Shaun Xu

The Sheep-Pen of the Shaun



Shaun, the author of this blog is a semi-geek, clumsy developer, passionate speaker and incapable architect with about 10 years’ experience in .NET and JavaScript. He hopes to prove that software development is art rather than manufacturing. He's into cloud computing platform and technologies (Windows Azure, Amazon and Aliyun) and right now, Shaun is being attracted by JavaScript (Angular.js and Node.js) and he likes it.

Shaun is working at Worktile Inc. as the chief architect for overall design and develop worktile, a web-based collaboration and task management tool, and lesschat, a real-time communication aggregation tool.


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I’m not pretty sure how many users are using the standard SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) 2008 R2 to manage your SQL Azure database. I was one of them until I found the Houston project provided by Microsoft in its SQL Azure Labs.

SQL Azure Labs is a place where we can try the latest CTP features of the SQL Azure. They might not be included in the production SQL Azure but I think most of them will be launched in the future. So it’s a good place for us to play with the newest stuff of SQL Azure.


As you can see there are three features now provided in the labs and in this post I would like to introduce the 3rd one – Project Houston CTP 1.


Limitation of SSMS 08 R2

I was using the SSMS 08 R2 to access my SQL Azure database before. It works, but not that pretty. There are some limitation I found when I used it.

  • I can’t use the standard design view to create and modify my tables. It seems that the SQL Azure platform doesn’t support the SQL Server Configuration Service or something else. So what I can do is to use the plain SQL statement. Although I can connect to my local mirror database to finished my modification and them copy and run the generated SQL to SQL Azure it still very inefficiency.
  • If the one above is acceptable for you since the tables schema changing was not that frequently, it should be very frustrated that the SSMS doesn't support listing the data of a SQL Azure table. This means I have to write the query manually when I need to check the rows.
  • Since the data traffic should be charged by Microsoft each time I fetch or insert data I need to pay for them.



Houston CTP 1

The project Houston is a web-based, in fact it’s Silverlight-based application which you can manage you SQL Azure database with more features than the SSMS.

The registration is very simple. You firstly navigate to the Project Houston CTP 1 section on the SQL Azure Labs with your Live ID and then you need to select a location where the Houston will be run. In order to maximize the performance you’d better select the same location that hosts your SQL Azure database. In my case I selected the North Central US.


And then the connection and logon form appeared. Here I said “form” rather than “page” is because we have been in the Silverlight environment. Just provide the SQL Azure database server name, database name and your account here.

Note: You need to specify your full database server address in the Server box. You can get the server address in your SQL Azure Development Portal.



After logged into the Houston you can see the basic information of your SQL Azure server and database includes the users, connections, versions and the quota.




On the left there are the tables, views and stored procedures you’ve created in the database and you can create, update the schema through its design view, which SSMS doesn’t support.


And just click the Data button on the top you can see the rows in a grid where you can add, update and delete them which SSMS doesn’t support neither.


Also we can add, update our stored procedures although it doesn’t not support the IntellSense. But I think it would support in the future.




In this post I just introduced a lightweight but powerful tool for managing the SQL Azure database. It’s web-based which means we don’t need to install but it’s very rich by using Silverlight.

While the Azure platform become more popular, more and more tools are available that can be used by us to improve the development efficiency.


Hope this helps,



All documents and related graphics, codes are provided "AS IS" without warranty of any kind.
Copyright © Shaun Ziyan Xu. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons License.


Gravatar # re: An Amazing Tool for SQL Azure – Houston CTP 1
Posted by Bruce Yu on 8/27/2010 3:42 PM
Good article, up
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