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Posted August 27, 2014

Microsoft to Cut Azure SQL Prices This Fall

By Pedro Hernandez

Microsoft isn't slowing down in its efforts to lure enterprise customers—and their databases—onto the company's Azure cloud computing platform.

Soon after the company unveiled a preview of the security-enhancing Azure SQL auditing feature, Eron Kelly, general manager of product marketing for Microsoft SQL Server, announced upcoming changes to the company's cloud-based database offering. He said in a statement that Microsoft is "reducing the service tier prices from previously-announced rates, introducing a new performance level and offering hourly billing."

Later this year, Microsoft will trim prices on its Azure SQL Standard and Premium plans. "Final pricing will reflect up to 50 percent savings from previously-published pricing," said Kelly.

In addition to substantial savings, the new pricing structure could allow customers to affordably upgrade to better performing plans, he said. "Updated pricing will help more customers benefit from higher performance and greater business continuity."

The Standard service tier is slated to get a new S0 (S-zero) performance level, for a total of three tiers including S1 and S2, with support priced at $30 and $75 per month, respectively. "This new lower cost entry point will enable more customers to benefit from the features in the Standard tier," stated Kelly.

The new Azure SQL pricing plans go into effect on Nov. 1. Pricing ranges from $15 per month for a Standard S0 plan to $3,720 per month for the high-performance Premium P3 offering.

Azure SQL's new service tiers (Basic, Standard, and Premium) will be generally available in September, following a months-long preview first launched on April 29.

Kelly also revealed a shift of the company's daily and monthly pricing scheme. "Azure SQL Database will move to hourly billing for the new service tiers," he said. The change, like the new S0 performance level, could help customers alter their cloud resource consumption patterns to better match their business requirements.

"This will provide customers with greater flexibility to shift between service tiers and performance levels, based on demand patterns, to gain cost-effective, reliable performance," asserted Kelly.

Capping off the enhancements is a boost to the service-level agreement (SLA) available in the new service tiers. Observing that high availability is a prime concern "as customers move more business-critical workloads to the cloud," he said that Microsoft is bumping Azure SQL's SLA to 99.99 percent (four nines), up from 99.95 percent uptime previously.

Microsoft has other improvements in store for independent software vendors (ISVs) that rely on Azure SQL, indicated Kelly.

Based on feedback, the Azure SQL team discovered the ISVs tasked with overseeing several databases are looking for ways to manage resources across databases rather than individually. "For example, some SaaS ISVs may have a separate SQL database for each customer and as the activity of each database varies, they want to manage a pool of resources with a defined budget across these customer databases," he explained.

A solution is on its way. "We are working to enable this scenario within the new service tiers in a future service update," added Kelly.

Originally published on eWeek.

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