Free Introducing Microsoft SQL Server 2012 eBook Now Available

2012The final version of Introducing Microsoft SQL Server 2012 by Ross Mistry (@RossMistry) and Stacia Misner (@StaciaMisner), is now available. 

Although this book expects readers to have an understanding of SQL Server from a database administrator and business-intelligence perspective, anyone who has an interest in SQL Server will find its content valuable as it provides insight into new and improved capabilities of 2012 as they apply to achieving mission-critical confidence, breakthrough insight, and using a cloud on your terms.

The  PDF version of this book can be download from here (288 pages; 10.8 MB) and a hardcopy is also available for purchase from here (US$14.99).


1.   SQL Server 2012 Editions and Engine Enhancements

2.   High-Availability and Disaster-Recovery Enhancements

3.   Performance and Scalability

4.   Security Enhancements

5.   Programmability and Beyond-Relational Enhancements


6.   Integration Services

7.   Data Quality Services

8.   Master Data Services

9.   Analysis Services and PowerPivot

10.   Reporting Services

Microsoft Virtual Academy – New SQL Server 2012 Content Released

Microsoft has released 5 new SQL Server 2012 Microsoft Virtual Academy courses.

Breakthrough Insights using Microsoft SQL Server 2012 – Analysis Services

The 7 modules of this course will introduce you to concepts and practices such as:

  • Developing and Managing a Business Intelligent Semantic Model
  • Enriching your BI Semantic Models with Data Analysis Expressions (DAX)
  • Leveraging Master Data Services (MDS) in your Data Warehouse

Breakthrough Insights using Microsoft SQL Server 2012 – Scalable Data Warehouse

The 7 modules of this course will teach you:

  • What’s new in Microsoft StreamInsight
  • Symmetric Multiprocessing to Parallel Data Warehouse
  • Using columnstore technology to revolutionize your query performance
  • SQL Server Integration Services
  • SQL Server Fast Track for data warehouse for dramatic speed improvements
  • Going beyond relational data management into the realm of unstructured and spatial data management

Breakthrough Insights using Microsoft SQL Server 2012 – Reporting Services

The 9 modules of this course will teach you:  

  • What’s new Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Reporting Services
  • Introduce you to Self-Service Alerting
  • What’s new in Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Analysis Services and PowerPivot
  • How to use Power View for insightful visual reports
  • How to build great Business Intelligence Semantic Models for Power View
  • Deploying and managing PowerPivot in Microsoft SQL Server 2012 for SharePoint
  • A Deeper understanding of PowerPivot in Microsoft SQL Server 2012
  • How to install and configure Reporting Services in SharePoint Integration mode
  • An overview of Reporting Services in Microsoft SQL Azure

Cloud on your terms with Microsoft SQL server 2012: Scale on Demand

The 3 modules of this course will teach you: 

  • Virtualization in the Private Cloud (two parts)
  • Beyond the Hype – Hybrid Solutions for On-Premise and In-Cloud Database Applications

Mission Critical Confidence using Microsoft SQL Server 2012

The 9 modules of this course will teach you:

  • Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Security enhancements
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2012 High Availability and Disaster Recovery Design Patterns, Architectures and Best Practices using AlwaysOn
  • T-SQL Cookbook – Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Enhancements
  • Mission Critical application testing with Distributed Replay 
  • AlwaysOn Failover Cluster Instances and other High Availability enhancements
  • Improve Application Availability Using AlwaysOn – A Deep Dive Into Availability Groups
  • AlwaysOn – Active Secondary Part 1 – Readable Secondary
  • AlwaysOn – Active Secondary Part 2 – Enabling Backup On Secondary Replicas
  • Using The Power Of Extended Events For Tracing And Troubleshooting 



Certification: Yes….No….Maybe!

I read an interesting article by Paul Randal the other day on whether certification was worth it (How valuable are certifications) and it got me thinking about whether Microsoft was serious about certification or does the program exist purely to “keep people happy” (and to drive sales of MOC).

Over the years Microsoft has been criticised for taking far too long to release certifications relevant to current technologies and for not doing enough to stamp out cheating (which devalues certification).  Microsoft has also come under fire for releasing certifications but not releasing relevant study material (Self-paced Training Kits, e-Learning and classroom training etc.).  Unfortunately these “issues” have further contributed to the belief that certification is a waste of time.  Well, it appears times are changing.

Relevant and Up-to-Date Certifications

Microsoft Learning has listened to suggestions from certification candidates and is addressing the need for relevant and up-to-date certifications by ensuring it offers both training and certifications to enable IT Pros and Developers to develop and validate their skill.  One example of this effort is the recently announced Private Cloud Certification (Beta in April 2012) and the upcoming Private Cloud Jump Start course.  Another example is the recently announced SQL Server 2012 certifications (Beta in March 2012) and the SQL Server 2012 Developer Training Kit BOM.  For me though, the most exciting aspect of Microsoft’s change in direction is recertification.

Recertification is Microsoft’s way of ensuring that certifications remain meaningful and valuable, and that a person continues to demonstrate competence in a given technology even as the technology changes through service packs, revisions, and new product version releases.

Recertification is currently required for MCPD: Windows Azure Developer and MCPD: Windows Phone Developer certifications (every two years) and for Professional-level SQL Server 2012 certifications (every three years).  Hopefully Microsoft will make recertification a requirement for all technologies.  

Exam Security

This is a difficult area to address and unfortunately cheating will exist as long as certification exists.  That said, Microsoft has implemented a number of strategies to combat cheating and has even gone as far as publishing real-life stories of piracy and cheating.  Exam security is not limited to cracking down on brain-dumps, theft or impersonation though.  Take the MCM program for example.

A few years ago Microsoft released the MCM program which in my opinion addresses some of the criticism it received for not stamping out cheating (and the devaluation of certifications) as these certifications can’t be gained through study alone (thus ruling out the use of brain-bumps) as they contain a practical (lab) component. Significant security measures have also been implemented to ensure the integrity of the MCM is maintained and that people sitting exams are who they say they are.

As with recertification, I hope Microsoft extends lab based exams to all certifications and also implements the same MCM security related measures for all exams and certification candidates.

Need to report suspected cheating or piracy?  Visit the Microsoft Certification Exam Policies site or send an email to


I’ve always been passionate about certification and at times have been frustrated with the “perception” that certification is a waste of time because they become out-dated and that anyone can pass a certification exam by downloading a dump. 

Microsoft appears to be listening to suggestions and heading in the right direction with some of the initiatives they’ve implemented and I hope they continue to refine and release additional initiatives/incentives to ensure certifications retain their relevancy.

Have questions about Training and Certification?  Pop by the Training and Certification and Born to Learn forums where dedicated members will gladly point you in the right direction.,

SQL Server 2012 Virtual Labs

Want to play around with SQL Server 2012 but don’t have an environment to play around in?  Check out the following SQL Server 2012 Virtual Labs:

SQL Server 2012: AlwaysOn Availability Groups (SQL 142)

In this hands-on-lab you will learn take advantage of the new AlwaysOn features in SQL Server 2012. You will learn how to implement High-Availability and Data Recovery using SQL Server 2012 Availability Groups.

SQL Server 2012 – Working with Contained Databases (SQL 145)

In this lab, learn how to implement Contained Databases in SQL Server 2012.

SQL Server 2012 – What’s new in Manageability (SQL 147)

In this hands-on-lab you will learn about new manageability features in SQL Server 2012. You will learn how to take advantage of new features in SQL Server Management Tools, PowerShell, and features that will increase your productivity.

SQL Server 2012 – Installation and Configuration (SQL 149)

In this hands-on-lab you will build out a network environment that includes a Domain Controller, an multiple instances of SQL Server 2012.

SQL Server 2012 – Security and Compliance (SQL 150)

In this in hands-on-lab you will learn how to implement security and compliance in SQL Server 2012.

SQL Server 2012 – Upgrading to SQL Server 2012 (SQL 151)

In this hands-on-lab you will learn on how to upgrade to SQL Server 2012.You will learn how to use SQL Server Upgrade Advisor and Distributed Replay to upgrade a SQL Server 2005/2008 database to SQL Server 2012

SQL Server 2012 – What’s new in T-SQL (SQL 152)

In this hands-on-lab you will learn about the new T-SQL enhancements for SQL Server 2012.You will learn about new scalar functions, T-SQL constructs and how to take advantage of these new features.

SQL Server 2012 – Installing and managing SQL Server 2012 on Windows Server Core (SQL 153)

In this hands-on-lab you will learn how to deploy SQL Server on Windows Server core, and how configure connectivity and management of a Windows Server core based installation.

SQL Server 2012 – What’s new in Data warehousing and EIM

In this hands-on-lab you will learn about the enhancements in SQL Server 2012 for Data warehousing.

SQL Server 2012 Developer Training Kit BOM

The SQL Server 2012 Early Adoption Team has put together some great resources to assist developers with skilling up on SQL Server 2012; one of which is the SQL Server 2012 Developer Training Kit BOM wiki.

The wiki, which is based on the SQL Server 2012 Developer Training Kit, has been designed from a training perspective and organises content into an agenda like format (complete with presentations, demos and hands-on-labs) making it easy for individuals and organisations to develop their own SQL Server 2012 upgrade workshop.

Check it out today!

Sample Agenda

Day 1: Introduction and Database Engine Topics

Module 1: Introduction to SQL Server 2012


Day 2: Visual Studio, .NET and Business Intelligence Topics

Module 7: SQL Server 2012 Business Intelligence


Microsoft Virtual Academy

The Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA) is a free cloud-based learning environment focusing on Microsoft Technologies (Although the site states that it focuses on cloud-based technologies, I have found content in some countries not specific to the cloud).

The concept behind the MVA is similar to that of a “Virtual University”; students select a course(s) to study and then do a self-assessment exam to gauge how well they’ve understood the study material. Students also accrue points for material studied and courses completed which are used to promote them through a recognition system (Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum Level) and provide them with a comparison on how they rank against other students in their country and around the world.

As it currently stands, there is only 1 SQL Server related course (Introduction To SQL Azure) currently available in Australia (and the United States and United Kingdom) however I have been advised by the Dean that new material will become available in the near future. I also mentioned earlier that there is additional content (SQL 2008/R2/Azure, .Net, Sharepoint, Silverlight, Windows Phone) available in other countries (mainly Spain and Colombia) with some of this content being in English and some in the native language of the selected country (the Microsoft study links are good as all you need to do is change the language setting of the site to a language of your choice and the content is translated. You can also use Google Translate on some of the content).

More information about the MVA can be found in the FAQ.

SQL Server 2012 Developer Training Kit

There’s been an update to the SQL Server 2012 Developers Training Kit (November 2011).

This training kit is a great resource for developers, trainers, consultants and evangelists who need to understand SQL Server 2012 and SQL Azure improvements from a developer perspective. It contains a rich set of demos, hands-on labs and presentations that are perfect for self-paced learning or for conducting your own training.

Please Note: You will need to install Microsoft Web Platform Installer 3.0 before you can install this training kit.

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