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SQL Server Data Services: Microsoft's Answer to Amazon S3

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Microsoft has announced SQL Server Data Services (SSDS) at MIX08. Being a storage service on the web, SSDS is Microsoft's Amazon S3 competitor.

SSDS is another Microsoft service running on the web in addition to BizTalk Services. Neil Hutson offers a concise summary of what SSDS is all about:

SSDS you can think of as a structured data store in the cloud(building block service), which is accessed using Internet protocols using a basic data manipulation language. SSDS is for developers and businesses that need scalable, easily programmable, and cost-effective data storage with robust database query capabilities.

The SQL Server Data Services offer a flexible data model, which is structured as follows: Customer > Account > Authority > Container > Entity. Customers are companies or individuals that use SSDS. Each customer might open an arbitrary amount of accounts, which is connected with a unique Windows Live Id. Authorities are a concept analogous to namespaces,  and are  a in the context of billing and geo-location. Containers are a unit of consistency, defining boundaries for search and update operations.  The smallest and fundamental data unit is the entity.

Neil Hudson describes this fundamental data unit as "a Flexible Entity Model, where no schema required and you can update name/value pairs (which is the smallest unit of storage)". The name/value pairs represent properties, whose type information can be changed on the fly. Properties maybe added at any time. SSDS supports "simple types such as decimal, string, bool, etc and all the properties are indexed".

Data can be accessed and altered in many ways:

  • Microsoft Sync Framework (offline access)
  • ADO.NET Data Services
  • REST
  • SOAP

Data can be manipulated by CRUD operations on authorities, containers, and entities. Queries can be executed based on a text base query language, whose syntax follows the LINQ pattern for C#.

Regarding the predominance of Amazon S3 on the web storage market Robert Scoble said:

It’s almost too late for the others to get into the game [of data storage on the web]. It’s amazing (or maybe it should be “amazoning”) to me that Ray Ozzie over at Microsoft has let Amazon have so much runway.

According to Jamie Thomson nothing's carved in stone, yet:

Can [Microsoft] stop Amazon? Who knows, it might slow them down a bit (when SSDS finally gets released - it hasn't even reached beta yet) but Amazon are already miles and miles ahead with this. Having said that, its difficult to know how far Amazon have got into the enterprise data storage market and that will be Microsoft's key battleground.

Further information can be found on the product web site and the SSDS whitepaper.

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