Brad and Polita on my team have been working on a cool tool for hosting providers that will enable developers to easily deploy and manage ASP.NET 2.0 database driven applications written using SQL Express on a hosted web-server.
Once the tool is deployed by a hoster, a developer will be able to copy their ASP.NET 2.0 web application using FTP or any other file-transfer mechanism to deploy the files for the app underneath the web-root like they do content today (note: the new “Copy Web Site” tool in VS 2005 could also be used for this). If they want they can also use the app_offline.htm trick I posted about last week to avoid people accessing their app until the site is fully deployed and the database enabled.
The developer can then access the upsize tool online (it is an ASP.NET web app that hosters expose). It allows the developer to pick the SQL Express database (typically stored in the /app_data directory) that they want to enable. The tool then automates uploading this SQL Express database into a full-blown SQL Server database account on the back-end (note: a hoster in a shared environment would typically partition this SQL database into several hundred or a thousand different database accounts).
As part of this process the new tool will perform a “deep clean” check to verify that the database being uploaded is correct and doesn’t have any malicious things in it (something hosters worry about in shared environments). It can then also automatically fix up connection string references within the application’s web.config file to point to the new SQL Server account location (note that VS 2005 doesn’t store connection-string settings in code anymore – and instead uses the new <connectionstring> section in .NET 2.0 to store things).
After that, the ASP.NET 2.0 web application w/ SQL database should be good to go on the web. This should hopefully be a much easier solution than what people go through today, and really enable non-access-based database development for the masses.
P.S. We are targeting to have this tool available free for hosters in the November timeframe.