amazing increases in computational power available to any individual and tremendous amounts of data. That’s no great surprise, but I am excited. I can’t help but think that there will be so many opportunities for data professionals that most of us will be gainfully employed for decades.

I do think, however, that the mundane, easy jobs of administering individual instances, checking logs and backups, and setting security will be few and far between. Unless you know how to do those things for thousands of instances at a time.

Steve Jones

The Voice of the DBA Podcast

Listen to the MP3 Audio ( 2.5MB) podcast or subscribe to the feed at iTunes and LibSyn. 

The Subtle Push to the Cloud

With SQL Server 2014 released, there’s the temptation to upgrade for many DBAs. However the licensing costs and debatable improvements in the product will temper the DBA’s enthusiasm with the reality of the ROI seen by management. While reading about the licensing changes, I also saw this note from Tom LaRock, where he wrote about the features most of us aren’t using. It made me think about upgrades, and perhaps the strategy Microsoft is employing.

As Tom mentioned, the features not being used are Enterprise Edition features. This prevents many of us from upgrading to use them because Enterprise Edition is so expensive. Actually, even Standard Edition is expansive these days, given the per-core licensing, and I suspect lots of companies with SQL Server 2008, 2005, even 2000 are debating whether or not the upgrade is really worth the cost.

The piece also mentions that Azure is much less expensive in the short term, and you should consider it. Of course at some point the money you pay will be more than buying a license and a server, but that assumes you run them for the same length of time. You’ll likely upgrade at some point, and if you upgrade both hardware and software, the cloud starts to look more attractive.

It’s not simple to move into the cloud, nor is it appropriate for some applications, but it does seem that Microsoft would prefer to have most companies running in Azure, on a single platform they run, they patch, and they support. Many companies might prefer the same thing, though I do worry that we might find the on-premises version of many products becoming second class citizens. Vendors will spend less on development and support if too many customers move to the cloud.

Steve Jones

The Voice of the DBA Podcast

Listen to the MP3 Audio ( 2.0MB) podcast or subscribe to the feed at iTunes and LibSyn. feed

The Voice of the DBA podcast features music by Everyday Jones. No relation, but I stumbled on to them and really like the music. Support this great duo at

The Data Platform Vision

Recently the Microsoft Data Platform blog published a piece on what drives Microsoft’s vision. It’s an interesting look at the ways in which data is being used in some businesses as well as the variety of types of situations that must be dealt with. There is this idea that the value derived from having lots of different data was once only used by specialized companies or applications. However today, it’s being more widely analyzed and accepted by more businesses. Of course, the vision is that Microsoft can help those businesses.

In the cloud.

I know this piece is more marketing than technical, but I have concerns that Microsoft is not driven by what customers want and need, but is instead seeking to drive customers to their own tooling and offerings in the Azure cloud. While I do like many things about the cloud and think it has a place in the future of many companies, I also think that there are still lots of opportunities, as well as demand from customers, for on-premises solutions.

I worry that the focus of Microsoft, which can be tightly bound in one idea as they eye more sales revenue, is driven with the idea that everyone, and all applications, will some day be in the cloud. I can’t see that in the future for many businesses, and certainly hope that Microsoft recognizes this. Otherwise many of our hybrid solutions that push some data into the cloud might be backed by PostgreSQL or some other platforms as the on-premises database.

Steve Jones

The Voice of the DBA Podcast

Listen to the MP3 Audio ( 2.2MB) podcast or subscribe to the feed at iTunes and Mevio . feed

The Voice of the DBA podcast features music by Everyday Jones. No relation, but I stumbled on to them and really like the music. Support this great duo at

The Cloud

I like the cloud. It’s very handy for a lot of the things I do. I like having backups restored for my iPhone upgrade. I appreciate having my documents synced through Evernote, Dropbox, and OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive) automatically moving to new machines. These services are incredibly convenient and handy. I expect that my mail will be accessible from multiple machines and my blog posts can be created, edited, and published from anywhere. Many of us work in a similar fashion, using the cloud as a service construct in much of our lives. In fact, many of us expect our own knowledge will be supplemented by the cloud. We use Google to search, getting us syntax,  solutions, or ideas from sources that we expect to just be there.

Someone was talking to me about their concerns with the cloud recently. This person thought the cloud would be a fad that passes quickly and businesses will get back to owning, hosting, and managing their servers from the bare metal up to the network connection. I disagreed, and not because I use the cloud personally.

I remember setting up a web server in 1996 for a company. I remember installing an email server in 1999. I would never do either of those things again for my own company, and I wouldn’t expect it from most companies. These days we’ve learned that email can easily be handled by a third party and more and more companies are using email services instead of managing their own systems. Web servers are mostly a shared service that we rent from any number of other companies, sometimes even stitching together a presence across multiple providers. Even many companies that want to manage their own host operating system are turning to third party companies to manage the hardware and networking. More and more we accept renting the things we need from others.

We’ll get there with databases as well. Not all databases, but more and more of them will be hosted at third party companies. Whether this is in some type of VM environment or a service that hosts data, it will still be hosted at a third party. We will have concerns and we will have reasons to not do this, but I think for more and more of our data, we won’t care.

Companies have lots of systems in place. They have legacy investments in infrastructure and facilities. In those cases, it’s hard to justify the cost of cloud computing. However as we grow into new areas, or with new companies, we’ll have to re-evaluate whether it is a good idea to continue to make those investments. As the management of software grows to allow the quick scale up and down of assets, I think we’ll be much more likely to consider moving applications into the cloud than ever before.

We’ll never be 100% in the cloud, or out of it, in the future, but increasingly, we’ll be partners with the cloud.

Steve Jones

The Voice of the DBA Podcast

Listen to the MP3 Audio ( 3.4MB) podcast or subscribe to the feed at iTunes and Mevio . feed

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T-SQL Tuesday #48–Cloud Atlas

tsqltuesdayI never saw the movie, though it’s on my list to watch sometime. I love the Wachowski’s as directors.

This month Jorge Segarra is hosting. He is better known as the SQLChicken, and his theme this month is Cloud Atlas. He’s asking us to write about the cloud and what we think of it. What’s our take on the cloud. He wants to know if we’ve used it, what we think, probably how we even define it. It’s a great question with all the media and hype about the cloud, especially for data professionals.

This is a monthly blog party, where bloggers write on a specific topic every month, on the second Tuesday. I’ve got a complete list of topics on this blog, and to participate, do this:

  • write a blog
  • publish it on the Tuesday, November 12, 2013 (for this month)
  • be sure a trackback or comment is on Jorge’s blog invitation
  • include the T-SQL Tuesday logo, linked to the invitation.

That’s it. Write, and enjoy.

The Cloud Atlas

What is the cloud? It’s been hyped in commercials and numerous articles, and to some extent I think we don’t have a good definition. We have PaaS, IaaS, and SaaS, all of which are legitimately the “cloud” for different people.

As far as I’m concerned, the cloud really is any computing service that is provided by a vendor. This means you don’t own the hardware and rent out either a machine (physical or virtual), a service, a set of APIs, etc. This exclude co-location, but anything else from renting a VM to using IFTTT, is cloud computing.

With that in mind, what do I think? There are certainly problems with the cloud in terms of security and recovery of data. However I think the promise of renting out computing resources (machines/platform/software/services) in a scalable fashion is amazing to me.

Do I use the cloud? Sure. I have Evernote, Skydrive and Dropbox to keep my data in sync. My family uses OurGroceries to manage a shopping list. We daughter is hooked on Spotify, which alleviates the need to keep much music on her device. I even have backups of data on Glacier.

On the career side, we (SQLServerCentral and Red Gate) offer AdventureWorks on Azure for users to play with. I’ve done minor work in Azure, and spun up a SQL instance on AWS. I haven’t actually done anything more than test, personally, but certainly the cloud is useful for SQLServerCentral. We host our database server and web server on virtual machines we rent from Rackspace. We use a Content Delivery Network for some videos and YouTube for others. We’ve dramatically lowered costs and increased scale with the cloud.

The cloud works.


For some applications.

Four Years Later

Yesterday I republished a piece on cloud computing, and I was struck by a sentence in the piece. I had written ” Paul Nielsen says inside of 2 years we’ll be leaning cloud first, local server second and in 5 hosting your own data will seem obsolete.” I had written I was skeptical of that, but I wanted to revisit the topic. It’s been 4.5 years since I wrote that, so it’s close to five years.

Are we thinking cloud first for SQL Server applications? I can say that for the businesses I’ve considered or engaged in, we do think about cloud type services first. The cost and hassles of procuring hardware mean that for a small business, I’m not sure it’s worth renting space in your own, or even someone else’s, data center. It’s much more cost effective and easier to rent a virtual machine or two from Azure, AWS, Rackspace or another vendor. For many non-database services, like email, it’s probably better just to contract for a service, and not even concern yourself with machines or software.

For larger, more established businesses, however, I’m not sure that most SQL Server professionals think cloud first. There are still lots of concerns over security, control, and performance. Most DBAs I know do think virtual machines in many cases, but without their own infrastructure, not the cloud.

I do think we could get to the point where many DBAs think about the cloud first, but only if their clients find provisioning a new server inside isn’t as smooth as clicking a few buttons. For the DBAs that ensure new databases can be created quickly and easily, I would guess that their clients would never even bother mentioning the cloud.

Steve Jones

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The Cloud of Destiny

This editorial was originally published on Mar 15, 2009. It is being re-run as Steve is away on the 2013 SQL in the City tour.

Is it inevitable that SQL Server will move to the cloud? In a word, yes.

But like absolutely everything else with databases, “it depends” applies as well. I am sure that we’ll have support for SQL Server in the cloud, something much more advanced than the current state of SQL Server Data Services, before too many more releases.

Paul Nielsen says inside of 2 years, and in 5 we’ll be leaning cloud first, local server second. I think that’s a bit aggressive, and I do think Denis Gobo has some great thoughts about a few things that need to be done before SQL Server can move into the clouds, but it’s going to get there for many people. Not everyone, but many people.

If you think about it, we are already moving towards a cloud type architecture. SQL Server has supported the idea of master/target servers for awhile, and with the addition of Policy Based Management, we are moving towards a way of telling SQL Server how we want it to work and behave and letting it then handle the details.

Much of IT is slowly moving down this path of requesting and using resources, and not necessarily specifying the details. We have implemented SANs that hide the disk architectures from us. For the most part they work, as long as those engineers in the deep bowels of SAN-storage land continue to replace disks as they fail.

In 2007 and 2008 is seemed many companies were also looking beyond individual servers by provisioning virtual machines and letting our hypervisors handle the details of getting the required resources to the calling server instance. There’s  still work to be done here to allow database servers to take advantage of this, but it’s a matter of when now, not if.

Tomorrow we’ll take a look at another aspect of SQL Server in the cloud.

Steve Jones

The Voice of the DBA Podcasts

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If we can do it, so can you

We hear constantly about the benefits, and potential pitfalls of cloud based applications. There are certainly reasons to move to the cloud, or stay away, depending on your particular situation and requirements. However one thing I hadn’t thought was viable was software development in the cloud. Most of the companies I’ve seen that host applications in the cloud still do the development on desktops and laptops, with a build server somewhere on site. However Microsoft wants to show us that this isn’t necessary.

There is a push inside Microsoft to perform more of their development in the cloud. Across the last year or two, various managers inside Microsoft have been moving development to the cloud, typically starting with testing and code analysis. Those are great fits for cloud services, since they are used at discrete periods, but may requite lots of resources. One of the interesting things in the piece was that the first objectives was to speed up the continuous integration process. At Red Gate (my employer), we’ve seen a lot of benefits from implementing continuous integration, both in our applications and databases, and we’ve done a lot of work to smooth out those processes.

Obviously Microsoft might have an advantage over many of our other companies in terms of Azure resources and cost, but I would bet the reliability is similar for their developers. If they can make it work, on products like Windows, SQL Server, Sharepoint and more, I’d think that many of us could make use of the platform as well. I know a few people that have worked with TFS on Azure, and they’ve been pleased with the performance and reliability. There are any number of other software services, like GitHub, that make use of distributed, cloud-based services for software development.

However even if you don’t want to use the Azure platform, the idea of using virtual systems, of spinning up and down the machines you need to perform various functions makes lots of sense. You can make better use of your hardware resources, and even schedule continuous integration services (builds, tests, analysis) for different teams (or applications) at different times, improving your efficiency and not only speeding up your development processes, but hopefully improving the quality of the final code.

Steve Jones

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