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Category Archives: SQL Server 2014

Based in Riverview, FL, BlueGrace Logistics is a technology, transportation and logistics company providing logistics technology and transportation management services. Priding itself on putting customer needs at the forefront of its business, BlueGrace fields a seasoned team of industry experts and best-in-class technology to drastically innovate and improve shipping processes. As such, BlueGrace invests in maintaining a state-of-the-art technology infrastructure to streamline and transform its customers’ logistics and shipping functions. BlueGrace’s environment is supported by Microsoft Azure, a cloud computing platform and infrastructure, created by Microsoft, for building, deploying and managing applications and services through a global network of Microsoft-managed and Microsoft partner hosted datacenters. It provides both PaaS and IaaS services and supports many different programming languages, tools and frameworks, including both Microsoft-specific and third-party software and systems. As part of its ongoing IT diligence, BlueGrace sought to adopt the latest Azure-related innovations, approaching Microsoft. Microsoft enlisted The Henson Group, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner with extensive experience in Azure and a long history serving the IT needs of the shipping and logistics industry.   Solution BlueGrace sought to implement optimizations based on best practices related to a shortlist of powerful technologies. This included Azure Redis Cache, based on the popular open-source Redis cache. It gives you access to a secure, dedicated Redis cache, managed by Microsoft and accessible from any application within BlueGrace’s Azure environment. Henson Group also provided extensive guidance on implementing best practices for the Web Apps feature in Azure App Service, which would enable BlueGrace developers to rapidly build, deploy, and manage powerful websites and web apps. This includes building standards-based web apps and APIs using .NET, Node.js, PHP, Python, and Java. Part of BlueGrace’s mandate was leveraging the latest best practices and optimization methods for Microsoft Azure Traffic Manager, allowing BlueGrace to control the distribution of user traffic to specified endpoints, which can include Azure cloud services, websites, and other endpoints. Traffic Manager works by applying an intelligent policy engine to Domain Name System (DNS) queries for the domain names of your Internet resources. BlueGrace also requested optimization of the “Azure: Windows Azure Pack” featuring SQL Always on Availability Groups. This service supports SQL Server in high availability using AlwaysOn, so when a tenant in BlueGrace’s Azure environment uses the service, the database is automatically placed in an AlwaysOn Availability Group.   Results & Benefits The Henson Group helped BlueGrace implement best practices for the optimal performance of its Azure environment, including Azure Redis Cache, SQL Server Always On, and several other innovations. This included:

  • Comprehensive Azure Environment Review and provide knowledge transfer for maximizing performance and high availability
  • Guidance and recommendations for Azure Web apps and Traffic Manager best practices
  • Knowledge Transfer explaining and imparting Azure VM Disks best practices
  • Deep dive into SQL Server Always On on Azure VM best practices
  • Step by step guidance for automating UAT / QA environments using CD/CI of TFS 2013
  • Azure Redis Cache discussion and implementation guidance
  • Assessment study of application source code to identify and replace SQL server functionalities by Storage or Service Bus queues in worker role
  • Pilot run – Host sample application and capture and compare the Performance parameters using New Relic (or similar tool) and compare against Rackspace
  • Pilot run – Azure backup vault configuration for VM and restore across different region. Implementation details documentation if this approach suited for the current environment.

Today, BlueGraceis experiencing much better infrastructure performance with the Azure cloud solution. The project was completed within two months.   Products

  • Microsoft Azure Redis Cache
  • Azure Web apps and Traffic Manager
  • Azure: Windows Azure Pack” featuring SQL Always on Availability Groups.

To request a free consultation to learn how your organization can realize similar benefits and gains with Microsoft Azure deployment services provided by preferred Microsoft Gold Partner The Henson Group, please email or call 1.800.980.1130.

This has been a really exciting week for the Microsoft data platform. On Monday, they announced the general availability of Power BI for Office 365. This morning, they announced that support for Hadoop 2.2 clusters is now in preview for Windows Azure HDInsight—our cloud-based Hadoop service.

A few weeks ago, I shared some thoughts about the changing nature of data in the modern business enterprise, leading to the conclusion that there is a “new value” of data. At Microsoft, they have a bold vision of bringing big data to a billion people. That’s how we think of big data: a billion people are more informed and have a better perspective of the world around them.

When I say, “bringing big data to a billion people,” I’m talking about changing the way people live and work through data. And, I am talking about everyone, not just data scientists and experts. Big data is valuable for people in all walks of life. It’s certainly valuable for the enterprise; people in businesses and organizations of all types clearly need the power of big data to drive faster decisions and insights. But it’s also valuable for consumers, citizens and people of all generations, whether they are seeking answers and insights for some other aspect of their lives or just satisfying their own curiosity.

Let me share a personal example of “satisfying curiosity.” A week ago, my boys and I were talking about the World Cup and how it’s being hosted in Brazil and how the Winter Olympics are being hosted in Russia. Somehow, this dialog led to us wondering about the populations of countries by continent. I was able to produce the view below in just a couple of minutes using some of our business intelligence tools, Power BI for Office 365 and Excel. I opened Excel, did a Power Query search on country population, found the data I wanted and then added that data to a worksheet. I then searched on countries by continent, found the data and added that to another worksheet. I inserted both worksheets into Power View, linked them together, dragged the right data columns into the Power View canvas, made the continents a slicer (a type of filter), and voila!, I had the information my boys were curious about.

This little story illuminates the art of what’s possible when disparate data sources are quickly and easily brought together for analysis and visualization. Our family had a better, more informed dialog over lunch because of the power of structured information that is accessible in a friction-free way. Now just imagine what the professionals in finance and engineering I work with every day are doing – Power BI has changed how I run my business and organization day-to-day.

At Microsoft, they are striving to put the power of data insights into the hands of the people who are closest to real-world challenges. They want subject matter experts to analyze and visualize data and explore solutions as easily as they can create a spreadsheet. Think of all the different kinds of people that could benefit from this: How would farmers change their planting and animal-husbandry practices? How might law enforcement practices change? How will city planners create better experiences for all citizens of their communities?

Our view is that it takes the combined effect of three elements to bring big data to a billion people: robust tools that everyday people can use, easy access to all kinds of data sets, and a complete data platform.

Today, with the latest additions and updates to our data platform, we are another step closer to our vision. As I mentioned at the outset, on Monday, we announced the general availability of Power BI for Office 365, which brings together Microsoft’s strengths in cloud computing, productivity software, and business intelligence to enable people to easily find, analyze and visualize data in Excel, discover valuable insights, and share and collaborate on those insights from anywhere with Office 365. More than that, it does so in a turnkey way, empowering users while giving IT the ability to help manage and maximize the work. In addition, we are making available a preview ofWindows Azure HDInsight with support for Hadoop 2.2. Windows Azure HDInsight combines the best of open source and flexibility of cloud deployment with the security and manageability required to accelerate the adoption of Hadoop in the enterprise. With this new version, we’ve updated HDInsight to take advantage of some key capabilities in the latest version of Hadoop.

It’s a really exciting time in the data industry. Microsoft is at the tipping point of bringing bring big data to a billion people. It’s happening now: doctors, farmers, lawyers, teachers and marketing teams are incorporating big data into their daily decision-making and fundamentally reinventing the way they do business.

For more information and a free consult, please contact Henson Group at or 800-980-1130.

Today I am very happy to announce SQL Server 2014 has been released to manufacturing and will be generally available on April 1.

SQL Server 2014 is the culmination of thousands of hours of hard work from Microsoft engineers and thousands of hours of testing and input from our preview customers. The result is an important component of Microsoft’s overall cloud-first data platform. The platform delivers breakthrough performance, accelerated insights through tools everyone uses and the ability to scale globally on-premises and in the cloud – letting our customers get the most from their data.

This release of SQL Server is significant in that, in addition to delivering key hybrid scenarios, it rounds out our journey to embrace in-memory technology. Several years back, we began exploring the changing hardware landscape – memory being one of the key areas of focus. Today, Microsoft’s in-memory technology spans the core workloads in the data platform: business intelligence as part of Analysis Services, Excel and Power BI for Office 365; complex event processing with StreamInsight; in-memory columnstore in SQL Server and Microsoft’s data warehousing product; and now with SQL Server 2014 – in-memory transaction processing.

The completeness of Microsoft’s data platform and the strength of its mission-critical capabilities are the reasons our customers increasingly build on and deploy SQL Server. It has garnered market share andindustry recognition because it meets the increasingly demanding needs of business customers of all sizes. SQL Server is the most widely-deployed database in the world and continues to gain revenue share at the expense of our competitors. Microsoft’s data platform has surpassed our competitors in key technology areas like cloud, in-memory and business intelligence. With SQL Server 2014, they’ll continue to build on that momentum with an enterprise-ready, mission-critical database.

Built-in in-memory technology for faster application performance

What I am most proud of is that the technology innovations we’re delivering today in SQL Server 2014 help customers create new business value and open up new possibilities and opportunities with data. In-memory transaction processing (In-Memory OLTP), speeds up an already very fast experience by delivering speed improvement of up to 30x.

For a company like bwin, the largest regulated online gaming company, faster processing means not only can they serve more customers by scaling their applications to 250,000 requests a second, but it means the experience their customers have with their application is better, faster and smoother. It is exciting to see what customers can do when raw performance and throughput of a database changes this dramatically.

Important to our in-memory work is our approach to build SQL Server’s In-Memory OLTP right into the box. This means our customers don’t need expensive additional software to take advantage of the technology. More importantly, it means customers do not have to rewrite their application or deploy new servers. We approached in-memory columnstore the same way – it is built into SQL Server and our data warehouse product Parallel Data Warehouse. Our customers have appreciated this approach, and it sets us apart from our competitors.

Hybrid cloud capabilities offer greater flexibility

The other key area of investment for SQL Server 2014 has been hybrid features that span the cloud and on-premises, giving customers a choice in how they deploy database solutions. Customers can easily and securely backup and recover on-premises SQL Server databases using Windows Azure. SQL Server 2014’s AlwaysOn technology was not just improved for this release, it was built to enroll Windows Azure virtual machines running SQL Server into a customers’ disaster recovery solution. This turnkey solution builds on SQL Server 2014 availability in Windows Azure virtual machines – one can get SQL Server with its in-memory and mission-critical features up and running in an Azure VM in literally a few minutes. SQL Server 2014 will be available in a Windows Azure virtual machine image as part of general availability on April 1.

Windows Azure and SQL Server provide a continuum of capability and flexibility in deployment options for our customers – on-premises and in the cloud. Windows Azure also supports an important data workload – Windows Azure HDInsight, our Apache Hadoop-based solution in the cloud. Today, we’re announcing the general availability of Hadoop 2.2 support in Windows Azure HDInsight, which has been updated to take full advantage of the latest Hadoop 2.2 platform, including support for YARN and Stinger Phase 2.

There has never been a more exciting time in the database and broader data platform industry. In an era where nearly everything will become digitized, today we’re delivering the data platform that will help our customers digitize their business. Customers can download SQL Server 2014 on April 1 or register today to be notified once the release is available. Customers can also learn more about the release and our data platform strategy at our “Accelerate your Insights” event on April 15, where I will be joined by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and COO Kevin Turner. In addition, some of our customers deriving value from our data platform today will also be in attendance. I encourage you save the date and tune in for the event.

For more information and a free consult, please contact Henson Group at or 800-980-1130.

Part 1 – Empowering People-Centric IT

Brad Anderson, Corporate Vice President for Windows Server and System Center discusses the latest features and enhancements made in Windows Server & System Center 2012 R2, SQL Server 2014, Visual Studio 2013, Windows Intune as well as several new Windows Azure services.

For more information and a free consult, please contact Henson Group at or 800-980-1130.