All about the SQL Server JumpIn! camp

All about the SQL Server JumpIn! camp

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The SQL Server JumpIn! Camp, was scheduled from Nov 16th thru 19th at an excellent facility not too far from Microsoft's main campus with the purpose of bringing key PHP developers and SQL Server engineers together with the goal of supporting SQL Server and SQL Azure, with the last day reserved for Windows Azure and IIS. We extended our invitations to several projects/communities and were very happy and honored that most of them accepted.

With so many talented developers planning to attend, we were ready to put the finishing touches on the details to make it an awesome experience for all.

We planned an intense schedule of a lot of hard work for each day followed by fun entertaining activities!

Who was at the camp?

17 developers representing 10 PHP projects from several countries rubbed shoulders with Microsoft developers to build Windows, IIS, SQL Server, and Azure Platform support into their applications. In addition, when the situation demanded it, we called in the relevant SQL / IIS experts to provide the expertise for the participants.

Why did they come?

Simply put, SQL Server is an excellent product that has the highest reach among all databases available today. By adding support for SQL Server, these projects stand to gain from the broad customer base that already has SQL Server in their organizations. As I later found out, most of them came prepared to add support for SQL Server, and then notched it up by wanting to complete it at the event itself!!

What was our goal?

The stated goal of this camp was to "listen and educate". That is, listen to and learn from the PHP community and educate them about our technologies, SQL Server, SQL Azure, Windows Azure & IIS, and help them understand how they can leverage them best in the applications. And, I’m happy to say, we did just that.

What happened at the camp?

By all measures, we consider this camp a major success! This sentiment is reflected by all the participants! While the blogs haven't started to roll in yet, tune in to twitter with the #jumpincamp hash tag and see it for yourself.

We kicked it off with a nice chat with Ted Kummert and Nigel Ellis where several topics were discussed including the fact that the decision to create a SQL Server PHP driver by Microsoft was made in the same room! Nigel provided some excellent insights into how SQL Server evolved from a nascent product to an enterprise class product and it's evolution to SQL Azure.

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After a brief visit to the Microsoft Company Store and Visitor Center, we headed back to the Willows Lodge, ready to crank out some code. Our event manager, Gloria, had a nice surprise for all – we all got together and created our own rhythm and beat!

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With our hands all warmed up, we started off the coding sessions with a gusto that was a pleasure to watch. There are lot of details with nuggets of information that I think will be useful to all, I'll save those for follow up blogs. I'll just summarize that we used several tools provided by Microsoft to quickly migrate to SQL Server. We had several checkpoints along the way and it was incredible to see the momentum building up.

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What are the accomplishments?

A testament to the intense focus and effort from all the participants is evidenced by the following facts. Of the 10 projects at the camp:

  • 8 projects had completed enough to demo their applications with SQL Server
  • 4 projects actually published a build while at the camp itself
    • Kohana, Lithium, XHProf released with SQL Server adapter
    • Doctrine released an RC at the event after adding support for SQL Server, SQL Azure and Windows Azure
    • ImpressCMS, MODx, Typo3, Formulize, osCommerce & TangoCMS are expected to included SQL Server support in a major milestone in next few months
  • 5 projects improved their performance on IIS using our WinCache extension
    • Kohana, Lithium, osCommerce, Doctrine, TangoCMS
    • It was so easy that some added support for it before the 30 minute presentation was finished!
  • 4 projects successfully tested on SQL Azure
    • Doctrine, Lithium, Typo3, XHPro
  • 4 projects successfully using PDO driver for SQL Server support
    • Doctrine, MODx, ImpressCMS, TangoCMS (Typo3 is considering it for v5)

In addition, we got excellent feedback on how we can improve our product, drivers and tools to make it more attractive to the PHP community.

  • Features / design changes for the PHP/PDO drivers
  • Usability feedback for our tools
  • Features for the core database engine
  • Input on priorities on the feature list under consideration

Probably the most valuable part of the camp came from Microsoft developers working side-by-side with PHP developers. Not only did it demonstrate that Microsoft and the open source community can work well together and make good stuff happen, I think this was an incredible two-way learning experience. We now have a much clearer understanding about what we need to do to better support PHP applications on Windows/IIS/SQL Server and the Azure platform. The PHP participants now have a better understanding of how SQL Server works and how PHP applications can best utilize its capabilities, and understand how we are trying to add value to their applications.

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Any other benefits?

Many of the PHP participants for a particular project came together after a long time, some had never even met each other in person before. This camp not only offered them an opportunity to interact with each other, but also to interact with other participants and create new connections. Many discussed their challenges and learnt from each other.

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Who is responsible for this success?

There are just too many to note them all here, it will kind of sound like a Hollywood award winner's speech. Kudos goes to all the PHP participants and the Microsoft developers & the marketing team – without their energy, expertise and enthusiastic participation, this camp wouldn’t have been as successful. Not only did we get a lot done, but we had a lot of fun doing it!

I'd also like to thank Microsoft management for supporting this event, and also the employers of the PHP participants to free them up to attend this camp!

What can we look forward to?

As I have more time to reflect on this camp in the coming weeks and months, I know I will have more thoughts to share…and probably more questions too. For now, you can look forward to Windows, IIS, and SQL Server support in several great PHP applications with many more to come over the next few months.

And you can be sure that we will take a serious look at the feedback we’ve received and all we have learned … we have lots of work to do in sharing this feedback with our colleagues and in prioritizing the work we have to do.

Once again, thanks to everyone who participated in this camp. I hope this is the beginning of a strong relationship and I look forward to working together with all of you again.

Ashay Chaudhary
Program Manager, PHP – SQL Connectivity