Azure Search Preview

One of the things I’ve been keeping an eye on for quite a while now is the development of the Azure Search system.

While it’s not a full replacement for the full-text indexing service in SQL Server on-premises as yet, it’s a really, really good start.

Liam Cavanagh, Pablo Castro and the team have done a great job bringing this to the preview stage and I suspect it could be quite popular. I was very impressed by how they incorporated quite a bit of feedback I gave them early on, and I’m sure that others involved would have felt the same.

There are two tiers at present. One is a free tier and has shared resources; the other is currently $125/month and has reserved resources. I would like to see another tier between these two, much the same way that Azure websites work. If you have any feedback on this, now would be a good time to make it known.

In the meantime, given there is a free tier, there’s no excuse to not get out and try it. You’ll find details of it here: http://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/documentation/services/search/

I’ll be posting more info about this service, and showing examples of it during the upcoming months.

3rd Party Tools: dbForge Studio for SQL Server

I've been taking a look at some of the 3rd party tools for SQL Server. Today, I looked at DBForge Studio for SQL Server from the team at DevArt.

Installation was smooth. I did find it odd that it defaults to SQL authentication, not to Windows but either works fine.

I like the way they have followed the SQL Server Management Studio visual layout. That will make the product familiar to existing SQL Server Management Studio users.

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I was keen to see what the database diagram tools are like. I found that the layouts generated where quite good, and certainly superior to the built-in SQL Server ones in SSMS. I didn't find any easy way to just add all tables to the diagram though. (That might just be me). One thing I did like was that it doesn't get confused when you have role playing dimensions. Multiple foreign key relationships between two tables display sensibly, unlike with the standard SQL Server version.

It was pleasing to see a printing option in the diagramming tool.

I found the database comparison tool worked quite well. There are a few UI things that surprised me (like when you add a new connection to a database, it doesn't select the one you just added by default) but generally it just worked as advertised, and the code that was generated looked ok.

I used the SQL query editor and found the code formatting to be quite fast and while I didn't mind the style that it used by default, it wasn't obvious to me how to change the format. In Tools/Options I found things that talked about Profiles but I wasn't sure if that's what I needed. The help file pointed me in the right direction and I created a new profile. It's a bit odd that when you create a new profile, that it doesn't put you straight into editing the profile. At first I didn't know what I'd done. But as soon as I chose to edit it, I found that a very good range of options were available.

When entering SQL code, the code completion options are quick but even though they are quite complete, one of the real challenges is in making them useful. Note in the following that while the options shown are correct, none are actually helpful:

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The Query Profiler seemed to work quite well. I keep wondering when the version supplied with SQL Server will ever have options like finding the most expensive operators, etc. Now that it's deprecated, perhaps never but it's great to see the third party options like this one and like SQL Sentry's Plan Explorer having this functionality.

I didn't do much with the reporting options as I use SQL Server Reporting Services.

Overall, I was quite impressed with this product and given they have a free trial available, I think it's worth your time taking a look at it.