We live in the golden age of the cloud. Businesses can find dozens of options for moving their services or even their entire infrastructures to the cloud as a way of reducing hardware, power, maintenance, and management costs. But when it comes to databases, the benefits aren’t always as clear. For example, even though many infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) cloud providers offer the ability to migrate databases from the data center, IaaS solutions typically don’t significantly reduce operations costs. That’s good for database-administrator job security, but it doesn’t do much to help businesses that would rather focus their limited development resources on updating and innovating features for their customers.

Here at Prowess, we’ve been working with Microsoft Azure on several research projects and case studies. In our recent work, we’ve been looking closely at Azure SQL Database. For companies looking to work with structured data in the cloud, we’ve found that Azure SQL Database can be a real boon to productivity. That’s because Azure lets organizations shift services and databases to the cloud without all the usual operations overhead, thanks to three key features:

  1. Elastic database pools scale with your tenants and apps.

Azure SQL Database is designed to scale as needed for several, hundreds, or even thousands of databases. But what really makes the solution special for users is the concept of elastic database pools. With an elastic database pool, you can configure individual databases to scale automatically, within parameters that you define. In other words, you can set a total resource limit for the entire pool, instead of for each individual database, without affecting the total cost.

You can also add or remove elastic databases on demand. That’s a major benefit for companies that offer software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions for their customers, because it allows the SaaS providers to more easily meet service-level agreements (SLAs) for database performance. With elastic database pools, there’s no need to overprovision to accommodate brief periods of high demand.

  1. Azure supports common dev platforms and tools.

Azure SQL Database supports a wide range of frameworks, languages, scripts, and tools that SQL developers are already familiar with, like Microsoft Visual Studio and Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio. If you’re a developer, don’t need to waste time learning new ways to work because Azure SQL Database, like Microsoft SQL Server, can be accessed using Entity Framework (EF), ADO.NET, Java Database Connectivity (JDBC), and other commonly-used technologies. This means that you can focus on new features and services that enhance your subscribers’ experiences, instead of learning new tools to recreate the features that you have already developed.

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In addition, the Azure management portal, Azure PowerShell, and REST APIs can help you be more productive because those tools let you easily monitor database-pool status, add or remove databases, and automate repetitive or time-consuming tasks. You can even automate the process of provisioning and de-provisioning databases within an elastic database pool, based on the needs of your customers.

  1. Azure provides database management without the usual administrative overhead.

Azure SQL Database isn’t just a database management system (DBMS) in the cloud—it’s a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) solution. It gives you full control of your data and who can access it, and it removes the hassles of managing hardware infrastructure, updating software, and staying on top of security patches. Azure SQL Database also includes automatic backups and disaster-recovery failover as part of the package, so developers can spend less time on ops and more time doing what they do best—coding.

Just Scratching the Surface

There’s much more to explore in Azure, but we’re obviously quite impressed with what we’ve seen so far. The PaaS offering extends and simplifies how developers work with apps and services in the cloud, without requiring massive overhead. Now that we’ve explored structured data handling in Azure SQL Database, we can’t wait to dive into Azure DocumentDB to see how Azure works with unstructured data!

Learn More

Microsoft has lots of information and learning tools available on its website to help familiarize you with Azure SQL Database, including documentation and code samples. You can even take Azure for a test run by visiting https://azure.microsoft.com/.

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