New Service Tiers for Azure SQL Databases

Last night I received an email from the Microsoft Azure team with an announcement for a change to the functionality of Azure SQL Databases. At present, there are two service tiers available for Azure SQL Databases, being Web and Business with limits on size relative to each. As anyone who has read my guide on TechNet Gallery entitled Configuring a SQL Azure Sync Group will know, I’m quite into these DBaaS offerings in Azure. Yesterday, they announced in preview the release of three new service tiers for the Azure SQL Databases service.

What’s in the Announcement

The three new tiers announced are named Basic, Standard and Premium. In twelve months time, Microsoft will be ceasing the current Web and Business tiers in favour of these new tiers currently in preview.

  • Basic: Designed for applications with a light transactional workload. Performance objectives for Basic provide a predictable, hourly transaction rate.
  • Standard: Standard is the go-to option for getting started with cloud-designed business applications. It offers mid-level performance and business continuity features. Performance objectives for Standard deliver predictable, per-minute transaction rates.
  • Premium: Designed for mission-critical databases, Premium offers the highest performance levels and access to advanced business continuity features. Performance objectives for Premium deliver predictable, per-second transaction rates. In addition to this, there are going to be revisited scaling limits for the tiers, uptime SLA, backup and recovery options and disaster recovery options.

Basic will have a 2GB limit, an increase from the 1GB limit in the current Web tier. Standard will have a 250GB limit whilst Premium will have a 500GB limit. Restore points for recovering the databases will be available for 24 hours on Basic, 7 days on Standard and 35 days on Premium. All the tiers come with a 99.95% uptime SLA.

New Tiers Pricing

The good news is that if you jump on the band-wagon early, you get reduced pricing during the preview. In an example scenario, using the North Europe Dublin datacentre and billing in Pounds (GBP) on a Pay as You Go tariff, Web and Business edition for a 100MB database is £3.179 per month. A Basic database of the same size is £1.60 per month, Standard is up to £64 per month according to usage and Premium varies wildly between £296 and £2,368 according to usage. It’s interesting to note the high end pricing on Premium which dependant on use can actually work out more expensive than running a SQL Server IaaS virtual machine in Microsoft Azure but that’s the price you pay for design simplicity of DBaaS over SQL Server IaaS.

If we use my blog here at richardjgreen.net as an example where I currently use Web databases, if I moved from Web to Basic under the new tiers, I would see a monthly decrease in cost of about 50%.

What Will Happen to Web and Business

All we know at the moment is that these two legacy tiers will be phased out in twelve months time. There doesn’t seem to be any indication as to how databases would be transitioned from the existing Web and Business tiers over to the new tiers but I would hazard a guess that Web databases will become Basic and Business databases will become Standard.

This above statement is assuming of course that there is compatibility between the current tiers and the new and that the databases will be transitioned seamlessly. I think it would be a bad PR exercise for Microsoft if existing databases were dropped instead of transitioned over to the new tiers as that’s going to put extra work down for customers already consuming these services.

Accessing the Preview Tiers

In order to access the preview tiers, login to your Microsoft Azure Account Portal, the production portal and not the new Preview Portal. You can access this part of the Azure portal at https://account.windowsazure.com if you haven’t accessed it before.

From here, click the Preview Features link in the top navigation.

Azure Portal Preview Features

From the Preview Features page, scroll down until you can see the New Service Tiers for SQL Databases option.

SQL New Tiers Try Now

Click the Try It Now button alongside the preview feature entry.

SQL New Tiers Add Feature

You will be presented with a dialog to select which subscription you wish to enable that feature for. I only have one subscription so I only have a single selection in the drop down. Click the tick button in the bottom right once you have the correct subscription selected. You will be taken back to the previous page once it’s done and you will be sent a welcome email for the preview.

SQL New Tiers Active

The preview features page in the portal will update to also show a caption under the New Service Tiers for SQL Databases button You Are Active to show that you are participating in this preview service.

With this enabled, we can head over to the Management Portal using either the Portal link in the upper right or by navigating to https://manage.windowsazure.com to try out the feature.

SQL New Database Custom Create

From the Management Portal in Microsoft Azure, I have clicked into SQL Databases and selected the New Custom Create option. As you can see in the new database wizard, in addition to the current tiers for Web and Business, we can now select from our three preview tiers, Basic, Standard and Premium also.

SQL Database Features Support

The current crop of SQL Databases support the Automatic Backup and Sync features. I haven’t had a chance to explore the support for these with the new tiers yet but I’ll be back soon with just that information. I will be interested to find this out for myself as transitioning from Web to Basic would save me on my monthly Azure bills but if Sync isn’t available in this tier then I’m probably going to be paying more to use Standard.

richardjgreen

Richard works as a Cloud Consultant for Fordway Solution where his primary focus is to help customers understand, adopt and develop with Microsoft Azure, Office 365 and System Center. Richard Green is an IT Pro with over 15 years' of experience in all things Microsoft including System Center and Office 365. He has previously worked as a System Center consultant and as an internal solutions architect across many verticals. Outside of work, he loves motorbikes and is part of the orange army, marshaling for NGRRC, British Superbikes and MotoGP. He is also an Assistant Cub Scout Leader.