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What is the essence of Azure SQL?

When we talk about modern cloud solutions, we refer to much more than data storage. Cloud technologies encompass virtual services, such as analytics, databases, networking, servers, and internet-based storage.

Among the most prominent cloud providers is Microsoft, with its Azure platform.

For database specialists, “Platform as a Service” (PaaS) is a popular solution. PaaS provides a robust database engine that can handle most database management tasks, such as upgrading, updating, backups, and monitoring. It is always up-to-date and never goes down.

Azure SQL PaaS offers the latest version of the SQL Server database engine, with comprehensive support for all features. This means you can focus solely on specific database tasks without worrying about general optimization and administration tasks.

Azure SQL Database is a component of the broader Microsoft Azure PaaS suite, which comprises several intelligent products integrated with the Azure Cloud platform.

As a database-as-a-service offering, Azure SQL Database provides the Azure PaaS SQL capabilities to develop applications and websites, with Microsoft managing the underlying infrastructure.

Azure SQL Managed Instance is a PaaS SQL Server engine that comes with familiar tools and resources to accomplish various database-related tasks.

With Managed Instance, you can customize the engine, configure the recovery model, and manage maintenance tasks, making it an excellent choice for migrating your workloads to the cloud.

For those who prefer an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) solution, SQL Server on Azure Virtual Machines (VMs) allows you to run SQL Server in a virtual machine in the cloud. You can use your existing SQL Server license or leverage the capabilities of the Azure portal.

This model is suitable for development and migration purposes and ideal for organizations that already work with virtual machines.

This article will specifically focus on Azure SQL Database.

Azure SQL Database

We have previously defined Azure SQL Database as a cloud-based database service for SQL Server enthusiasts. Microsoft takes care of server and data center administration, including patching, upgrading, and backing up.

By migrating your projects and applications to Microsoft Azure SQL Database, you can do so with ease and security, with minimal changes and no downtime for your databases. The performance of your applications becomes more stable and predictable, and you can manage multiple Azure SQL databases more efficiently and cost-effectively.

The maximum size for a single database on Azure SQL Database is now 2TB, with the available storage size dependent on the selected service tier.

Deployment models

Two options are available when opting to use the Azure platform for SQL databases: single database and elastic pool. Each has its unique characteristics.

Single database

A single database on the Azure SQL platform is similar to a typical SQL Server database hosted in the cloud.

The database is isolated from other databases and managed through a server. Resources assigned to a single database belong exclusively to that database and are not shared with other databases, regardless of the service tier.

The single database deployment model is ideal for cloud applications that require a single data source. It is also possible to scale resources allocated to a particular database up or down as needed.

Elastic pool

The elastic pool deployment model involves multiple databases sharing resources managed through a logical server. It allows for the easy movement of a single database into or out of the elastic pool as needed.

The elastic pool solution is ideal for several databases that require resources to function effectively.

If the exact resource requirements of each individual database are unknown, allocating resources can be challenging. Azure SQL solves this problem with elastic pools, which allocate necessary resources to target databases with unpredictable resource requirements.

Resource handling is measured in DTUs (Database Transaction Units) for single databases and eDTUs (Elastic Database Transaction Units) for elastic database pools. The elastic pool receives a specific number of eDTUs for a set price, and a user pays for the Azure SQL elastic pool as a whole rather than for each individual database.

An individual database can consume more eDTUs within the pool, taking them from the overall number available as the load increases. When the load decreases or is absent, no eDTUs are consumed.

Storage is also an important consideration. The elastic pool specifies the storage in GBs, which can be shared between all databases. However, exceeding the storage limit will result in all databases becoming read-only.

Additional eDTUs can be added to the elastic pool, and extra eDTUs can be removed if databases do not consume them. These changes can be made at any time without negative impacts or downtime.

Purchasing models

Azure SQL Database can be purchased under two different pricing models: vCore and DTU. Let’s take a closer look at each of these models.

vCore purchasing model

The vCore model stands for “virtual core” and represents a logical CPU. It is also known as the serverless model. With this model, you can specify the desired hardware characteristics in the cloud, such as memory, storage, the number of cores, and more.

This option allows you to transfer your on-premises requirements to the cloud and ensure that you have the necessary environment to work with databases most efficiently. It also makes migrating your applications to the cloud easy.

The price for the vCore-based model will depend on the service tier and your specific requirements for resources, storage, and hardware configuration. This model is available in three service tiers: Standard, Premium, and Hyperscale.

DTU-based purchasing model

DTU stands for Database Transaction Unit, which is a measure for the bundle of computing and storage. The DTU-based purchasing model means you receive a preconfigured bundle that covers CPU capabilities and memory under fixed monthly payments.

This model is suitable for both single databases and elastic pools and is available in three service tiers: Basic, Standard, and Premium. The Standard and Premium tiers allow for additional storage.

Under the DTU-based model, each database receives a certain granted level of resources, ensuring predictable performance regardless of the presence of other databases. This model is ideal for users seeking preconfigured resources as it is simpler to use.

In contrast, the vCore-based model requires more effort from the customer but offers more flexibility and control.

The serverless compute tier available under the vCore model allows for the scaling of compute resources, automatic pausing of databases during periods of inactivity, resumption when necessary, and more.

Microsoft recommends the vCore-based model to customers, but you can choose the option that best suits your needs. It is possible to switch from the DTU-based model to the vCore-based model at any time.

Service tiers

Azure SQL Database offers several service tiers to accommodate different workloads: Basic, Standard (General Purpose), Premium (Business Critical), and Hyperscale. These tiers provide appropriate performance, security, and business continuity.

The Basic service tier is the simplest option that supports only one active operation at a time, making it suitable for small and infrequently used applications.

The Standard (General Purpose) service tier is the default option for both the Database and Managed Instance in Azure SQL. It is suitable for most cloud applications and offers storage sizes ranging from 1GB to 4TB. Azure handles all upgrades and patching for this service tier.

The Premium (Business Critical) service tier is designed for powerful applications that require low-latency responses, and fast recovery in case of infrastructure failures, data load analysis, and other demanding tasks.

If an application is critical to your business, the Premium service tier is ideal. The storage size is the same as that of the General Purpose service tier – ranging from 1GB to 4TB.

The Hyperscale service tier is a new option available only in the vCore model. It offers highly scalable storage with significantly more computing power than any other service tier.

Databases in the Hyperscale service tier can grow up to 100TB in size and have no predefined maximum size. Backups and restores are performed much faster, and the overall performance is significantly higher, regardless of data volume.

Choosing the appropriate service tier depends on your business requirements for storage and performance. Billing for each service tier is calculated hourly. You can change the service tier type at any time through the Azure portal or by executing a dedicated SQL query.

Benefits of Using Azure SQL Database

Microsoft has been a major player in the development and shaping of modern cloud platforms, providing a comprehensive infrastructure for managing data and databases. Azure SQL Databases serve as ideal replacements for “standard” SQL Server databases on-premise and offer additional benefits through the Azure cloud platform.

Security and Compliance

Azure prioritizes the safety of customer data by implementing several security features. The Firewall prevents unauthorized access to databases, while virtual network rules ensure that only selected subnets can access them.

It also tracks malicious activities that threaten database safety and sends alerts to customers.

Threat Protection

Azure’s Advanced Threat Protection provides a new level of security for databases. The tool detects and fixes any vulnerabilities and anomalies. Customers receive alerts and email notifications for suspicious activities, SQL attacks, abnormal database access, and query patterns.

Performance Monitoring, Tuning, and Alerting

Azure SQL Database monitors CPU and IO according to the service tier, and customers can view Query Performance Insights. The system provides recommendations on performance optimization, and the implementation can be configured automatically.

AI is also used to troubleshoot issues and maximize database performance.

dbForge SQL Server tools

Devart offers a variety of tools for working with Azure SQL Database, including dbForge Studio for SQL Server.

dbForge Studio for SQL Server is a multifunctional tool that allows users to enhance their performance while working with databases.

The tool offers fast completion of database-related tasks, such as designing databases, writing SQL code, comparing databases, synchronizing schemas and data, creating data reports and pivot tables, implementing database CI/CD, and much more.

In conclusion, the development sphere offers numerous opportunities and prospects for software developers, including the choice of tools, platforms, and cloud providers for infrastructure deployment.

Devart is a company that stays up-to-date with modern software market trends and offers profitable database development and management solutions. They provide a range of reliable and efficient products tailored to meet specific database development, management, and deployment needs. Interested customers can try dbForge Studio for SQL Server for free by installing its 30-day trial version.

Downloading their products is an excellent way to evaluate their effectiveness when working with Azure.


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