In-Depth

Microsoft's Latest Open Source Database Efforts On Display at Build

Microsoft highlighted its new Azure MySQL and PostgreSQL databases at this year's annual developer conference.

Microsoft announced two new Azure database services today at its annual Build conference in Seattle, Wash.. 

The new services, named Azure Database for MySQL and Azure Database for PostgreSQL, both run as native platform-as-a-service offering in Azure. Conceptually this is similar to Azure SQL Database, which runs a version of Microsoft's SQL Server database as a managed service. These services use the native MySQL and Postgres engines and are fully compatible with the existing tools and ecosystems for each platform. Some of the most common use cases for this will be to host applications like Wordpress, Joomla, and Drupal, which represents about 30 percent of all Internet-facing applications.

While there have been other third-party offerings of both MySQL and Postgres in Azure, this is a fully Microsoft deployed and supported image with built-in backups. It encompasses  high availability and the auditing and security that is built into the Azure platform. These new products give Microsoft an offering to match both Google Compute's CloudDB and Amazon AWS's RDS service. Combined with the announcement of SQL Server on Linux last year, along with the open sourcing and cross-platform releases of tools like PowerShell, these launches further Microsoft's commitment to open source technology. 

One interesting change from the existing Azure SQL Database model is that in the new service storage allocation and compute allocations are separate. The maximum database size is 1TB. Performance is measured in a similar fashion to Azure SQL Database -- compute units (DTUs), which are a blended measure of CPU and memory. The one major difference ,is that much like storage volume, storage performance will be managed separately from compute. Storage performance will increase as your database moves up the performance tiers. Premium databases will use nearline SSD, Standard databases will use network SSD and Basic databases will use spinning disks. Management is also slightly different then  Azure SQL Database. To maintain compatibility with existing MySQL/Postgres infrastructures, the granularity is at the instance level, with multiple databases per instance. This is similar in architecture to the new "Managed Instances" offering from SQL Server on Azure.

Security is handled using a firewall to only allow connectivity to the database from the list of approved IP addresses. Other security features include SSL encryption for connections, and encryption at rest for data files. Tooling support means administration, data migration and import/export processing can be performed using community tools like phpMyAdmin or MySQL Workbench. Like the rest of Azure the service can be deployed and managed through the Azure portal, PowerShell or the Azure CLI. These tools make this a very friendly offering for DevOps shops.

PostgreSQL offers the ability to extend the functionality of your database. The Azure offering allows for a number of Postgres extensions to be installed, such as language and index type extensions. There will be a list of standard extensions that will be available that can be queried using  PostgreSQL-available extensions.  

Similar to Azure SQL Database, Azure Database services provide built-in high availability by maintaining three copies of the database, and take backups. Backups are retained for 35 days, and point-in-time restore is as easy as sliding a pointer in the Azure portal.  I would expect to see long-term backup retention coming in the future, as it was recently added to the Azure SQL Database offering. Users of the service will have the ability to configure server options like wait timeouts, interactive timeout, and choice of storage engine for MySQL. Users can also choose between versions of MySQL and Postgres. The maximum current supported version is 5.7 for MySQL and 9.6 for Postgres. With high availability natively built into the platform, Microsoft offers a 99.9 percent uptime SLA for this service offering.

This announcement continues Microsoft's pivot to being a more open source-friendly company. It is hard to argue with the economics of this, given the widespread adoption of applications using these databases. The platform-as- a-service offering is very attractive  to organizations across the board as it simplifies management and allows for flexibility and scalability. You can already see this in Azure as Microsoft will be releasing WebApps (an existing web PaaS offering) with prebuilt templates for apps like Wordpress and Drupal that take advantage of this new database service.

About the Author

Joseph D'Antoni is an Architect and SQL Server MVP with over a decade of experience working in both Fortune 500 and smaller firms. He is currently Principal Consultant for Denny Cherry and Associates Consulting. He holds a BS in Computer Information Systems from Louisiana Tech University and an MBA from North Carolina State University. Joey is the co-president of the Philadelphia SQL Server Users Group . He is a frequent speaker at PASS Summit, TechEd, Code Camps, and SQLSaturday events.

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