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Getting Started with SQL Azure

Getting started with SQL Azure - Part 1: What is SQL Azure?

Dec 27 2011 12:00AM by Paras Doshi   

The aim of “Getting started with SQL Azure” series is to offer you a set of brief articles that could act as a launchpad for your to-be wonderful journey of exploring Microsoft’s cloud based database solution i.e. SQL Azure.

In this article, we are going to begin our journey of learning SQL Azure. We will first see where SQL Azure fits in the Windows Azure Platform offerings. We will then discuss about the ways in which we can define SQL Azure. Then we will explore advantages of SQL Azure or in other words, see why you should consider this cloud based database as a service as a part of your technology solution. So let's get started!

Windows Azure platform is broadly divided into three categories:

  1. Windows Azure, which has a set of tools that enables you to run your web app and/or services in the cloud.
  2. Windows Azure AppFabric, which has the set of tools that adds to the capabilities of Windows Azure. These tools are caching service bus, access control and much more.
  3. SQL Azure, which is a cloud-based relational database service.

components of Windows Azure Platform

Now that you know where SQL Azure fits in the Windows Azure platform, let's see how we can define it. Basically, SQL Azure is a relational database engine built on top of SQL server technology that runs in cloud. SQL Azure supports tables, indexes, views, primary keys, TSQL commands, stored procedures, triggers, roles, functions etc. and as you can see these are all SQL server features that you might be familiar with. So conceptually, it is "SQL server in the cloud".

For SQL server folks out there, learning about SQL Azure is very easy and all your existing expertise with SQL server will be easily and smoothly transferred! All you have to do is be open to learning things about SQL Azure that are not SQL server specific.

Now, let's discuss the benefits of SQL Azure.

  1. High availability guaranteed: Did you know that SQL Azure keeps three replicas of your database. And as you might have connected the dots, a complex mechanism that runs under the hood makes sure that your database is up and running almost all the time
  2. On demand: SQL Azure allows anyone and everyone to quickly provision a database when need arises. Moreover, it's just few mouse button clicks.
  3. Reduced management overhead: SQL Azure takes care of physical administration of the database as a part of the service. The end-user does not need to install, update or patch any software. In addition, as you can imagine, this reduces the management overhead for the end-user.

Over and over this, SQL Azure will soon have an out-of-the-box scale out solution. Thus if you are looking for a database solution which is highly available and scalable, you should try SQL Azure.

In the next article, we will see how you can create a Windows Azure account, if you don't have one! And then, we will create our first SQL Azure database. Stay tuned!

Paras Doshi
17 · 10% · 3265



  • Update: When the article was being written, SQL Federations was not available. It was included in the Service Update that happened in December, I had mentioned this fact in the concluding part of this series : Getting started with SQL Azure - Part 10 B: Conclusion ; posting it here in case you missed the update.

    commented on Feb 7 2012 2:50AM
    Paras Doshi
    17 · 10% · 3265

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"Getting started with SQL Azure - Part 1: What is SQL Azure?" rated 5 out of 5 by 13 readers
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