Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Virtualization on Laptops and Windows 8

I wanted to cover something that is not Microsoft BI specific today, but still related.

I love to have the newest OS and software available to try out things and for presentations/demos, and like anyone else that does this I prefer to not carry around multiple laptops or connect via sometimes unreliable Internet connections to servers to do this. Over the years I have tried many different versions of virtualization technologies on both Microsoft and Apple platforms. I have used the paid versions like VMWare and Parallels along with the freely available ones like VirtualPC and VirtualBox. While all of these have their pluses and minuses lately I have been using Microsoft's Hyper-V technologies. Currently the biggest downside to using Hyper-V is that it is only available in it's most complete form in Windows Server 2008R2. This is a bit inconvenient for use on a laptop, but I currently have my MacBook Pro setup with BootCamp (Apple's dual-boot technology) to allow me to run both OS X Lion and Windows Server 2008R2 Enterprise without any virtualization. Then I can use Hyper-V in the Windows partition without any issues.

To get my Windows partition setup on the Mac so that it works more like Windows 7 then Windows Server I used the resources on win2008r2workstation.com and Mathieu Chateau's blog to get everything up and running as good as possible (I still have some strange driver issue, but it doesn't prevent any of the regular functions from working correctly). With all of these changes I'm still able to do "normal" things in the Windows partition like run Office and play Star Wars: The Old Republic. I have even been able to take advantage of the Thunderbolt port on my MacBook Pro in Windows to drive the 27" Apple Thunderbolt display and a 1TB LaCie External Thunderbolt harddrive. With the 16GB RAM and the 512GB SSD in my MacBook Pro this setup as worked very well for over the last 18 months.

Now with the new Lenovo laptop that I got from Pragmatic Works I have been trying to figure out a better solution than using VirtualBox. Don't get me wrong, VirtualBox is a great tool and is the only free solution that allows you to run both 32bit and 64bit virtual OS systems. But, now that I'm used to Hyper-V, I'm really looking for that to work on this laptop without requiring Windows Server 2008R2.

Thankfully Microsoft has the answer coming soon with Windows 8! For those that didn't hear the news yesterday, Microsoft has finally announced that they won't be going version crazy with Windows 8. For traditional Windows computers there will really only be 2 different versions, basic and Pro (there will probably also be an Enterprise version). And from that announcement the Hyper-V functionality will be moved down to the Pro version of Windows 8 (now being referred to as Client Hyper-V)! This should fix many issues that I have had with laptop setup over the years. On some of the Hyper-V blogs it does appear that the issues with using wireless networks in Hyper-V have been resolved, which is great news. They have also been able to remove the restriction on the different power states when running Hyper-V as well (for those that have not installed Windows Server with the Hyper-V role on a laptop, you are currently not allowed to use hibernate or sleep modes if the role is running).

This will greatly simplify my setups on laptops, I have not yet installed the Consumer Preview of Windows 8 to verify all of this. It does look like Windows 8 will be the way to go if you need to run virtual environments on a laptop.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

SQL Server 2012 Certifications

For the last 2 weeks I have been taking the new SQL Server 2012 beta exams, to see how things are going to be in the new exams. Since I had to accept an NDA to take the exams I cannot reveal the details of the exams. But I can present my general thoughts. There are quite few new "technologies" being used for some of the questions and I think that those people that have struggled answering certain types of questions will find the new setup much better. My focus was on all of the Business Intelligence exams. Below are the exams that I took (since starting this post all of the 71's have been changed to 70's, see further in this post):

The biggest take away I got from this process was to never schedule taking this many exams over only 7 weekdays. Also, make sure you do pay attention to the amount of time they give you to take each exam. I assumed the length of these exams would be similar to the previous SQL Server 2008 exams and found that there is a lot more reading involved in the new exams. This may change when they go out of beta.


Since I started writing this entry last week, Microsoft just released the official plan for the SQL Server  certifications. No longer are there the MCTS or MCITP certifications, the new titles are MCSA (Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate) and then MCSE (Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert). MCM (Microsoft Certified Master) has also been renamed to MCSM (Microsoft Certified Solutions Master). MCSE is the specialized level of certifications, everyone that wants to get a SQL Server MCSE will have to pass all of the SQL Server MCSA exams:

Once you get your SQL Server MCSA then you can work towards the MCSE: Data Platform or MCSE: Business Intelligence. In the end the MCSE certification will require you pass a total of 5 exams, but if you want to get both the SQL Server MCSE specialties you will only need to take a total of 7 exams.

There are also going to be a set of upgrade exams offered for existing MCTS and MCITP SQL Server 2008 certifications, if you go to this page, Microsoft Training has done a good job outlining the upgrade path.

Overall this looks like a good change to me, makes the specializations very clear and requires that everyone have the same basic set of skills. All of these new exams should be available in June, so start studying now! Good luck.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Getting Started with SQL Server 2012

Now that SQL Server 2012 is generally available more of you may be asking where you can get more information on all of the new features (and also all of the licensing changes).

The first stop is Microsoft’s main SQL page at http://www.microsoft.com/sql. The site has been updated with all of the resources on SQL Server 2012. A couple of other links that are also at the top of that page are worth highlighting as well.

Microsoft held a virtual launch event for SQL Server 2012 on 3/7/2012 and all of the resources from that event are available at: http://www.sqlserverlaunch.com/. There are over 30 pre-recorded sessions covering all of the new features in SQL Server 2012 along with videos of the keynotes presented by Ted Kummert and Quentin Clark of Microsoft.

Microsoft has also made a free ebook, Introducing Microsoft SQL Server 2012 by Ross Mistry and Stacia Misner. The ebook is available in PDF, EPUB and MOBI formats. For more details on the chapters of the book you can go to this blog post from Microsoft Press. This book is also available in hardcopy from O’Reilly.

Now that you have read all about SQL Server 2012, download the free evaluation version or get it from MSDN and TechNet now!