Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Creating a User-Defined Server Role in SQL Server “Denali”

“Denali” is the code-name for the next release of Microsoft SQL Server, and a community technology preview (CTP) is available for download from here. My colleague Geoff Allix has already posted a couple of articles about the enhancements Denali includes for debugging Transact-SQL scripts here and here, and as the Content Master data platform team continues to investigate the CTP, I’m sure more posts will appear. In this post, I want to discuss a new feature that makes it easier to delegate server-level administrative tasks – user-defined server roles.

If you’re familiar with previous releases of SQL Server, you’ll know that there are essentially two levels of security principal within SQL Server (well alright, 3 if you include the operating system) – server-level principals, such as logins, and database-level principals, such as users. Permissions can be granted to these principals in order to allow them to use or manage resources (generally known as securables) at the relevant level. For example, you can grant permissions on server-level securables (such as endpoints and certificates) to server-level principals, and you can grant permissions on database-level securables such as (tables and views) to database-level principals. Obviously, managing permissions for individual principals can become complex (and error-prone) as the number of principals increases, so in common with most software systems, SQL Server supports the idea of grouping principals into roles, enabling you to grant the required permissions to the role, and simply add or remove principals from the role in order to allow or disallow them access to the securables.

So far, so ordinary.

Previous releases of SQL Server included a pre-defined set of server-level roles and database-levels roles that are already granted commonly required permissions, and to which you can simply add your principals (for example, logins at the server level or users at the database-level) in order to quickly enable people to access the resources they need while maintaining the principle of “least privilege” (i.e. not granting any permissions to anyone who doesn’t require them). Additionally, you can create your own user-defined database-level roles but crucially, until SQL Server “Denali” you could not create your own user-defined server-level roles.

To understand how the ability to create and manage your own server-level roles is useful, let’s consider a scenario where a corporation uses a SQL Server instance to host multiple application databases. Many of these databases are used by internal “home grown” ASP.NET Web applications or client/server applications that use Windows integrated authentication, and to control access to these databases, the DBA has simply created logins in SQL Server for the appropriate Windows Active Directory groups. However, the environment also includes a couple of off-the-shelf applications that do not support Windows-integrated authentication, and therefore require their own SQL Server logins. Let’s also suppose that these applications are supported by team of dedicated application administrators who need to be able to manage the SQL Server logins for the applications, for example to periodically change the password.

To accomplish this, I can create a user-defined server role by right-clicking the Server Roles folder in SQL Server Management Studio and clicking New Server Role, as shown below. Alternatively, I can use the new CREATE SERVER ROLE Transact-SQL statement.


Using the SQL Server Management Studio UI reveals the New Server Role dialog box, enabling me to define the server role. In this case, I want to create a role named SQLAccountsAdmin, which will be owned by the built-in sa login. I can also specify the server-level securables I want to assign permissions for, and I can select each securable and set the required permissions. In this case, I’ve selected the AcctsPackage and AppSvcAccount logins (yes, principals can also be securables!) and granted the full set of available permissions on these logins to the SQLAccountsAdmin role.


To grant permissions to a user-defined server role by using Transact-SQL, you can use the GRANT, DENY, and REVOKE Transact-SQL commands just like you would for any other server-level principal.

Now I need to add some server-level principals to the role, so that they can use their role membership to gain the permissions required to manage the two SQL Server logins. You can do this on the Members tab of the dialog box or by using the ALTER SERVER ROLE Transact-SQL statement.


Finally, it’s worth noting that you can nest user-defined server roles within other server-level principals, including the fixed server roles provided out-of-the-box by SQL Server. In general, I’d advise against this as you can often find yourself granting unnecessary and unintended permissions, but it’s shown here for completeness.


So, there you have it – user-defined server roles in SQL Server “Denali” provide a flexible way to delegate administrative tasks at the server-level.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Installing SharePoint 2010 on Windows 7

I generally do most of my development and “technology exploration” in an environment that reflects the actual production environment as closely as possible – for example, by developing against multiple virtual servers running Windows Server 2008 in a domain configuration. This approach has the advantage of reducing the opportunity for “well, it works on my laptop” style configuration issues when trying to deploy the application into production, but, let’s be honest, it makes life difficult – especially when the “real world” configuration requirements are as onerous as those of SharePoint-based solutions.

Microsoft has documented a way to deploy SharePoint 2010 on a single Windows 7 (or Vista if you prefer) development box, so when I recently needed to do some basic SharePoint development, I decided to ignore my existing virtualized, multi-server SharePoint development and testing environment, and try out Microsoft’s instructions for creating a single-box development environment. For the most part, this went OK, but I did hit a few issues along the way, so I thought it might be useful to document my experience.

First, I installed Windows 7 (64-bit, since SharePoint is 64-bit only!) and then downloaded Microsoft SharePoint Foundation 2010. The download is an executable named SharePointFoundation.exe, which you can simply run if you intend to install on the supported Windows Server platform, but which you need to extract to the file system in order to install on Windows 7 (or Vista). For example, to extract the installation files to a folder named C:\SharePointFiles, I used the following command:

SharePointFoundation /extract:c:\SharePointFiles

Next, I needed to edit the config.xml file provided with the SharePoint files, and add a <Setting> entry to enable installation on a client OS, as shown below:


The SharePoint installation files include a tool to automatically install and configure SharePoint prerequisites, but this only works on the supported Windows Server OS – you can’t use it on Windows 7, so you need to install and configure the prerequisites manually. The first of these is the Microsoft Filter Pack, and it’s included in the extracted files, as shown here:


Links to the remaining prerequisites are in the Microsoft documentation, and I simply downloaded and installed the ones I required for SharePoint Foundation on a Windows 7 machine (which included the Sync Framework, the SQL Server 2008 Native Client, and the Windows Identity Foundation).

Next I needed to enable all of the IIS features that SharePoint requires. Microsoft provide the following command, which you can copy to a command prompt window (on a single line) and execute.

start /w pkgmgr /iu:IIS-WebServerRole;IIS-WebServer;IIS-CommonHttpFeatures;

This enables the required features, which you can verify in the Windows Features Control Panel applet as shown below:


Now I was ready to install SharePoint Foundation. I ran Setup.exe and chose the Standalone installation option:


After installation is complete, I was prompted to run the SharePoint Product Configuration wizard, and this is where the wheels fell off! The Standalone installation of SharePoint includes the installation of a SQL Server 2008 Express database server instance (named SHAREPOINT) to host the configuration database, but somewhat annoyingly, you need to apply the Microsoft SQL Server 2008 KB 970315 x64 hotfix before you can run the configuration wizard. However, even after doing this, I still found that the SharePoint Products Configuration wizard failed to connect to the database server in order to create the configuration database. In desperation, I upgraded the SQL Server 2008 Express instance that had been installed to SQL Server 2008 R2 Express – still no luck.

My investigations resulted in finding a number of useful blog articles, which are listed below – none of these actually solved my specific problem, but they contain some really useful tips!

After some poking around, I discovered a command-line version of the configuration wizard in the C:\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\Web Server Extensions\14\BIN folder named psconfig.exe, and by examining its parameter info I discovered a standaloneconfig value for the cmd parameter, as shown below:


This seemed to solve my problem, and I now have a fully configured SharePoint Foundation 2010 environment on a Windows 7 virtual machine, as shown below.


All-told, it took me the best part of an afternoon to create my “simple” SharePoint development environment – but to be fair, a large percentage of that was spent scrabbling around to try to figure out how to get the configuration wizard to work. Hopefully, your installation will go a little more smoothly!

Happy Holidays!

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Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Drupal and SQL Server

One of the more “out of left field” projects I’ve worked on recently involved creating a sample solution that demonstrates how you can integrate Drupal 7 with SQL Server. For those who don’t know, Drupal is an open source content management system that’s widely used on Linux/Apache sites. In recent times, Microsoft has sought to widen the appeal of its Web development platform by adding support for applications and technologies normally used by LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP) developers, and a version of Drupal that runs in IIS on Windows and which uses SQL Server as its underlying content database is one outcome of that initiative.

Anyway, Content Master was asked to create two sample Drupal solutions to showcase the advantages of using SQL Server with Drupal – one that integrates Drupal with SQL Server Reporting Services, and another that incorporates location-based content with SQL Server’s spatial data support. I ended up working on this project together with a couple of colleagues named David Miles and James Millar – I designed and implemented the SQL Server reports as well as the spatial data and Bing Maps functionality, and David and James handled the PHP programming and Drupal-specific scripting elements of the solutions.

You can view more details of the Reporting Services solution and the Spatial Data solution on the Content Master blog.


Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Using a Transparent Background in Reporting Services

While watching the Japanese Formula 1 Grand Prix on Sunday, it struck me that TV sports broadcasters make a lot of use of transparent overlays when showing scores, results, times, statistics, or whatever. In the case of the Grand Prix, the driver rankings in the world championship were displayed on a semi-transparent overlay, behind which the live footage of the race circuit could be seen.

So, naturally I started to wonder how I could achieve a similar visual effect in a Reporting Services report, like this:

Product Sales Report

My first thought was to look at the BackgroundColor property of the Tablix data region and set the Transparency level. However, when I looked at the color picker control for the property, this is what I saw:


Note that the Transparency control is disabled. It turns out you can only set a transparency level for gauges and charts in Reporting Services – not for shapes or data regions. So, I needed to find an alternative approach.

The answer I came up with was to create a semi-transparent .png graphic, and use it as the background image for the data region. I created this with PowerPoint, though of course you can use any graphics tool you like. I also used PowerPoint to find a suitable clipart image to use as the background for the report (on which the semi-transparent data region will be overlaid). In this case, I’m using the Adventure Works Cycles sample data, so a photo of a cyclist seems like a good choice.


You can take one of two approaches when it comes to sizing the semi-transparent image – you can make an extremely small image and then set the BackgroundRepeat property of the data region to Repeat, or you can make it bigger than the data region is ever likely to be and set the BackgroundRepeat property to Clip (or Repeat – it won’t matter since the image will be bigger than the data region anyway!). I found that PowerPoint tends to add some whitespace to the edge of a shape when you save it as a .png image, which showed up when repeating the background image, so I went with a large background image. Of course, had I used a more comprehensive graphics tool,  could have easily avoided this issue and got away with repeating a smaller image.

To embed the images to the report, I added them to the Images folder in the Report Data pane in Report Designer.


Then I set the BackgroundImage property of the tablix data region in which the report data is displayed, like so:


I’ve also used the semi-transparent image as the background for the report title textbox, which appears above the tablix data region.

The next challenge was to apply the cyclist image to the background of the report, and ensure that the layout of the report overlays the data neatly. If you have a small data set with a known number of records(for example, in a “top 10 products” report), then this is relatively straightforward. However, for a dataset with an unknown size, the data region will be resized dynamically, and automatic pagination may break the report into multiple pages. In my case, I want to ensure that the report title appears on all pages, and that the table of data has a suitable space above and below it on all pages.

To accomplish this, I added a page header and footer to the report and put the report title in the header. This ensures that if the report is paginated, the table on the second (and all subsequent pages) doesn’t start right at the top of the page. Similarly, the report footer ensures that there’s always a space after the table – it never goes all the way to the bottom of the page. I set the BackgroundImage of the report to the cyclist picture (clipped so it doesn’t repeat), and I set the InteractiveSize property of the report so that when viewed in the browser, the report has a maximum size that will keep the tablix well within the background image area. This was made tricky by the fact that Report Designer does not show the background image of the report in design view, so I had to preview the report and assess the right size through trial and error.

Report Designer

Obviously, the report size is optimized for interactive viewing, and though you can set the PageSize property of the report to an appropriate size for any other renderers you plan to use, my experience is that using background images and contrived layouts in reports you intend to render to a different format can result in some pretty horrible looking exported reports. One solution I have used in the past for this is to create the version that’s tailored for online viewing, and include a link to an offline version that has more conventional formatting for printing or exporting.

You can download the sample report I created from here. You’ll also need SQL Server 2008 R2 with Reporting Services (you can get the free Express edition from here) and the AdventureWorksDW2008R2 sample database (which you can get from here).

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Saturday, 21 August 2010

Geocoding (and reverse-geocoding) with Bing Maps

In previous posts, I’ve explored how to use Bing Maps with SQL Server spatial data. In this post, I want to explore the Bing Maps control a little more. Specifically, I want to look at how to use the Bing Maps control to geocode a street address (that is, find the latitude and longitude coordinates of the address), and how to reverse-geocode a spatial location to find the corresponding street address.

The first step in building a Web page that uses the Bing Maps control to geocode an address, is to add a <div> tag to host the map control and use the page body’s onload event to call a JavaScript function that loads the map – like this:


<!-- add a reference to the Virtual Earth map control -->
<script type="text/javascript"

<script type="text/javascript">
    function GetMap() {
        map = new VEMap('mapDiv');

<body onload="GetMap()">

    <div id="mapDiv" style="position:relative; width:600px; height:400px;">

Next, you need a textbox so that users can enter the address they want to geocode, a button they can click to geocode the address, and two textboxes to show the resulting latitude and longitude coordinates.

Address:<input id="txtAddress" type="text" style="width:340px" />
        <input style="width:60px" id="btnFind" type="button" value="Find" onclick="return btnFind_onclick()" />
Latitide:<input id="txtLat" type="text" style="width:400px" />
Longitide:<input id="txtLong" type="text" style="width:400px" />

Note the onclick property of the button control, this calls the function that uses Bing Maps to geocode the address. Here’s the code to do that:

function btnFind_onclick() {
    //Geocode the address to find the Lat/Long location
    map.Geocode(document.getElementById("txtAddress").value, onGeoCode, new VEGeocodeOptions())

Note that the code in the btnFind_onclick function calls the Geocode method of the map control, specifying the address to be geocoded, the name of the callback function to use to process the results (onGeoCode), and a VEGeocodeOptions object that ensures the user is shown a list of options when the address has multiple possible matches. The calback function looks like this:

function onGeoCode(layer, resultsArray, places, hasMore, veErrorMessage) {
    var findPlaceResults = null;

    // verify the search location was found
    if (places == null || places.length < 1) {
        alert("The address was not found");
    else {
        // we've successfully geocoded the address, so add a pin
        findPlaceResults = places[0].LatLong;

The callback function is called when the geocode method returns, and assuming a location has been found the JavaScript calls the following addPinToMap function to display the results:

function addPinToMap(LatLon) {
    // clear all shapes and add a pin
    var pushpoint = new VEShape(VEShapeType.Pushpin, LatLon);

    // center and zoom on the pin
    map.SetCenterAndZoom(LatLon, 13);

    // display the Lat and Long coordinates
    document.getElementById("txtLat").value = LatLon.Latitude;
    document.getElementById("txtLong").value = LatLon.Longitude;

This adds a pin to the map and centers and zooms to ensure it can be seen clearly. It then displays the latitude and longitude in the textboxes defined earlier.

We now have all the code required to geocode an address, but  what about the opposite? Ideally, we also want the user to be able to click a location on the map and reverse-geocode the point that was clicked to find the address.

Of course, the Bing Maps map control already responds to user clicks, so our application will use right-clicks to enable users to specify a location. We’ll do this by attaching an onclick event handler to the map control in the GetMap function (which you will recall is called when the page loads to display the map), and then checking for a right-click before reverse-geocoding the clicked location:

// added to the GetMap function
map.AttachEvent("onclick", map_click);

function map_click(e) {
    // check for right-click
    if (e.rightMouseButton) {
        var clickPnt = null;

        // some map views return pixel XY coordinates, some Lat Long
        // We need to convert XY to LatLong
        if (e.latLong) {
            clickPnt = e.latLong;
        } else {
            var clickPixel = new VEPixel(e.mapX, e.mapY);
            clickPnt = map.PixelToLatLong(clickPixel);

        // add a pin to the map

        //reverse-geocode the point the user clicked to find the street address
        map.FindLocations(clickPnt, onReverseGeoCode);

This code finds the latitude and longitude of the clicked location (in some views, the map control uses X and Y pixel coordinates so we need to check for that), displays a pin on the map at the clicked location, and then uses the FindLocations method of the map control to find the address. A callback function named onReverseGeoCode is used to process the results:

function onReverseGeoCode(locations) {
    // verify the search location was found
    if (locations == null || locations.length < 1) {
        document.getElementById("txtAddress").value = "Address not found";
    else {
        // we've successfully found the address, so update the Address textbox
        document.getElementById("txtAddress").value = locations[0].Name;

The completed application looks like this:


You can try the page out for yourself here, and you can download the source code from here.

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Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Creating Multi-Sheet Workbooks with SQL Server 2008 R2 Reporting Services

One thing I’ve learned in over ten years of creating database and reporting solutions, is that no matter how dynamic and interactive you make online reports, no matter how much you embed live reporting into the user interface of applications, and no matter how funky a dashboard you design; many executives don’t believe data is real unless it’s in a spreadsheet. That’s why one of the most used features of Reporting Services is the ability to render reports in Excel format.

However, I recently encountered a situation where my company hosts a Luminosity learning management system, and uses SQL Server Reporting Services to generate reports of student activity in Excel format. The number of students has grown substantially over time, and we hit an unforeseen problem – The Excel 2003 format that Reporting Services renders the reports in supports a maximum of 65,536 rows per worksheet, and the report (which shows students and all training they have completed) has grown to exceed this limit.

After some head scratching, I investigated enhanced new page-break support in SQL Server 2008 R2 and came up with a solution that works, and which can enhance the ability to create complex reports in Excel format for those pesky executives – so I thought I’d share it here.

Let’s imagine your executives want a report in Excel format that lists every customer, along with their contact details. If you have less than 65,537 customers, you could design a report that simply lists them in a worksheet, but if you have more customers than that (or you want to include headers, spaces, or other elements in your report that will use rows when rendered to Excel), then you’ll need a better solution. Ideally, you might want to create something like this – an Excel workbook with multiple worksheets, consisting of a generic “cover page” and a tab for each letter of the alphabet so that you can view customers by last name.


You can download a copy of this workbook from here.

Each worksheet in the workbook lists customers with a last name that begins with the letter on the corresponding worksheet tab, as shown here:


To create this report, I used the AdventureWorks2008R2 sample database (which you can download from here) and the following Transact-SQL query:

SELECT Title, FirstName, LastName, AddressLine1, City, StateProvinceName, PostalCode, CountryRegionName
FROM Sales.vIndividualCustomer

The report includes a tablix data region that includes a details grouping (in which all fields are displayed) and a grouping based on the following expression (which returns the first character of the LastName field in upper-case):

=ucase(left(Fields!LastName.Value, 1))

I also added an image and a textbox to the report, and placed them above the tablix data region as shown here:


To create the page breaks that generate the worksheets when rendered to Excel,  I’ve used some of the new page-break support in SQL Server 2008 R2. First of all, I’ve set the report’s InitialPageName property to Customer Addresses, as shown here:


This property defines the default name for the first page of the report (or for all pages if no explicit page breaks with page names are defined). That’s why in the Excel workbook, the “cover page” has this name on its worksheet tab (if the InitialPageName property wasn’t set, the worksheet tab would show the the report name).

Next, I created a page break at the start of the tablix as shown here:


This causes the data in the table to be displayed on a new page, effectively defining the “cover page” as “everything before this”.

Finally, I used the properties of the grouping I defined earlier to create a page break between each instance of the grouping, and apply a page name based on the same expression used to define the grouping. In other words, there will be a page for each first character of the LastName field, and the page name for this page will be the grouping character.


You can download the complete solution from here. You’ll need to have an instance of SQL Server 2008 R2 with the AdventureWorks2008R2 database (the DataSet in the report assumes that this is in the default instance of SQL Server 2008 R2 on the local computer).

Exporting this report to Excel creates the desired multi-sheet workbook, with a tab for each initial character of the last name, and a “cover page”.

Hopefully, you can see from this article how easy it is to create multi-sheet workbook reports that will add value to your reporting solutions.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

First Steps with the Silverlight Bing Maps Control

A while back, I posted an article about displaying spatial data from SQL Server with what was then called the Virtual Earth Maps control. The article demonstrated an application that retrieves information about locations visited by a toy stuffed bear named Beanie, and displays those locations on a map. Since then, the Virtual Earth Map control has been renamed Bing Maps, and a Silverlight version of the map control is now available – so naturally, the time has come to update the Beanie Tracker application.

Unlike the Javascript version of the Bing Maps control, to use the Silverlight Bing Maps control, you need to sign up at the Bing Maps Account Center and obtain a key.  However, this is a straightforward process (and free!). Once you have a key, you can create Silverlight applications that display and manipulate the Bing Maps control. To do this, download and install the Bing Maps control.  Then create a new Silverlight application and add a reference to the assemblies provided with the control as shown here:


Now that you have a reference to the Map control, you can add its namespace to a XAML UserControl and include a map object in the Silverlight user interface as shown here, referencing the key you obtained from the Bing Maps Account Center:

<UserControl x:Class="BeanieTracker.MainPage"
    mc:Ignorable="d" d:DesignWidth="400" d:DesignHeight="500" Width="700" Height="400">
  <Grid x:Name="LayoutRoot">

            <RowDefinition Height="Auto"/>
            <ColumnDefinition Width="200" />
            <ColumnDefinition Width="*"/>

        <StackPanel Grid.Column="0" Grid.Row="0" Orientation="Vertical">
            <Image Name="imgBeanie" Source="Beanie.jpg"></Image>
            <Button Cursor="Hand" Width="195" Height="25" HorizontalAlignment="Left" Content="Show Locations" x:Name="b1" Margin="2,10,0,1" Click="b1_Click"></Button>

        <m:Map Name="map" Grid.Column="1" Grid.Row="0" CredentialsProvider="YOUR_KEY" Width="475" Height="300" />


Adding the map control displays a Bing Maps map in Silverlight user interface, enabling users to view the map and interact with it through it’s built in controls for changing the zoom level or view, and moving around the map. However, to add custom functionality, you need to write some code to manipulate the map control.

The Silverlight map control exposes a number of objects with properties and methods you can control programmatically, though some of the functionality in the Javascript version of the control has not been implemented in the Silverlight version. Unfortunately, the functionality that enables you to import a GeoRSS feed as a ShapeLayer onto the map is not implemented in the Silverlight control, so a simpler version of the Beanie Tracker application is required. In this version, I’ve written code to retrieve the GeoRSS feed, and then parse the XML feed and create a pushpin for each GML pos element, as shown here:

private void b1_Click(object sender, RoutedEventArgs e)
     Uri url = new Uri("../Feed.aspx?data=locations", UriKind.Relative);
     WebClient client = new WebClient();
     client.DownloadStringCompleted += new DownloadStringCompletedEventHandler(client_DownloadStringCompleted);

void client_DownloadStringCompleted(object sender, DownloadStringCompletedEventArgs e)
     if (e.Error == null)
         StringReader stream = new StringReader(e.Result);
         XmlReader reader = XmlReader.Create(stream);
         string gmlURI = "http://www.opengis.net/gml";

         while (reader.Read())
             if (reader.NodeType == XmlNodeType.Element)
                 if (reader.NamespaceURI == gmlURI && reader.Name == reader.Prefix + ":pos")
                     string[] loc = reader.ReadInnerXml().Split(" ".ToCharArray());
                     double lat = Double.Parse(loc[0]);
                     double lon = double.Parse(loc[1]);
                     Pushpin p = new Pushpin();
                     p.Location = new Location(lat, lon);

You can see the resulting application at http://www.graemesplace.com/beanietracker.aspx.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Data-Tier Applications in SQL Server 2008 R2

In a previous post, I discussed some of the new multi-server management capabilities in SQL Server 2008 R2. One of the new features I conspicuously side-stepped covering in that post is the concept of a data-tier application – and that’s what I want to describe in this post.

Data-tier applications provide a useful way to encapsulate all of the logical and physical components of an application that need to be deployed and managed as a unit on a SQL Server instance. For example, consider a typical business application. It probably consists of a number of tiers, including a presentation tier (which might be a Windows Form application or an ASP.NET Web application), a middle-tier (for example a library of .NET assemblies that provide objects to manage the business logic of the application), and a data-tier. The data-tier consists primarily of a logical database (and all the schemas, tables, views, and so on it contains) but it also includes server-level objects (such as any logins that the middle-tier uses to connect to the database server) and the physical database and log files used to store the database.

In the past, deploying or migrating the data-tier of an application has involved examining the database to find its server-level dependencies and physical storage properties, moving the database from its test/staging server to the production server (via backup and restore, SSIS, or a Transact-SQL script to recreate the database schema and data – taking into account any differences in physical storage media), and creating a script to recreate any server-level objects used by the database.

In SQL Server 2008 R2, this task has been simplified through the concept of data-tier applications. Software developers using Visual Studio 2010 will be able to create data-tier applications that encapsulate the entire data tier, or alternatively you can use new wizards in SQL Server Management Studio to create a data-tier application from an existing database, and deploy a data-tier application to a new database.

To create a data-tier application from an existing database, right-click the database you want to package and start the data-tier extraction wizard as shown in the following screenshot.


This opens the following wizard screen:


The first step is to set the properties of the data-tier application (note that the wizard uses the abbreviation “DAC” – technically, this stands for “Data Tier Application Component”, which you can think of as a unit of deployment, or a deployable package for a data-tier application. The term “data-tier application” is usually taken to mean a deployed instance of a DAC.


As well as standard properties such as a name, version, and description for your data-tier application, you specify the file location where the DAC package should be created.


The wizard then examines the database and its dependencies, and lists the objects that will included in the DAC. In the November CTP, not all database objects are supported in DACs – for example, you can’t include columns with spatial data types such as geometry or geography. The list of supported objects will no doubt expand over time. In this example, the wizard has identified the database objects included in the database, and also the users and associated logins that are required.


Finally, the wizard builds the package for the DAC. The package itself is a single file with the extension .dacpac, as shown here:


This file is actually a zip archive that contains a number of XML files describing the components of the DAC. If you append a.zip extension to the filename, you can examine these files as shown here:


To deploy the data-tier application defined in the DAC, right-click the server you want to deploy it to and click Deploy Data-tier Application:


This starts another wizard, as shown here:


The first step is to select the DAC package file you want to deploy:


Then you can change the database name and file locations if desired.


The wizard summarizes the settings, …


…,and then deploys the data-tier application to the server.


You can then use SQL Server Management Studio to confirm that the database and any dependent objects has been deployed. In this case, you can see that the MyAppLogin login has been recreated on the target server along with the database.


This ability to treat the entire data-tier as a single, encapsulated package should simplify database application deployment and management significantly.

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