Saturday, February 5, 2011

Final Comments on “Microsoft SQL Azure: Enterprise Application Development”(2010) by PACKT

This is my final comments on the book below (click to go to publisher site).


First, I’m likely a tough reviewer having been a professional technical writer for Microsoft since the mid 1990’s and still doing that occasionally. Second, I’m a pedagogue (ex-teacher for those that are vocabulary challenged) and tend to read stuff at several levels – including suitability for teaching or mentoring.

The first question is what type of book is this? This book will be a useful book on my bookshelf because it touches enough area in sufficient depth to serve as a cookbook for first recipes. The problem is that it try to span too many target audiences and as a result does not make it in any area well.

Is it a Cookbook?

The number of items covered and the crispness of the coverage suggests that it is. The problem is that if I compare it to the classic Cookbooks from O’Reilly, it is both too shallow and too sparse. It’s more a collection of recipes clipped from ‘Women’s Journal’ (or should I say, Microsoft articles and blog posts?). There is a place for that, because it has a linear structure that wandering across lacks.

Is it an Enterprise Book?

Definitely not – there was zero coverage of issues that would be of interest to a SQL Azure serious enterprise application. One key example: there is nothing about tuning indexes – and for SQL Azure that can be critical. I will give a simple example, this morning I tuned a single heavy used query that was looked like it should be run well, 4-6 indices on all of the tables involved etc. The Database Engine Tune Advisor did it magic and did a 94% improvement on it. For SQL Azure (because of billing) could mean the difference between a $1000/month billing and a $60/month billing. Wait a minute… would it be in Microsoft’s Interest to provide easy tools to do this… it would lose $940 of monthly revenue (just loose change)….

The simplest way to see the deficiency is to look at a book like APress’s

Pro SQL Server 2005 and see what is not touched upon. Looking at APress’s offering Pro SQL Azure, I see chapters such as:

  • Designing for High Performance
  • SQL Azure Design Considerations
  • Performance Tuning

Those essential enterprise topics are missing. QED

Is it a “Learning SQL Azure” Book?

It likely comes closest to this but for the fact that there is very sparse guidance to the learner. The collection of recipes without guidance leaves may leave too many learners frustrated instead of assured by the last page.

Is it a VBNet, C# or is a PHP Book?

It tries to do all three resulting in a thick tome that will only be partially read by most developers. Creating a tome for each language would likely be a better approach so the book would have greater depth – however, the real issue is how much time a book title starting with “Microsoft SQL Azure” should spend in any specific language? IMHO less than 20% of the book/chapters, ideally 10-15%.

Is it worth buying?

If you are neither a beginner nor responsible for enterprise implementation on SQL Azure, I would say that it’s definitely worth considering. You will likely do a lot of skimming of content and then read carefully the sections that are relevant to your existing style. It may serve well as a stepping stone tome but it’s useful life is likely to be short but it would likely pay for itself by the time savings it provides.

Next week, I will do a review of another one of PACKT’s books – stay tune!


  1. Ken,

    I believe you meant to say "tome", not "tomb" (as in Grant's tomb.)



  2. This book does an excellent job as it provides lots of topics to gain something fruitful from it. Because it goes over so many different topics, it doesn't always go into level, but I do think it goes into level enough that you keep understanding where to go to discover out more.