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Posted May 6, 2014

More Microsoft SQL on Azure Update Details Emerge

By Pedro Hernandez

Microsoft Azure is rolling out the welcome mat for big SQL databases.

Scott Guthrie, head of Microsoft's cloud and enterprise software division, recently announced some major updates to the SQL on Azure cloud database services portfolio. The enhancements, currently in preview, include an improved 99.95 percent service-level agreement (SLA), new service tiers, support for up to 500GB databases and Active Geo Replication.

Shawn Bice, director of program management for Microsoft's Data Platform Group, followed up with more specifics in a series of lengthy blog posts. He provided additional details on how the new service tiers work and their effect on pricing.

"As you move up the performance levels, the available throughput increases. This service design offers customers the opportunity to dial up the right set of resources to get the throughput their database requires," stated Bice, echoing Guthrie's assertion that the new setup offers customers the ability to fine-tune their cloud databases as their requirements change.

The new service tiers are further broken down into performance levels, revealed Bice. "The performance levels are Basic, S1, S2, P1, P2, and P3," a total of six levels that span Basic, Standard and Premium plans. "Each performance level will deliver a set of resources required to run light-weight to heavy-weight database workloads," he added.

Performance levels are measured using the company's Database Throughput Unit (DTU). Basic supports 1 DTU, a Standard S1 plan can handle 5 DTUs while a Premium P3 can provide 800 DTUs. In practical terms, DTU translates into Microsoft benchmark OLTP transaction rates of 3,467 transactions per hour for the Basic tier and up to 730 transactions per second for the high-end Premium P3 option.

Indicating that the new SQL on Azure capabilities are very much a work in progress, Bice cautioned that customers may initially encounter some restrictions while provisioning databases and may have to jump through a few hoops in the process.

For example, at the start, "customers cannot upgrade a Web or Business database to Basic or Standard," he said. "However, customers can export a Web or Business database, and then import the resulting BACPAC file into a newly created Basic or Standard database using the database import Powershell cmdlet," recommended Bice.

The final product will be far more flexible. Bice reported that Microsoft is working on clearing these hurdles "during the course of the previews, enabling customers to freely mix Web, Business, Basic, Standard and Premium databases on the same server, and enabling upgrade and downgrade between any editions."

In terms of billing, there will be no surprises, assured Bice. Microsoft will charge "based on a predictable daily rate" of a customer's choosing. "Additionally, performance levels (eg. Basic, S1, and P2) are broken out in the bill to make it easier to see the number of database days you incurred in a single month for each performance level."

Originally published on eWeek.

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