Why so few topics on SQL Azure - Is anybody using it?

  • I'm doing a project at the moment to see how Azure works in practice, and I'm surprised how little interest there seems to be in SQL Server Azure on SQL Server Central compared to the more traditional editions (only eight Azure threads in total across the two forums!)

    I've been at it for a couple of days and having overcome the usual firewall issues now have a single table database in place which seems to work fine with OLE-DB and ODBC. Today I'm hoping to migrate a more substantial database to it and run up an application against it. The application will run in my environment rather than Windows Azure for now.

    Are any of you using it, and if so, how are you finding it in practice?



  • I guess the lack of responses answers my question!



  • Hi Tim,

    Have you started looking at any use cases for Azure? We are wondering *when* we would want to recommend Azure to our clients for their SQL needs.

    Does it look good so far?

  • It looks like a version 1 product really, with all that implies.

    We are very much at the R&D stage with no plans to go further yet. I currently have a data structure in place that comprises about 60 tables with associated views, stored procedures, functions etc. I've had to make some compromises to put it up because some features are deprecated sooner in Azure than SQL Server 2008 e.g. OPENXML is not supported.

    Because there are charges to move the data in and out Microsoft say it's only really cost effective if you deploy an application in Windows Azure that goes with it (therefore all the data stays in the cloud). I haven't tried this as the application I'm using doesn't lend itself to doing that very easily, so I can't confirm what the charges wopuld be in practice.

    DML looks quite quick (caviat: low volumes), DDL is much slower (ten times slower). I'm in the UK and on the European data centre.

    You have to be very disciplined to use it as you are charged for whatever you put up whether you use it or not. The lack of tools like profiler make it unsuitable for development anyway. Might be OK for testing.

    Currently my gut feeling is that the more traditional third party hosting of SQL Server model offered by a number of vendors works better (for live systems), particularly given the 10GB limit in Azure. And frankly the sharding approach they suggest for larger databases is a non runner for most applications unless they were originally designed like that.

    That's a potted summary of my view.

    Hope that helps!



  • The small review by Tim was excellent.

    I am just starting with SQL Azure and was going through diff documents available under MS Windows Azure site.

    As far as i understand its not a very good platform for data warehousing applications and can only be usefult for small OLTP applications. One of the case studies given in MS Site is of 3M where they have implemented Azure to host a complex visual designing system which runs complex algorithms in parallel but not very sure how much of it was in Azure and how much on premises.

    Hope to find many more Azure developers soon.;-)

  • I think the cost has deterred much experimentation. There are some MVPs doing work and Grant Fritchey is testing some stuff. I'll see if we can't get some articles going.

    Grant's blog: http://www.scarydba.com/

  • Thanks for the link Steve.

    I agree that cost is a barrier, but I don't think it was the main barrier for me.

    What I didn't like was that it's not very portable. You have to do things to your database to get it up there. And to make it work well you need your apps in Azure too. Which usually means you have to rewrite them. Bad.

    And then you are tied in to Azure. Double Bad.

    And then they might change the cost model. Aaargh!

    It is really telling to me that with all the users you have on SQL Server Central hardly anyone is interested even though it's been free to try things in it for months. Which is a shame for Microsoft given that I've been told they think the future is almost entirely in the cloud. I'm sure I remember them telling me that's where 90% of their investment is going.

    Looks like they'll need more bang for their buck to get it started!



  • I've started looking for some, and we'll see.

    I think many of the people at SSC are worried about cost, others worried about security or legal issues. There are people using it, and I think it makes sense for some new ventures. One thing I did like is that you can ask for a new server and it can be spun up in minutes, not days as it takes in many companies.

    I tend to agree with you on the lock in, though it's still (cut down) SQL Server. You can slip your data back out of the cloud.

    The hard part for me is that you have to test and work in the cloud, which can add to the costs. Any idea how often developers hit test machines to "try things"? Imagine of those transfers cost money? Course, might help us get rid of SELECT * in applications.

  • The one really good use I have heard was a company that needed to collect responses to their Super Bowl advertising.

    It let them put up a high volume server quickly, use it for just a few days, and shut it down with very reasonable cost.

    For short-term apps like that, it might be the platform of choice.

  • Michael that's a very fair point.

    Don't get me wrong. For some things I can see it would be great. Ticketing applications are the obvious example where the latest hot thing is probably only active for a week and needs loads of power for hardly any time. Funnily enough Microsoft quote this one a lot.

    But ... most apps aren't like that are they ...



  • We have done some preliminary investigation into SQL Azure, mainly because we have opportunities to develop applications on AppFabric. It certainly pays to have your SQL server and application both in Azure due to data costs, but it has been tricky for us to work out what potential costs applications will have, I think this will be something that people struggle to estimate for a while.

    Steve, I think you may be right about "Select *", but I think there will be some large bills and some angry CFO's before everyone gets the message 🙂

  • Sorry, I didn't see this question (still can't get the RSS feed to work for this topic). I've been doing lots of experimentation with SQL Azure, as Steve pointed out. My company, Red Gate, is also working to develop tools for use against SQL Azure. They're also updating their existing tools to work with it. SQL Compare & SQL Data Compare already do.

    I'm not seeing much adoption rate in general, but those who do, are not going to places like SSC for help. I'm not sure where they're going for help, but it doesn't seem to be around here.

    I find SQL Azure, overall, to be far less limiting than I thought it would be. But the 10gb limit (or 50gb limit with federation) makes it hard to come up with viable business uses.

    "The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood"
    - Theodore Roosevelt

    Author of:
    SQL Server Execution Plans
    SQL Server Query Performance Tuning

  • Thanks for the feedback Grant, it's appeciated. Also good to know that RedGate are bought into SQL Azure (I suppose you should be given how Microsoft are positioning it!)

    Grant Fritchey (6/14/2011)

    But the 10gb limit (or 50gb limit with federation) makes it hard to come up with viable business uses.




  • Hi,

    i don't know where you are located or where your business is located and what your organization's area of specialty is. But to cut the long story short, SQL Azure is not i deal at the moment for Someone who stays in South Africa and does not work for a communication network Parastatal like Telkom, Vodacom, Internet Solutions or Neotel. So answering your question canbe a bit difficult for a South African like me whose limited by the network bandwidth crisis (costs of implementation and maintainance).

    But if u are in the US or Japan, that 's another story.

  • I asked in my company about using SQL Azure. Our issue is that most of our databases use HIPPA (health) data that has privacy issues. All of our production databases have to be in our datacenter by contract.

    For larger hospital customers we fill their security questionaires on how we handle patient data.

    If we had to put on there that our patient data in on the "SQL Azure Cloud" it would likely cause us to lose customers.

    I think that any databse dealing with anything sensitive (credit card data, patient data, etc) will not be able to move to SQL Azure.

    Most companies have sensitve data in some of their databases, therefore they are going to already maintain SQL Server in-house.

    And if you are just considering SQL Azure for other applications, why add the cost of SQL Azure?

    Just put the extra databases on the existing SQL Servers that you have to keep in-house anyway.

    Our attitude is that our non-sensitive data goes on the same SQL Servers as our sensitive data.

    We have already paid for the SQL Server licensing and the SAN infrastructure. Those would not be going away, so there would be no cost savings.

    We would just be adding a cost that we don't need.

    There is no reason to do SQL Azure also since we HAVE to maintain the in-house secure servers.

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