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SQL Azure – Time to jump in and give it a try

Wow Microsoft went all out with this graphic 🙂

So I have a bit of info on SQL Azure but if you’re like me you don’t ever really KNOW something until you jump in with both feet and give it a try.  I’m going to start right from scratch and see what I can find out about SQL Server in the cloud.

So here is what I know…

  • SQL Azure is a cloud based hosted database offering from Microsoft
  • Max of 10 GB for any given DB
  • Limited functionality / feature-set
  • It’s going to be the death of all DBAs worldwide 🙂

OK the last one is something that I’ve heard from a few DBA type people that the sky is falling and the DBA world is coming to an end but depending on where exactly Microsoft is headed with SQL Azure I don’t feel the “threat” quite yet… so calm down Chicken Little 🙂

OK back on topic… how do I get started with SQL Azure?

I BINGed SQL Azure and came up here:

So a quick read on this page and I’m already learning more about SQL Azure apparently one of my “what I think I know about SQL Azure” list items is already wrong and out of date.

According to the Pricing Explaination Page SQL Azure can now host databases (in Business Edition) up to 50 GB.  Other Business Edition additions (in the future) will include auto-partition, CLR, and fanouts.

50 GBs… now that’s not HUGE but we’re talking about some significant size here.  The first question I have is backups.


  • Who does them?
  • What does a SQL Azure backup do?
  • Where do they go?
  • When does it happen?
  • Why am I trying to use all 5 W’s

1.  Who Does Them?

Microsoft and You.  What I’m reading/gathering is that built into the SQL Azure base offering there are multiple replicas of all database with automatic failover… but this is only for covering hardware or media failures.

So what happens if Joe User deletes everything from a table?  It sounds like until recently you had to manually use tools like BCP, SSIS, or custom tools of some kind to do your backups. At the end of the day it sounds like backups are still something that is in your realm of responsibility (for non-hardware/media type of problems).

2.  What does a SQL Azure backup do?

Outside of BCP and SSIS SQL Azure now has 2 new features available.

Database Clone is something new and I haven’t been able to find out alot about it yet but it is an “on-demand” backup.  When the clone operation is complete the database backup is accessible like the primary db.  Think of this as your ad-hoc full backup.

Continuous Backup is another new option with point-in-time restore capabilities.  Think of this like your transaction log backups as you can configure the retention and lag period.

3.  Where do they go?

If you’re doing a BCP or SSIS type of backup then where they go is ultimately up to you… keeping in mind that you’re getting charged for data transfers (10 cents in/15 cents out per GB)

If you’re using Database Clone or Continuous Backup then (much like Vegas) what happens in the cloud stays in the cloud so it looks like you’re getting a complete copy and if using Database Clone that copy is accessible like any other DB and if you’re using Continuous Backup that copy is also accessible but read-only.

4.  When does it happen?

This appears to be all user maintained/configured so this can happen when and how you’d like.  With Continuous Backup you would enable it and then configure the retention and lag period.

I didn’t have a mapped out structure to how my SQL Azure adventure would start but when I started writing this I thought about what the number 1 thing for a DBA is and that is backups.  Now that I’m armed with a bit of knowledge about backups with SQL Azure I’m going to set myself up a SQL Azure DB and play around with backups.

Final Thoughts

“Keep your friends close… and your enemies closer.” – Sun-Tzu

I don’t look at SQL Azure as my enemy.  My effort to learn SQL Azure is not to be able to discredit it as a viable option/solution because I fear for my DBA job.  I want to be able to talk to my customers about it and if it is the right situation I want to be able to not only recommend it with confidence but be able to provide help and support along the way.

Do I think SQL Azure has a place in the market? … Yes.  Now that is coming from someone with VERY limited knowledge of SQL Azure so my answer may change over time but for now I can see where it might be the best option. (No DBA on staff, not alot of upfront money for hardware, brand new application, etc)

Do I think SQL Azure will be the death of the DBA role? … No

Over the years the “DBA” role has evolved as more and more automation and tools become available but this is an evolution and not an extinction… the only way you’re going to become extinct is if you choose to put your head in the sand and don’t evolve with the rest of the market.

  • Do you use SQL Azure?
  • What do you think about it?
  • How do you backup your SQL Azure databases?


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