This post, which is the first part of a two-part series on SQL Azure, focuses on the new features and functionality in the SQL Azure Q2 2011 Service Release.

Today we are excited to announce that we have finished the rollout of the Q2 2011 Service Release for the SQL Azure database service.  The Q2 2011 Service Release is foundational in many ways, with significant upgrades to the underlying engine designed to increase overall performance and scalability. This upgrade is also significant in that it represents a big first step towards providing a common base and feature set between the cloud SQL Azure service and our upcoming release of SQL Server Code Name “Denali”.  With the completion of this rollout, we have now transitioned to a new SQL Azure Management Portal with updated functionality and an enhanced user interface. A second blog post will be published soon detailing this new portal for SQL Azure.

Included in this release are the following:

  • Foundational updates for scalability and performance.
  • Co-administrator support, which enables customers to specify multiple database administrators.
  • Increased capability for using spatial data types, which makes it an ideal cloud database for location-aware cloud and mobile applications.
  • New SQL Azure Management Portal.  Part two of this post (to be published soon) will provide details on this new Portal.

Announcing New SQL Azure Import/Export Hosted Service CTP

We are also excited to announce the immediate availability of the new SQL Azure Import/Export hosted service CTP. The Import/Export service enables direct database exports to Windows Azure BLOB storage for hosted archival, migration and data backup scenarios. Customers can submit import or export requests through the Windows Azure portal or directly to the service through a reference EXE client implementation, which can be found here.

Check Out New SQL Server Data Tools Code-named “Juneau” With Full SQL Azure Support

We especially want to call out the availability of the new SQL Server Data Tools code-named “Juneau”, which was released as a public Community Technology Preview in July, 2011. The tool provides an integrated environment for database developers to carry out all their database design work for any SQL Azure Server platform (both on premises and SQL Azure within the Visual Studio 2010 IDE. Database developers can use the enhanced Server Explorer to easily create or edit database objects and data, or execute queries. Developers will also appreciate the familiar VS tools we bring to database development, specifically; code navigation, IntelliSense, language support that parallels what is available for C# and VB, platform-specific validation, debugging and declarative editing in the TSQL Editor, as well as a visual Table Designer for both database projects and online database instances. This technology preview is downloadable for free: click here for an overview and installation instructions. This preview release can be installed as a standalone installation, without an existing Visual Studio 2010 installation.  If you already have Visual Studio 2010 installed (Professional Edition or above), the installation will load new tools, including full SQL Azure support within your existing development environment.

Implications of the SQL Azure Q2 2011 Service Release for Existing Applications

With the completion of this rollout, the new SQL Azure version number is 11.0.bbbb.bb (where bbbb.bb is the build number).  Please read this blog post to learn how to determine if you are connected to SQL Azure (vs. on-premises editions of SQL Server) without using a specific version number, since version numbers will be updated as future service releases are deployed. 

Applications running in Windows Azure, on-premises, or with a hoster that interacts with data in SQL Azure will be unaffected and will continue to work normally.  However, read below for important information about upgrading SQL Server Management Studio to support the new release, re-capping the blog post from earlier this summer.  If you have already completed these steps in preparation for the Service Release, you do not have to repeat them.

Download Updated Management Tools

As the data centers get upgraded, the version number of the database engine increases.  For this release, this results in errors when connecting with the previous SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) management tool release.

As announced in July, to prevent experiencing any connectivity issues with SSMS, you should download and install the latest updates to the SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) tools for managing your SQL Server and SQL Azure databases if you have not already done so. The links to get the latest updates available in SQL Server 2008 R2 SP1 are:

Applications that utilize SQL Server Management Objects (SMO) will need to apply the Cumulative Update Package 7 for SQL Server 2008 R2 or acquire an updated redistributable from the SQL Server 2008 R2 SP1 Feature Pack.

If you encounter connectivity issues with SSMS over the next few weeks, please double-check that you have the latest updates. To verify you have the latest version of SSMS, open the tool, click on the help menu, and select ‘About’. You’ll get a dialog box listing version numbers of various SQL Server components. The first row, “Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio” should have a version greater or equal to 10.50.1777.0 once you’ve installed the updates.

For community-based support, post a question to the SQL Azure MSDN forums and the product team will do its best to answer any questions posted there.