The Azure SQL Database Service: Explained
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The Azure SQL Database Service: Explained

Azure SQL Database is a cloud-native SQL database that is accessible to individuals and businesses via a Platform as a Services (PaaS) model. It's unlike a typical self-managed SQL database that requires configuration, management, security and a host of other processes to ensure the database remains in a proper health state.

With Azure SQL Database, all of the critical database management functions such as upgrading, preconfiguring, patching, managing log files, truncation, are always managed without the involvement of the end-user.

Better yet, Azure SQL Database operates as a highly resilient cloud-native platform backed by the robust contractual SLAs of Microsoft. Specifically, Azure SQL Database offers an impressive 99.99% availability. With Azure SQL Database, IT teams can focus on critical business operations, rather than dedicating time and resources to managing and monitoring a managed SQL database.

Why Businesses Are Moving to a Service-Model

As you consider its pros and cons, it's important to understand why so many other businesses are leveraging Azure SQL Database and other similar as-a-service type offerings.

First, businesses and IT teams are stretched increasingly thin today on time and resources. By moving to a service-based approach, teams can regain time to focus on other pressing business needs. In truth, with the speed of business today, IT teams don't have the ability to manage a fragile SQL database, or worse, risk a data breach or unplanned outage due to misconfiguration or lack of oversight.

Secondly, cloud deployments and the as-a-service model are extremely agile. As businesses spin up dev machines or look to rapidly expand their operations following a successful product release or acquisition, the cloud can seamlessly scale to meet demand on the fly. The traditional on-premises offering would require rolling in new hardware to keep pace with the unforeseen growth.

Lastly, the cloud-based service model offers incredible built-in security and compliance you won't get as easily in an on-premises deployment. In the traditional model, IT teams are responsible for conjuring all of the networking and security architecture, which can be a heavy lift for an understaffed or overstretched IT team. Now, don't get us wrong, there are still a handful of responsibilities to consider to ensure your cloud environment is protected. However, with native geo redundancy, automated backup and baked-in security services, the cloud can make establishing cloud-native security a breeze.

Unique Aspects of the Azure SQL Database

The Azure SQL Database as a service offering brings with it some incredibly unique and valuable features and characteristics that simply aren't available when managing a self-managed deployment of SQL. In the following sections, we'll look at three unique offerings of the Azure SQL Database service offering, specifically flexible storage layer, self-updating and self-healing, and cost-optimization. 

Flexible Storage Layer

Azure SQL Database operates very differently from an on-premises or even self-managed cloud-native SQL database in how storage can be allocated on the fly. With Azure SQL Database, individuals can create an elastic scalable storage layer, that is highly available, consumed on an as-need basis and maintains the same high level of performance of any self-managed SQL database.  

Self-updating and Self-healing

Azure SQL Database offers self-updating, patching and automated backup without the need for user intervention or configuration. By default, Azure SQL Database uses the latest stable version of SQL, however, for users that wish to capture the rich configuration capabilities of SQL, this is still available. Services such as Alter Database (Transact-SQL) allow users to modify certain configuration options of a database.

Cost-optimization

With Azure SQL Database, users don't have to worry about over-provisioning on SQL resources or work through cumbersome capacity planning exercises. Rather, SQL storage is allocated dynamically based on the database storage required by an application. So, for individuals that are looking for a straightforward cost-optimized approach to SQL, Azure SQL Database can be a phenomenal option.

Azure SQL Database Options

It's important for individuals to understand that moving into an Azure SQL Database environment, there will be some added decisions to make related to the purchasing methodology, the deployment modes when onboarding. Let's take a look at some of these options in a bit more detail.

Deployment models

When individuals onboard with Azure and look to configure their Azure SQL Database, they have the ability to use two different deployment models, Single Database and Elastic Pool.

  • Azure SQL Database –  single database acts as a single isolated and fully-managed SQL database. Often users will opt for a single database if they want to minimize the chances that shared resources could create a bottleneck for a given application.
  • Azure SQL Database – elastic pool the elastic pool offering is comprised of a pool of shared resources that applications within a stack have access to. One of the major reasons that might cause a user to choose elastic pool SQL storage over Azure SQL storage is cost. Shared elastic storage is going to be much cheaper than single database storage.

Purchasing models

One of the great aspects of working with Azure SQL Databases is that users do have different pricing structures available to them. Let's take a moment to dig into the three Azure SQL Database models that are available to users. If you're interested in investigating any of the pricing models below, be sure to check out Azure SQL Database pricing.

  • VCore. The first on the list is the vCore purchasing model. This model lets individuals configure your Azure SQL Database based on how many virtual cores, the amount of memory, and the speed of the storage you require. The more powerful the resources, the more costly the SQL service.
  • Serverless. The serverless model, or serverless compute tier, offers price-optimized storage. Here' Azure SQL Database will autoscale on performance management, database intermittence and unpredictable usage, to minimize database usage costs.
  • General Purpose. The general purpose storage model is an ideal SQL offering for most businesses offering a variety of scale and compute options.  

Service tiers

Based on the application in question, users will also be able to choose the service tier that is best-suited for their needs. Keep in mind that the service tier can be workload or application-specific, so some service models may work well for certain highly transactional workloads, whereas another service model may be more appropriate for low-value or low-transaction workloads.

  • General Purpose Tier. This service tier is designed for light workloads. This is a great budget-friendly tier to get familiarized with the Azure SQL Database Service or if you are running a low-priority workload.
  • Business Critical Tier. This service tier is designed for highly transactional workloads such as POS systems or other workloads that demand the lowest I/O latency.
  • Hyperscale. This service tier is designed for OLTP databases that are very large and the ability to autoscale storage and scale compute fluidly.

Moving Forward with the Azure SQL Database Service

Hopefully, this piece has given you some useful information regarding some of the features and differentiators of the Azure SQL Database. For those of you who are interested in learning more about the Azure SQL Database service offering, or are looking to brush up on your Azure skills in general, be sure to check out the comprehensive courses we offer.

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