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Save Money On Your Azure Monthly SQL Database Bill

Microsoft gives you two purchasing models for your Azure SQL Databases (SQL DB), a DTU and a vCore based model (logical CPU’s). Both options allow you to scale up or down based on your compute and storage requirements. Regardless of which model you choose performance tuning can save you money using SQL DB.

DTU (s) (Database Transaction Units) measure  “a blended measure of CPU, memory, and data I/O and transaction log I/O” that Microsoft uses to help estimate which DTU based Service Tier you should be using. By reducing your I/O, memory or CPU consumption you utilize less DTUs or cores and thus can step down service tiers. Stepping down service tiers helps to save money.

It’s about reducing the amount of resources you consume. Just like On-Prem databases, Azure databases need performance tuning. However, unlike most On-Prem environments Azure makes it easy to scale down SQL DB processing resources without any down time. On top of that it allows you to save thousands of dollars a month while doing it.

For instance, let’s take a common scenario we have all seen. Most environments have some type of ETL process that loads data into a database used for reporting. In most of these cases, this can be a resource intensive process requiring a very high DTU service tier to accomplish this potentially periodic data load. What if you could scale your environment to a higher DTU service tier  to meet this load demand and then scale it down when not needed? Imagine how much money you could save the company. In a recent talk with a friend of mine, he was able to implement such a process in such a way his company’s monthly Azure SQLDB bill went from $55k a month to $21k. That’s an astronomical savings (note this a very large environment).  Here is a resource for scaling using a scheduled auto scale.

If scaling down based on work load doesn’t fit your environment and you are still looking for ways to save money start index tuning. An easy place to start is looking at your heaviest I/O consumption queries, you can use the Azure SQL Database Query Performance Insights to help you identify these. Reducing the number of reads is the goal. The less reads you have the less I/O and memory consumption you use and the smaller the DTU service tier you need.  If index tuning is not something you do well, Azure SQL Database includes Automated Tuning option that you can enable and it will create indexes (and potentially remove newly created, underutilized indexes) for you. Creating and managing your indexes is one of the simplest ways to reduce Azure related costs and Microsoft has built-in the tools to help. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can make an impact on your bottom line with Index tuning.

This are only two ways you can save money on your monthly Azure bill.

For even more ways to save, check out this month’s Denny Cherry and Associate’s newsletter coming out soon.

Sign up to stay informed at https://dcac.co/contact/stay-informed .


Monica lives in Virginia and is a Microsoft MVP for Data Platform. She has over 15 years of experience working with a wide variety of database platforms with a focus on SQL Server. She is a frequent speaker at IT industry conferences on topics including performance tuning and configuration management. She is the Leader of the Hampton Roads SQL Server User Group and a Mid‐Atlantic PASS Regional Mentor. She is passionate about SQL Server and the SQL Server community, doing anything she can to give back. Monica can always be found on Twitter (@sqlespresso) handing out helpful tips.


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