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Jamie Thomson

This is the blog of Jamie Thomson, a data mangler in London working for Dunnhumby

Is SQL Azure a newbies springboard?

Earlier today I was considering the various SQL Server platforms that are available today and I wondered aloud,

wonder how long until the majority of #sqlserver newcomers use @sqlazure instead of installing locally


Let me explain. My first experience of development was way back in the early 90s when I would crank open VBA in Access or Excel and start hammering out some code, usually by recording macros and looking at the code that they produced (sound familiar?). The reason was simple, Office was becoming ubiquitous so the barrier to entry was incredibly low and, save for a short hiatus at university, I’ve been developing on the Microsoft platform ever since. These days spend most of my time using SQL Server.

I take a look at SQL Azure today I see a lot of similarities with those early experiences, the barrier to entry is low and getting lower. I don’t have to download some software or actually install anything other than a web browser in order to get myself a fully functioning SQL Server  database against which I can ostensibly start hammering out some code and I believe that to be incredibly empowering. Having said that there are still a few pretty high barriers, namely:

  1. I need to get out my credit card
  2. Its pretty useless without some development tools such as SQL Server Management Studio, which I do have to install.

The second of those barriers will disappear pretty soon when Project Houston delivers a web-based admin and presentation tool for SQL Azure so that just leaves the matter of my having to use a credit card. If Microsoft have any sense at all then they will realise the huge potential of opening up a free, throttled version of SQL Azure for newbies to party on; they get to developers early (just like they did with me all those years ago) and it gives potential customers an opportunity to try-before-they-buy.

Perhaps in 20 years time people will be talking about SQL Azure as being their first foray into the world of coding!


Published Thursday, May 6, 2010 9:20 PM by jamiet

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Brent Stineman said:

I don't know. My experience so far indicates that folks are more likely to go for a free download and install instead of whipping out their credit cards to pay for a service.

Given this, SQL Express still seems like the first step for most newbies. I know I did a free download of Post-gres in my early days just because it was free. :) Had more time then money in those days. Course I seems like I don't have enough of either these days.

May 6, 2010 4:13 PM

jamiet said:

Hi brent,

"My experience so far indicates that folks are more likely to go for a free download and install instead of whipping out their credit cards "

Errr...yes, that's kind of the point I was making when I said they should provide a free throttled verion.

May 6, 2010 4:53 PM

jonmcrawford said:

I'm with you Jamie, I think this opens up a huge opportunity, because they don't have to worry about the box. We're not there yet, but I think it will happen.

May 6, 2010 5:22 PM

Thomas Pullen said:

The restrictions and lack of features in SQL Azure currently make it highly inappropriate for newbies, I believe. Learning about a product in which you cannot use backup, for example, and so many other crucial features, is not going to be a very worthwhile learning experience. I don't think SQL Azure is going to be much use to anyone until it grows up & gets more manly. "Sharding" for example. What a hassle! Why would anyone even bother?

May 7, 2010 6:41 AM

jamiet said:

Fair point Thomas, and thanks for the post.

For the absolute newbie (and for that I mean someone that doesn't know how to write a SQL statement) does it really matter that they can't take backups or use CLR code, or send service broker messages or store more than 10GB of data? I was using SQL Server for many a month before the lack of any of those particular features would have halted my progress.

If you want to learn the absolute basics such as



-security model

-procedural logic

-querying metadata

then SQL Azure could be useful, no?

May 7, 2010 6:57 AM

James Luetkehoelter said:

Excellent post Jamie, and a role for Azure that I think it could play. There is a HUGE base of "develoeprs" that are transitioning from working in something like Access to writing actual SQL. I mean HUGE. The number of people out there that would write a CLR stored procedure are few and far between in comparison.

I think the free throttled idea is one that will eventually happen with Azure - it has to.

May 7, 2010 1:39 PM

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