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Review: Red Gate SQL Bundle 5

When architects speak with database administrators, it is important they come forearmed. Tools can help. While Microsoft's own database management tools cover the most common database administration scenarios, they don't do anything about some of the most common pain points faced when you need to maintain and deploy SQL Server databases for projects under active development. That's where Red Gate comes in. Version 5 of their SQL Bundle, offers a group of well-engineered and mature tools that make moving databases from development to production easier and safer.

Description:When architects speak with database administrators, it is important they come forearmed. Tools can help. While Microsoft's own database management tools cover the most common database administration scenarios, they don't do anything about some of the most common pain points faced when you need to maintain and deploy SQL Server databases for projects under active development. That's where Red Gate comes in. Version 5 of their SQL Bundle, offers a group of well-engineered and mature tools that make moving databases from development to production easier and safer. The whole suite has recently been updated for SQL Server 2005 and the user interfaces have been substantially polished as well.

A good place to start is with SQL Compare, which is a tool for comparing and synchronizing the schema of two SQL Server databases (7.0, 2000, or 2005). Pick the databases you want to work with, and SQL Compare goes out and retrieves all the object definitions. Then it shows you a list of objects, split between ones that are the same in both databases, different, or that only exist in one or the other. Drill down into individual objects and you can see the exact SQL differences, with a side by side view showing the CREATE statement for each database. Checkboxes allow you to select any subset of objects that differ between the two, and then a wizard walks you the process of building a job to synchronize the schemas in either direction. Another click of the mouse and SQL Compare will do the actual work, with suitable warnings so you know which database you're altering.

The net result is to stomp out subtle bugs caused by forgetting to apply a bug fix to the production database. For example, when I was reviewing this version I ran SQL Compare against a database I'd deployed to a client, only to discover that two indexes were missing from one table and a default from another -- changes I would have sworn I'd made in the production version. It doesn't take fixing many mistakes like that to pay for the product.

SQL Data Compare does much the same job as SQL Compare, except that it works on the actual data in identical tables. Once again, you can reconcile two copies of a database together -- useful when you want to move data from point A to point B without using DTS (and in my experience, much faster when there are only a few rows with changes). It does a great job of showing you exactly what data will change, and (like SQL Compare) can save jobs to easily rerun later. A third utility, DTS Package Compare, makes it easy to compare and synchronize DTS packages between servers (and in fact makes it much easier to see what's in a DTS package than the built-in SQL Server tools do).

The base $490 (single-user license cost) SQL Bundle Standard includes SQL Compare, SQL Data Compare, and DTS Package Compare. When you move up to the $990 SQL Bundle Pro you also get SQL Package, which can take a SQL Server database (or any subset of objects that it contains), both schema and data, and package it into a .NET project for installation on any server. This is an useful solution for moving the database from development to production in the first place, and it will even open the C# code for the project in VS .NET for you so you can customize the look and feel with your own corporate branding. SQL Bundle Pro also includes SQL Toolkit, an API that lets you automate SQL Compare, SQL Data Compare, and SQL Packager from your own applications.

My experiences with Red Gate's tools have been uniformly positive over the years, and this new version of SQL Bundle is no exception. The attention to detail is superb, from the new user interface (which makes it extremely easy to see differences between databases) to the way SQL Compare handles version differences (understanding, for example, how to translate CREATE TABLE inconsistencies from SQL Server 2000 to 2005 and back). If all utility vendors took this much care with their products, the lives of developers would be much easier.

Company site: http://www.red-gate.com

Download information:Red Gate SQL Bundle 5

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