Tuesday, June 17, 2008

All’s Quiet on the SQL Server Data Services Front

I'm surprised at the current lack of relevant threads in the SQL Server Data Services (SSDS) - Getting Started forum, which appears to have commenced operations on May 19, 2008 but garnered its first message on May 29.

There are messages that refer to admitting new beta users "in waves," but only 10 of the 36 threads in this forum so far are about SSDS. What's more, there were 0 feedback responses when I wrote this post.

Part of the problem might be lack of publicity for the forum. I mentioned the forum in LINQ and Entity Framework Posts for 5/29/2008+, but it doesn't have a link on Microsoft’s SSDS home page nor do I recall any mention of the forum in the SSDS blog or blogs by SSDS team members.

An alternative theory is that there is less interest in generic “database services in the cloud” than Microsoft expected when it launched SSDS. Part of the problem, in my opinion, is the contrast between the initial SSDS offering’s somewhat nebulous architecture—schemaless authorities, containers and entities with five primitive data types offering neither foreign keys nor joins—and the schema-based design of traditional relational databases.

Microsoft appears to be addressing the architectural issues by promising joins, which would imply support for foreign keys, but the team is sending mixed signals about the chances for schemas on the new features list.

I believe that SSDS would have gained greater initial mindshare in the fledgling cloud database market if they had simply exposed an ADO.NET Data Services (Astoria) front end and provided users with out-of-band access for executing T-SQL Data Definition Language (DDL) batches and a variation on BCP or Astoria batching for bulk uploads. An advantage of emulating Astoria is that users wouldn’t be locked into SSDS. In addition, the SSDS folks could support an automated port from on-premises Astoria to cloud-based SSDS.

Note: Perhaps SSDS users are posting their questions in Microsoft Connect’s SSDS Connection. Only one of my five bug reports in Microsoft Connect Feedback was answered; that one was posted on 4/15/2008 and answered on 6/16/2008. Feedback is private in the SSDS section, so I don’t know whether others have received more timely responses.

Update 6/17/2008 1300 PDT: Another contributor to developer ennui in the SSDS department is lack of the promised SSDS client. From the “Application Agility” topic of SSDS home page:

  • A rich client library in C# or VB providing LINQ query support will be available.

Here’s the response to a “Will there be any tool to help us build an application against SSDS?” forum question:

The answer is absolutely YES, but we can't really comment on a timeframe as of yet.

Update 6/17/2008 1530 PDT: SSDS evangelist David Robinson contests my conclusions and says in his Peace & Quiet? post of June 17, 2008:

[W]e are working with companies of all shapes and sizes, from some of the worlds largest banks to small start-ups, customers covering almost every industry imaginable.

He also added this comment to my post.

Dave promises:

Over the next day or so, I plan on starting a new series of blog postings on SSDS Best Practices. I will start with the content from my TechEd presentation and I will continue to add to it as we add more and more features to SSDS.

A feature I’d like to see added is role-based security with controlled public access.

Backstory: IBM’s November 15, 2007 announcement of its Blue Cloud distributed computing initiative generated 754,000 hits for the past year with a Google search on ibm “blue cloud”. Only 39,300 hits occurred in the past three months, which indicates quickly diminishing interest as Big Blue failed to expose its purported service to actual users.

A possible reason for the reduced press coverage is the company’s schizophrenic view of cloud computing, as reported by RedMonk’s Michael Coté in the “IBM and cloud computing” topic of his May 27, 2008 IBM Tivoli Pulse: Tivoli product updates and cloud confusion article for SearchDataCenter.com. Meanwhile, Amazon and Google maintain their headlock on what cloud mindshare there exists among developers.

What’s your take on SSDS’s status?

2 comments:

David Robinson - MSFT said...

Roger,

Yes the forums are quiet, but we have a great deal of customers that we are working with very closely that are interacting with the team directly. Please don't look at the lack of traffic on our forums as a lack of interest in SSDS.

The great part obout SSDS is that we use SCRUM and we run 8 week sprints. This enables the team to be extremely agile and to crank out the features that our users ask for.

Are there any scenarios that you are looking at that can't be addressed by our "Nebulous" Architecture? If so I would love to hear about it.

Roger, you have my number and email. Feel free to contact me directly, or better yet, use our MSDN forum :)

mamund said...

Roger:

I, too, notice that activity in the SSDS space is pretty sparse. I'm looking forward to some changes now that you've gotten MSFt's attention.