Microsoft Updates Azure SQL Database with New Migration Features

Recent updates to Microsoft's Azure SQL Database service include migration, high-availability and information protection options, and other improvements.

Microsoft's aim with these improvements is largely to make it easier for organizations running on-premises database management systems to move their workloads into Microsoft's Azure "cloud" datacenters, as outlined in an announcement last week by Rohan Kumar, corporate vice president for Azure Data.

On that front, Microsoft previewed Azure SQL Database Managed Instance, which is an option for moving local SQL Server workloads to the Azure SQL Database service, which is hosted and managed by Microsoft.

Azure SQL Database Managed Instance Preview
The preview of Azure SQL Database Managed Instance is currently available in 20 Azure regions, although it's a limited offering. Azure Portal users have to enroll and get accepted into the preview program to use it. The use of the Managed Instances service involves using a preview of the Azure Database Migration Service for the actual migration. Kumar indicated that Microsoft is planning to add future support to the Azure Database Migration Service for moving MySQL and PostgreSQL systems, as well.

Microsoft is promising that the Azure SQL Database Managed Instance service enables "native virtual network (VNet) support," even though the workload is hosted on Microsoft's public cloud datacenters. It's separated from the public Internet, using "private IP addresses," and provides "the ultimate level of isolation and security for your data," Microsoft's announcement indicated.

Azure SQL Database Managed Instance can be used to move SQL Server workloads on premises all of the way down to the SQL Server 2005 product. It has "an instance-scoped programming model that provides high compatibility with on-premises SQL Server (2005 through current versions), reducing or eliminating the need to re-architect applications and manage those databases after they are in the cloud," Microsoft's announcement explained.

IT pros can use the "same SQL Server tools" that they use on premises with the Azure SQL Database Managed Instance service, such as:

  • Native database restore
  • SQL Agent
  • Database Mail
  • Service Broker
  • Common Language Runtime and
  • Change Data Capture

Microsoft plans to add the ability to move SQL Server Integration Services packages to Azure Data Factory in a future update.

Pricing for Azure SQL Database Managed Instance will be based on "virtual cores (vCores)." There will be two tiers, a General Purpose offering and a Business Critical offering.

Azure Hybrid Benefit for SQL Server
Microsoft is touting the use of an apparently new "Azure Hybrid Benefit for SQL Server" program as a way to pay the costs of using Azure SQL Database Managed Instance. Azure Hybrid Benefit for SQL Server was described by Kumar as an expansion of the "Azure Hybrid Benefit" program, which originally was associated with migrating Windows Server workloads. Microsoft recently published PowerShell scripts that can be used to estimate Azure Hybrid Benefit eligibility for Windows Server workloads in this blog post.

Azure Hybrid Benefit for SQL Server lets organizations that have SQL Server Standard edition or Enterprise edition licenses plus Software Assurance coverage apply those local server licenses to "pay a reduced rate on [Azure SQL Server] Managed Instance."

Azure SQL Database and Availability Zones
Microsoft announced last week that Azure SQL Database Premium subscribers are now getting "built-in support" for Availability Zones. It's currently available at the preview stage in "Central US, West Europe and France Central." Organizations can add database replicas in different zones, adding high-availability and disaster recovery protections.

"Once enabled, if availability zones are supported in the region where your database or pool is deployed, Azure SQL will automatically reconfigure the database or pool without any downtime," the announcement explained.

SQL Information Protection Preview
Microsoft announced a preview last week of a new SQL Information Protection service, which can be used with the Azure SQL Database service or with SQL Server on premises. SQL Information Protection lets organizations discover, classify, label and protect potentially sensitive data that's stored in a database management system, either in Microsoft's cloud or in an organization's datacenters. Microsoft is touting the use of the SQL Information Protection service as a means of meeting the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation requirements that will come into effect on May 25.

The SQL Information Protection service automatically looks through columns of data to find sensitive information and will suggests a classification. It's also possible to manually classify columns of data. There's a dashboard for viewing database classifications as well. The service also can be combined with the Azure SQL Database Auditing service for audit purposes.

Azure Database MySQL and PostgreSQL Previews
Azure also hosts open source database management solutions such as MySQL and PostgreSQL. Both instances are at the preview stage now, but they will reach "general availability" (meaning ready for production environments) in the "coming weeks," Kumar indicated.

Azure Database for MySQL and Azure Database for PostgreSQL will have new pricing tiers, as well as expanded backup and restore options, Microsoft announced this month. The pricing tiers now include Basic and General Purpose (formerly known as "Standard"), plus there's a new premium Memory Optimized plan for "workloads requiring faster in-memory performance." The compute pricing is now based on the use of Gen 4 or Gen 5 "vCores" instead of "compute units."

Users of Azure Database for MySQL and Azure Database for PostgreSQL now can minimally provision a server at "5GB of storage," with the ability to increase storage in "1-GB increments." Backups can now be retained from seven days to 35 days (which is the default period for General Purpose plan), and there's now an option to have georedundant storage for backups.

In yet another Azure open source support announcement, Microsoft this month described previews of Tomcat and OpenJDK Java application support using the Azure App Service. The service will provision .JAR or .WAR files and get those applications running on Azure infrastructure "with just a few clicks," Microsoft's announcement indicated.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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