CommentsLearning new things can be daunting. First, you have to come up with the spare time. Then you have track down resources. For computers, computing and programming, this is both extremely easy and extremely difficult. That difficulty is especially true when it comes to gathering resources for learning things that, while you learn, are potentially going to cost you money. It’s a difficult decision to make to risk cash on exploring a new technology. Here’s the good news, for several reasons, you don’t need to sweat this to get going with Windows Azure SQL Database (WASD).

A couple of years ago Jamie Thompson (b|t) set up an account on Azure, all on his own, that allowed people to connect up to it and play with a copy of the AdventureWorks database. This year, the company I work for, Red Gate Software, took over maintaining that database¬†as a community service (meaning, it’s free). You can go here to learn all about how to connect up to AdventureWorks in WASD. You can connect right through SQL Server Management Studio from your own PC. Try running a few queries. See what happens when you generate an execution plan. See which of the Dynamic Management Objects you might have access to. In short, start learning. It won’t cost you a dime. But please, leave a message by running an INSERT statement to the dbo.SqlFamily table. I posted some of the recent comments in the graphic.

Pain and cost free. You’re not only able to tool around and begin to understand what is offered by WASD, but you’re immediately seeing the hybrid nature of managing data in this new paradigm. That data is out in Azure, but you’re querying it from SSMS on your desktop.

Let’s say you already have an Azure account but you just don’t feel like setting up a database, all that work… I get it. Good news. Scott Klein (b|t) has created a copy of AdventureWorks just for use with Azure. He’s published it out on Codeplex, so it’s easy to track down. Check it out and see if it doesn’t help you get started with WASD.

Did that get you hungry for more? Cool, let’s stick to free(ish) opportunities. Do you, or your employer, already pay for an MSDN license? Then, depending on the license level you have up to $150 in credit available to you in an Azure account that is limited to that credit amount and no more. That’s right, it’s free (as long as you’ve already paid for MSDN) and you can’t rack up charges because it stops all service when you hit your credit limit. Further, you don’t have to enter a credit card either. It’s a perfect way to start learning WASD. Not only WASD, but all the rest of Azure, especially Azure VMs. Did you know that you can spin up an Azure VM that will run SQL Server 2014 on a SQL Server 2012 R2 server? What’s that? Those aren’t released yet? You’re right of course, but you can get access to VMs with these running on them to start learning the changes that are coming your way and it’ll only take about 5 minutes to get set up. I detail how to do it here.

To link your MSDN account and your Azure account, follow this link. It will also enable you to get a chance to win a rather snazzy car. Win a car and expand your skill set, all at no additional cost to you. That’s a deal.

With all the money I just saved you, you can register for my all day pre-conference seminar at the 2013 PASS Summit where I’ll be teaching WASD, Azure VMs, Failover, Virtual Networks, Deployments, Troubleshooting, anything and everything about managing data within the relational offerings available through Azure. Go here to register.