Formerly code-named Juneau, SQL 2012 Data Tools (SSDT) is a tool set designed for use by Microsoft with SQL Server and SQL Azure to facilitate database design. Features include business intelligence (BI) tools, rapid data discovery, and data warehousing, among others. From a business perspective, SSDT combines features from several other programs into one integrated development environment, eliminating the need to manage several different applications to accomplish the same objective.
SSDT’s design allows it to perform large-scale data mining operations in conjunction with BI platforms like PowerView, PowerPivot, Excel, and SharePoint. It should be noted, however, that SSDT performance peaks out at 500 terabytes (TB), so companies with exceedingly large data sets will require additional platform support. SSDT also integrates cloud-based data in Windows Azure Marketplace Datamarket or via third-party providers.
As stated above, many of SSDT’s core features descend from features that were already available, albeit from a host of other programs. Former SQL Server incarnations required Visual Studio to create SQLCLR objects, but SSDT sidesteps the need for the additional software by permitting the user to build, run, and test SQLCLR objects. SSDT also abandons the need to run Business Intelligence Development Studio as it already contains BI development applications like Analysis Services, Reporting Services, and Integration Services.
Most large projects require database version control to avoid management headaches, so SSDT uses Schema Compare to create at-a-glance differences between multiple database versions. For offline development, SSDT can provide a template for easy SQL Server database construction and modification. Users can change this template as they see fit, and Schema Compare will readily make all differences transparent to the database developer. Once completed, users can copy the database schema directly into a project environment. Furthermore, SSDT can minimize micromanagement by automatically devising the scripts necessary to generate new database versions. The schema tool will also help users find differences between multiple database versions by using Transact-SQL (T-SQL) scripts to synchronize the discrepancies.
T-SQL functions as the standardized computer language responsible for all procedural programming, data processing, and mathematics within Microsoft SQL Server. SSDT incorporates T-SQL IntelliSense to provide rapid keyboard input. SSDT itself allows developers to test T-SQL code, allowing users to single-step through the code, set breakpoints, and debug stored procedures.
SSDT’s Table Designer gives users an easy way to create and alter tables and related objects, and it can modify tables on SQL Server instances as well as tables within an enclosed database project. The Table Designer also contains a script pane to permit users to directly edit the “create table” script, and users will also find it simple to add keys, triggers, and indexes to their tables, once created.
SSDT also features full retro-compatibility with SQL Server 2005 and later.
Although many of SSDT’s most alluring features are not entirely new to developers, never before have they been so readily available through one platform. In theory, this will minimize the need to juggle programs, windows, and divergent interfaces, thereby sharpening the efficiency of database design and maintenance.