Come Play in the SQL Server 2008 R2 Hosted Trial Sandbox

With the launch today of the free Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Hosted Trial, the ultimate techie sandbox is open for business. Sponsored by Dell, MaximumASP, and PASS , the Hosted Trial provides a complete, integrated Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2, SharePoint 2010, and Office 2010 environment where you can try out SQL Server 2008 R2’s new BI and data management features risk-free, explains PASS Board member Douglas McDowell. Here, Douglas shares how to get started and make the most of your Hosted Trial experience.

Q: What is the Hosted Trial, and how can I and my organization benefit from it?
A:
Hosted Trial is a completely preconfigured server environment that a user can remotely access to try out different features of a software product. In this case, a user can explore the new Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 release in an integrated configuration with Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010. To introduce the new features, the Hosted Trial provides seven hands-on labs that users can step through from the comfort of their own office or home.

Q: Is the Hosted Trial lab environment something I can access securely from my office?
A:
Yes, in most cases. To access the labs, you connect to a Terminal Services Gateway over SSL and then the labs launch a Remote Desktop Session (RDP) that is secured by SSL as well. However, some folks could run into issues if their company blocks RDP at their firewall.
 
Q: Which features of SQL Server 2008 R2 do the labs cover?
A:
For DBAs, there is a lab for the new Multi-Server Management features in SQL Server 2008 R2. For Business Intelligence pros, there are SQL Server 2008 R2 labs for PowerPivot for Excel and SharePoint, new Reporting Services features, and Master Data Services. There are also two Integration Services labs. In addition, developers will really enjoy jumping into StreamInsight, the new complex event processing (CEP) platform embedded in SQL Server 2008 R2.
 
Q: Can I try out the new R2 features with my own data?
A:
The Hosted Trial is set up to be scalable and easily maintainable for numerous users. It does not allow users to add their own files or data to the hosted environment.
 
Q: How do I access the labs? Any prerequisites or recommendations for optimizing my experience with the Hosted Trial?
A:
Head out to PreviewSQLServer.com and register to get started. You only need a decent high-speed Internet connection and Windows XP or newer (or a Windows RDP client for other platforms). 
 
Q: Is there any support available if I get stuck or have questions?
A:
Yes! Users can send questions to a dedicated queue within the MaximumASP support team by emailing support@PreviewSQLServer.com. This team will provide a wide range of support and can escalate issues as needed.

Q: What’s the technology involved behind the scenes in the Hosted Trial? How many people can be taking advantage of the labs at the same time?
A:
We have a Terminal Services Gateway that sits in front of a Hyper-V cluster hosting multiple Virtual Machines. Based on the last Hosted Trial, we are starting with capacity for five simultaneous labs. But we expect this Hosted Trial to be even more popular, so we will monitor traffic and add more capacity as needed.

Q: PASS has cosponsored Hosted Trials before—is there anything different about this program? Any enhancements or changes I should know about if I’ve participated before?
A:
The experience of this Hosted Trial is going to be very similar to previous ones, but the content is going to be very different. In the past, the environment has been totally SQL Server focused, but to take advantage of many of SQL Server 2008 R2’s new BI features, you have to have Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 configured with SQL Server 2008 R2. Getting such an integrated environment set up could be difficult and time-consuming for users who just want to try out the new features and understand how they might apply them in their environment, so this Hosted Trial lets users jump in immediately with no risk or setup.

Q: What is PASS’s role in helping bring this offering to the community? Why are you excited about it?
A:
PASS is coordinating all the sponsors involved and making sure that the technical community knows about it and can access it. We are excited about the Hosted Trial because it empowers all types of SQL Server users to experience SQL Server 2008 R2 instantly! There is no replacement for the education and understanding gained in working with technology in a hands-on capacity. PASS considers the Hosted Trial for SQL Server 2008 R2 to be a valuable addition to the many benefits PASS offers its members.