SQL Azure is a cloud-based service from Microsoft that uses a special version of SQL Server as its backend. SQL Azure helps to ease provisioning and deployment of multiple databases. Developers do not have to install, setup, patch or manage any software, as all that is taken care of by Microsoft with this platform as a service (PAAS). High availability and fault tolerance is built-in and no physical administration is required. It is an elastic platform which provides you the means to instantly increase or decrease your server capacity. You only pay for what you use and don’t have to estimate capacity needs and buy a reserve capacity.
SQL Azure is getting very popular, and while I think it will be a few years before many companies replace their internal data centers with it, it is a good idea to become familiar with it now. Unfortunately it does not include SSAS yet, but does include SSRS and you can use SSIS to move data into and out of SQL Azure. Slowing its adoption is it does not yet support all the SQL Server features such as: integrated security, SQL Server agent, transaction log backups, cross-database references, linked servers, fulltext indexes, connection pooling, multiple database collations, data compression, table partitioning, replication, mirroring. See SQL Server Feature Limitations (SQL Azure Database) and Unsupported Transact-SQL Statements (SQL Azure Database)
It’s real simple to get to know how SQL Azure works by creating an account for free and playing with it. Here is how to quickly start:
1) If you have an MSDN subscription, you can create a Windows Azure account for free. To do this, login to MSDN and go to “My Account” and choose “Activate Windows Azure”. Check out the benefits. If you do not have MSDN, you can get a 1 month trial (no credit card required) or a 3 month trial (credit card required).
2) Watch the following short videos SQL Azure at a Glance, SQL Azure: Creating Your First Database, and Interacting with a SQL Azure Database. Another good resource is Introduction To SQL Azure by the Microsoft Virtual Academy.
That’s it! I spent about 30 minutes creating my account and watching those videos, and I was then able to create a server, create a database, and tinker around with creating and querying tables. There is even a wizard to help you migrate databases from SQL Server to SQL Azure.
Windows Azure Team Blog
SQLAzure – My First Cloud
SQL Azure Tools
Dipping My Toes Into SQL Azure
Dipping My Toes Into SQL Azure – Part 2 – Protection Mechanisms
SQL Azure – why use it and what makes it different from SQL Server?
Windows Azure Learning Plan – SQL Azure
SQL Azure Performance and Elasticity Guide
Video Building Scalable Database Solutions Using Microsoft SQL Azure Database Federations
Video Go Large with SQL Azure Federations
Video Developing with SQL Azure: Tools & Frameworks In Action
Video Getting Started with Cloud Business Intelligence
Video Microsoft SQL Azure Overview: Tools,Demos and Walkthroughs of Key Features
Video Using Cloud (Microsoft SQL Azure) and PowerPivot to Deliver Data and Self-Service BI at Microsoft
Video Microsoft SQL Azure Performance Considerations and Troubleshooting
Video Using Microsoft SQL Azure with On-Premises Data: Migration and Synchronization Strategies and Practices
Video SQL Azure-Design Concepts
SQL Denali T-SQL features in SQL Azure now
Now Available: SQL Azure Q4 2011 Service Release
Migrating a SQL Server database to SQL Azure
Get Started with SQL Azure: Resources