SQL Azure

The final storage option we will discuss is SQL Azure. As the name suggests, SQL Azure is a fully functional relational database in the cloud. It is part of the Windows Azure Platform. By design, SQL Azure will seem very familiar to anyone who has used SQL Server.

There are, however, some important differences between SQL Azure and SQL Server. For example, in the current implementation, a SQL Azure database can have a maximum size of 10 GB. Not all of the features of SQL Server are supported (including Spatial and CLR data types and backup/restore).

These limitations have prompted some criticism of the viability of SQL Azure. These criticisms may or may not be valid. It is always important to consider everything in the context of your requirements and the various trade-offs that exist.

I believe that two things are true:

  1. SQL Azure in its current implementation is pretty impressive.
  2. The capabilities of SQL Azure are only going to improve over time.

So, limitations notwithstanding, SQL Azure is a compelling offering that may make sense in a variety of use cases. For one, SQL Azure can become a low maintenance alternative to a small on-premise departmental database. If the database does not make use of unsupported features then it is often a simple matter of changing a connection string in applications which use it. Applications which access SQL Azure can themselves be Windows Azure applications, plain old Windows applications, Web applications not running on Azure or indeed almost anything which might use a SQL Server back end.

Administration, reporting and migration is made relatively easy through the use of SQL Server tools such as Management Studio and Integration Services. Developers can leverage their knowledge of SQL Server and ADO.NET to (almost) painlessly transition to the cloud.

Figure 1. Using SQL Azure and SSMS 2008 R2

In our Cloud Computing Comprehensive Introduction course, Chris Czarnecki gives us an introduction to SQL Azure and shows attendees how to create and connect to databases hosted there. In our Windows Azure course, Doug Rehnstrom takes it deeper with more complex examples and coverage of synchronization.

Hope to see you there at a Learning Tree event soon – it is going to be a fun ride!

Kevin Kell

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