Azure SQL Database: Features & Price

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Bottom line: 

Azure’s strength with on-premise SQL Server deployments means that it has a large potential user base looking for an easy path from SQL Server into the cloud. And with a huge base of existing Azure users, the Azure SQL Database is assured a large portion of the cloud DB market. If your business is on Azure, this is a top choice.

To its credit, Microsoft has experience porting customers from one platform to another, as well as in integrating products under the Microsoft and Azure banners. Pricing, too, means few can avoid giving this DBaaS careful consideration. For those already using Windows Server and SQL Server, for example, AWS is said to be five times more expensive than the Azure SQL DB.

However, those dealing with large volumes of unstructured data should look for a SQL database elsewhere, due to this solution’s relational nature.


Azure SQL Database is a relational DBaaS using the Microsoft SQL Server Engine. It can be used to build data-driven applications and websites in any programming language. Users can migrate SQL Server databases to the cloud without changing apps. It can be used to accelerate app development and simplify maintenance. Built-in intelligence learns app patterns and adapts to maximize performance, reliability, and data protection.

The SQL Database Managed Instance option is good for migrating a large number of existing SQL Server databases from on-premises or virtual machines to the cloud. Machine learning and adaptive technologies help to optimize database performance in real time. Adaptive query processing adapts optimization strategies to application workload runtime conditions, and approximate query processing to aggregate large data sets.

Overall, Azure SQL DB is feature-rich, and covers a large number of regions for GDPR compliance. It can become a home for older SQL applications dating back to 2005. It also does well for complex queries.



Performance statistics:

500 IOPS per vCore (with a 7,000 IOPS max) while some use cases can take advantage of local SSD storage rated at 5,000 IOPS per vCore (with a 200,000 IOPS max). The latest generation offers 5.5 GB memory per vCore with a total memory capacity of 440 GB.

“We are able to drive a large analytics workload through one SOL Server instance using SOL Server Machine Learning Services to generate models and predict customer demand on a per-product basis for millions of products. The integration was not trivial and there are rough edges, but the experience was nice overall,” said a CIO at a retail organization.


Can scale up to 100 TB

Additional features:

Can provision one or more additional compute nodes to serve read-only workloads and use them as a hot standby in case of failover. Also includes multifactor authentication. Sensitive data can be encrypted while in use with Always Encrypted.

It can Monitor the database for potential threats and vulnerabilities using Advanced Threat Protection. It meets compliance standards, such as GDPR, ISO/IEC 27001/27002, FedRAMP/FISMA, SOC, HIPAA, and PCI DSS. Can provide up to three hot replicas and built-in automatic failover.

Core markets: 

  • Relational database users who are already Azure customers or Microsoft shops.
  • SQL Server users who want to move database work into the cloud.

“Compatibility with other big data technologies is missing such as Hive and Hadoop. Azure data lake storage needs to expose more metadata on the folders and files,” said the Development Manager at a IT organization.


Pricing is said to be quite affordable but is a little complex. There are separate costs for storage, CPU, and IO. Starting from 25 cents per million IO requests, 25 cents a GB above 32 GB, and $1 per hour for 8 vCores (1 vCore = 1 physical CPU). Users pay a reduced rate when migrating on in-house SQL Server databases to the cloud.

Azure SQL DB
Type Relational
Performance up to 5k IOPS/vCore
Features Hot standby, multifactor authentication, encryption, threat protection
Core Markets Azure customers
Microsoft shops
SQL Server users
Pricing From 25 cents per million IO requests
Key Differentiator Well suited for Windows shops


Drew Robb
Drew Robb
Drew Robb is a contributing writer for Datamation, Enterprise Storage Forum, eSecurity Planet, Channel Insider, and eWeek. He has been reporting on all areas of IT for more than 25 years. He has a degree from the University of Strathclyde UK (USUK), and lives in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.

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