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Working with SQL Server Data Tools

Lenni Lobel, chief technology officer of Sleek Technologies and author of Programming Microsoft SQL Server 2012 (Microsoft Press), offered a walk through the SQL Server Data Tools (SSDT) built into Visual Studio 2012 and available for free download for users of Visual Studio 2010.

The session, held Wednesday morning at the Visual Studio Live! Chicago conference, showed how database developers can use SSDT to manage both on-premise and cloud-based database development projects. SSDT works with SQL Server 2012 and SQL Azure databases.

SSDT is essentially the successor to Microsoft Visual Studio Team System for Database Professionals, widely known as DbPro and sometimes referred to as DataDude. Released in December 2012, SSDT is a Visual Studio plug-in that presents itself as a new database type in the IDE. SSDT enables for database developers familiar Visual Studio capabilities like code navigation, IntelliSense, platform-specific validation and debugging. It also enables declarative editing in the TSQL Editor, and provides a visual Table Designer for database projects and online database instances.

"Database development is hard. It's a huge thing to get right and it's a huge challenge," Lobel told the audience during his presentation. "With respect to the development process itself, there are definitely pain points that can be relieved with the right tooling and SSDT aims to deliver that tooling."

During the presentation, Lobel showed how developers can use the declarative model of SSDT to design databases offline, and use source control functionality to preserve earlier versions of database schema. He also explored features like schema compare, local database runtime support and the ability to support SQL Azure database projects.

Lobel after the demo expressed both praise for and frustration with the SSDT toolset. He described SSDT as being "light years ahead of anything that came before for developers," and gave it high marks for integrating database creation and management tooling into the development environment. However, there are things Lobel would like to see in SSDT.

"SSDT is focused on schema, but not data. Data generation and data compare are features in DbPro that are not features in SSDT," Lobel told the audience.

"They've added unit testing, but I've heard no word on the other two," Lobel continued, suggesting that developers needing data generation and compare capabilities consider RedGate Software's SQL Toolbelt product.

Posted by Michael Desmond on 05/15/2013

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