Last week in Azure SQL Database – Part 1

This blog post is especially dedicated to those who attended my SQLIntersection post-conference talk on WASD just over one week ago. The announcements were made after the talk, and so the information here is mostly a delta for those who want to catch up. I think the post series will be useful above and beyond that, however. I’ll try not to paraphrase the announcements but may need to quote from it or provide URLs. I’ll also tell you where I’m currently a bit unclear about things.

Last week, Microsoft made some major announcements about the future of Azure SQL Database. As an aside, the announcements referred to it as “Azure SQL Database” (although there is one usage of the name Microsoft Azure SQL Database), so I’m going to refer to it as a new made-up acronym, ASD, rather than my previous acronym (WASD) for their previous name, Windows Azure SQL Database. “Azure SQL Database” is just too long. For folks who get the two confused, ASD is a platform as a service (PaaS) database offering based on the SQL Server code. As opposed to “SQL Server on an Azure VM”, which is an IaaS offering. With ASD, you don’t need to maintain a guest OS or maintain SQL Server software yourself. I’ve written about this previously.

The first announcement was a changing of the tiering and pricing structure. ASD goes from 2 tiers (Web and Business) to 6 tiers (Base, Standard S1 and S2, Premium P1, P2, P3). Even more important, the charges go from being database size-based to tier-based. To see the new pricing, go here (, scroll down, and click on “Basic, Standard, and Premium” button to see the chart. The difference between the tiers (besides size limit) is the level of service. More on that later. The chart mentions “Database size limit (included)”, but I’m unsure that there isn’t SOME charge based on the database size (as was the case with Web and Business). I can’t find it if there is, and the word “included”, tends to suggest that there isn’t additional per-GB data size charge. One (1) day is the minimum charge and charges are daily. I guess 1 day means “24 hours after you create the DB”, but haven’t tested that out yet.

You’ll have 1 year to convert from Web/Business to Base/Standard/Premium. The announcement doesn’t say what will happen if you don’t. The new tier structure is in “preview mode”, which has two main consequences. Firstly, to use preview mode you forgo your SLA, until the new tiers become GA. Secondly, to try it out, you need to sign-up/opt-in at Scroll until you see “New Service Tiers for SQL Databases” and click “Try it”. If you have multiple Azure subscriptions, you must do it once per subscription. It was almost immediately visible for me on either the old or new Azure portal.

The new service tiers use different sets of hardware, so you can’t use a new tier on an existing “server”. You need a new server. The new tier choices also show up when you Import a BACPAC into a database (on portal, +New/Data Services/SQL Database/Import), too. On “Import” and “New/Custom Create” I get choices of all old and new tiers. They don’t show up on “quick create” in the same path, however, but when I tried it (after making the new tiers available) “quick create” (on a new server) created a Basic (new-tier) database. Not sure I like that, because preview tiers have no SLA.

You can also convert between tiers for an existing database. On the portal, choose your database, and it’s under “Scale”. Scale (on a Basic database) didn’t give me Web/Business as a choice, only the new tiers as you’d expect. Be careful with this because, if I read the charges right, switching from Basic -> P1 Premium -> Basic will cost you $15 (the cost for 1 day of P1). I didn’t do this yet to find out.

There’s much more to come, but I do want to close this blog entry by quickly mentioning two other things:
1. When new tiers go GA, the uptime SLA goes from 99.9 to 99.95 for all new tiers.
2. On same day, it was announced that Azure Federation feature also will be discontinued after a year (Apr 2015). More on this later.

Cheeers, @bobbeauch

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