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What is SQL Azure?

2010 May 6
by Shannon Lowder

I’ve been getting this question or some variant of it for weeks now. Some people are confusing SQL Azure with SQL 2008 R2, and some are thinking it’s SQL 2010. It’s neither of those. It’s its own beast. SQL Azure is a cloud version of the database management system you’ve all come to know and love.

That’s all well and good, but what do you mean in the cloud?

The cloud is what we sometimes refer to the internet as.  The internet is a cloud.  The reason we do this is the line between internet and your network is constantly blurred, like the edge of a cloud.  There’s also another reason we say SQL Azure is SQL in the cloud.  You no longer need to be worried about SQL Servers.  The “server” is virutal, it can actually be made of thousands of servers.  I have a feeling this is why Microsoft wasn’t saying a whole lot about performance clustering… they were working on this!

So is there a lot of new stuff to learn?

Not really.  There are some small changes, you won’t have direct access to the mdb files.  You won’t set up databases in exactly the same way.  But nearly all of your T-SQL code is compatible.  There are some small changes to table design, remember those primary keys folks!  There is a reason SQL is a RDBMS and not just a DBMS!  Relationships count!

Other than “performance clustering”, why would I switch?

Ask yourself this: do I have performance issues I can no longer throw hardware at to get a speed improvement?  Do I have users all over the world complaining of access times?

All that can be addressed by moving to Azure.  Rather than having one server (or a small fail-over cluster) physically located on one point on the globe, you can have your database spread all over the planet.  That’s one of the great things about SQL Azure!

Also, rather than having that one very large expense when you requisition a new server, SQL Azure is pay as you go.  You pay for the usage as it happens.  No big bills to wear down your profit margins later.

There is a lot of excitement on this one!  I know I’m very excited about moving one of my projects from SQL Server 2008 to SQL Azure.  The progress have been smooth.  I would say the rollout time for this conversion is on par with a converson from SQL Server 2000 to 2005, or 2005 to 2008.  I’ll document the conversion in more detail once the project wraps up.

I’d like to leave you with What is SQL Azure? This video reminded me a lot of Email Cartoon from back in the day.  If you have any questions about how Azure can help you and your company, let me know.  I’m always happy to share my knowledge!

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