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Microsoft Announces New Service Tiers for Azure SQL Database

Microsoft on Thursday announced it will be bringing new preview service tiers to Microsoft Azure SQL Database.

The relational Database as a Service (DaaS) cloud offering is getting Basic and Standard service tiers to join the Premium tier. All are offered as preview services now and are expected to replace the existing Web and Business tiers in one year.

The Premium tier, designed for mission-critical databases, will allow a database up to 500GB in size. Standard, described as "the go-to option for getting started with cloud-designed business applications," will go up to 250GB. Finally, Basic, targeting applications that only require light transactional workloads, has a 2GB limit. The Web and Business size limits were 5GB and 150GB, respectively.

Along with increased maximum database sizes, many other features are being introduced, such as new performance levels within each tier. Performance levels are assigned different levels of data throughput that can be adjusted as needed. Premium will offer three performance levels, Standard will offer two and Basic will offer one.

Performance objectives for the Premium tier provide predictable per-second transaction rates, while Standard has per-minute rates and Basic has per-hour rates.

"You can also now more seamlessly blend the service tiers together to support modern application designs," said Microsoft's Eron Kelly in a blog post announcing the new tiers.

Microsoft also incorporated new business continuity features into the Premium tier, such as active geo-replication and self-service restore functionality.

"For many, these built-in continuity features will remove costly import/export and data sync workarounds," Kelly said.

Pricing for the new tiers -- discounted by 50 percent while in preview -- range from about $2.50 per month for Basic to about $3,720 per month for the top-performance level offered with the Premium service.

The new changes don't all entail new or enhanced services and features, though. Some features won't be available in the new service tiers, such as Federations, which offer a way to get greater scalability and deal with capacity limitations in an application's database tier. Federations horizontally partition tables within a database over multiple other databases that are called federation members, a process referred to as sharding.

Microsoft advised customers to "consider deploying custom sharding solutions to maximize scalability, flexibility and performance."

One reader commented that losing Federations is "a huge blow to customers who came to rely on that capability (and were driven to do so as a documented best practice)." Microsoft said it will work with Federations customers through the transition and will reach out to customers to understand and address their concerns.

Microsoft didn't disclose when the new tiers will become generally available, but said preview customers will get a notice 30 days before that happens and prices go up.

"Microsoft will ensure you have at least six months from Basic, Standard, and Premium general availability to migrate from Web and Business, even if this involves extending the 12-month window," Kelly said.

About the Author

David Ramel is an editor and writer for 1105 Media.

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