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SQL Server Data Tools (SSDT)


SQL Server Data Tools (SSDT) is a modern development tool for building SQL Server relational databases, Azure SQL Databases, Analysis Services (AS) data models, Integration Services (IS) packages, and Reporting Services (RS) reports, which comes integrated with Visual Studio. With SSDT, you can design and deploy any SQL Server data models with the same ease as you would develop an application in Visual Studio.

The advantage over using SSMS is that, with SSDT in Visual Studio & Azure DevOps you get:

  • Database source code checked into repository with commit id’s
  • Work on branches, apply branch policies with peer review & controlled code-check-in (with pull request builds)
  • Continuous build and continuous deployments

Task 1: Add SQL Server Database Tools (SSDT) to Visual Studio

Before creating a SSDT database project, launch Visual studio installer and select Data storage and processing under Workloads, then select SQL Server Data Tools and click on modify.

If Visual Studio is already installed, you can edit the list of workloads to include SSDT.


Task 2: Create a new SSDT project

Use SSDT to create a new project and connect this to your database.

1.    Start Visual Studio 2017/ 2019. If you have not signed into Visual, you may receive a dialog to do so. Use the credentials for your account.

From the File menu, click New, then click Project (or click CTRL+Shift+N). You will receive a New Project dialog box. Click the SQL Server template on the left, and you should be presented with two options in the middle pane. (For SSIS, SSAS, SSRS projects, the approach is little differrent, where project is available under Business Intelligence section)

2.    Select the SQL Server Database Project, and type and enter SSDT­_Database as the project name. Ensure the Add to Source Control check box is selected. Change the folder if you want to store this in a different location.

3.    Click OK to create the project.


4.  After the project is created, you will have a new project in the Solution Explorer. This will look similar to the image below.


5.  In Solution Explorer, right-click the SSDT_Databse project and choose Properties. Select the Project Settings tab and ensure the Target platform is SQL Server 2016. On the toolbar, click Save Selected Items, then close the tab.


6.  In Solution Explorer, right-click the SSDT_Database project, click Import, then click Database.


7.  In the Import Database window, click Select Connection. In the Connect window, configure your connection properties, then click Connect.


8. In the Import Database window, click Start.


Click on Finish.

9.  Use Solution Explorer to browse the objects that have been imported to see how the folders are structured.

Task 3: Make an initial commit to version control in your Azure DevOps project

1.  Open the Team Explorer toolbar, then click Changes. You should see a list of changes that also include the various Visual Studio project items.


2.  In the commit message box (yellow box), enter test commit and select Commit all and Push. So, the changes will be pushed to Azure DevOps repository.

Task 4: Create Build and Release pipeline for SSDT database

1.  Select Pipeline as shown in the figure and choose New Pipeline.


2.  Now define the build pipeline by adding the jobs as described in the image below.


3.  Define the Publish symbols path job added in the pipeline. In the Search Pattern fill it as ***.dacpac. So it publishes only the .dacpac files which are generated during the build.


4.   Then click on Save and Queue.

5.  Once the build is successful, dacpac artifact will be published which can be seen under the build summary.

126.  Expand published artifact to verify if dacpac is published successfully. This dacpac will be used in release pipeline.

137.  Click Releases tab. Create a new release pipeline.


8.  Define the release pipeline as shown in the image targeting the database to be updated.


9.  Select Create release after saving.


10.     Now the changes in dacpac will be deployed into target database. If CI-CD trigger’s are enabled, this would be a continous process where build and release happens with every commit to the branch. Aditionally, branch poicies could be added to each branch to have gated check-ins.
When database source code is not under source control, you may miss out on tracking the changes through sprint cycles & commits, code quality, automated build, test & deployments. With integration of SSDT into Visual Studio & Azure DevOps we can bring your existing database into Agile SLM and make end-to-end tracking possible.

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