What can you tell me about Microsoft’s cloud-based service for SQL Server, codenamed Atlanta? It seems like a configuration monitoring or consulting service. What’s your take, and does it have potential to help us improve our SQL Server security posture without sending sensitive data into the cloud?

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Microsoft System Center, formerly codenamed Atlanta, is a cloud-based service developed by Microsoft that proactively monitors Microsoft SQL Server deployments (and other types of Microsoft server application deployments) to help improve their performance and security. It works by running an agent on each server where SQL Server is installed and a gateway component, installed on a server with Internet access, sending the aggregated data from the agents to the Atlanta service each night. Database administrators can then review reports on the Atlanta portal.

The reports provide information about any issues detected and how to address them. The report provides links to additional information contained in articles from the Microsoft Knowledge Base. You can also track current and historical configuration information for the computers being analyzed.

The size and complexity of many enterprise databases means it can take administrators a long time to identify and rectify configuration issues that may be affecting performance and availability. This appears to be a potential solution, ensuring SQL Server databases are configured with the latest “best practice” settings and are continuously checked and assessed. If it becomes necessary to contact Microsoft support, Microsoft can see immediately how your databases are deployed without you having to spend time talking them through how they are configured and any changes that may have been made, which hopefully leads to quick problem resolutions.

The data uploaded to Microsoft is sent over an SSL connection, and one would hope it is then stored and handled securely. Carefully read the service agreement and privacy policy to fully understand what data is sent and how it is secured. Microsoft at one time stated data would be stored on Windows Azure.

There are several different licensing options, from those that cover the management suites to those that cover the products individually. More information is available at the Microsoft System Center.

This was first published in August 2011

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