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The availability of a new preview, which was previously announced in November, introduces near-complete SQL Server engine compatibility and more Premium performance, representing the next-generation of the SQL Database service. Internal tests on over 600 million rows of data show Premium query performance improvements of around 5x in the new preview relative to today’s Premium SQL Database and up to 100x when applying the In-memory columnstore technology. The features in today’s preview mark the first step toward delivering exciting new capabilities for customers on this new service architecture.

This preview continues the momentum of the general availability of the new service tiers, Basic, Standard, and Premium, which deliver scalable performance, built-in geo-replication and recovery features, and introduced the first cloud database 99.99% uptime SLA. Since September, we also made Auditing generally available and introduced Elastic Scale technologies that significantly streamline high-end scale out. Today, customers are using the scale out approach to prove the power of the service to run their mission-critical applications; one customer has almost 90TB of data across ~2,000 databases, processing ~380,000 logins per day while another customer is running a multi-tenant application with over 20TB of data across ~225,000 databases, processing over 2 million logins per day.

Today’s preview continues our journey to bring industry-leading in-memory technologies to the cloud as well as unlock new functionality that streamlines the movement of SQL Server database applications to Azure and also dramatically improves the ability for customers to work with heavier database workloads. Weichert, one of the nation’s leading full-service real estate providers, is actively using the new preview.

“We are deeply driven by ROI and committed to migrating our mission-critical apps to Azure—last year we saw a 60% cost savings after moving our real estate search engine,, to Azure. From a strategy perspective, these SQL Database service updates are our answer to migrating and working with large data types by leveraging features such as online index rebuild, and partitioning,” stated Joe Testa, Vice President of Systems Development, Weichert.“Simply put, the results so far have been fantastic—we’re seeing >2x better performance and the advanced features that were only previously available in SQL Server now make it easier to work with our applications as we continue to migrate our mission-critical apps to Azure.”

Detailed enhancements of this preview are available on the preview getting started page, however, key highlights are as follows:

  • Easier management of large databases to support heavier workloads with parallel queries (Premium only), table partitioning, online indexing and worry-free large index rebuilds with 2GB size limit removed, and alter database command.
  • Support for key programmability functions to drive more robust application design with CLR, T-SQL Window functions, XML index, and change tracking.
  • Up to 100x performance improvements with support for In-memory columnstore queries (Premium only) for data mart and smaller analytic workloads.
  • Improved monitoring and troubleshooting: Extended Events (XEvents) and visibility into over 100 new table views via an expanded set of Database Management Views (DMVs).
  • New S3 performance level: offers more pricing flexibility between Standard and Premium. S3 will deliver 100 DTU and all the features available in the Standard tier for $0.2016/hour ($0.1008/hour during preview).

To try this preview, please sign up via the Azure Preview Features page or via the new Azure Portal. Pricing for databases enrolled in this preview is discounted 50% from Basic, Standard and Premium general availability pricing. Only SQL Database servers that have a mix of one or more Basic, Standard, or Premium databases (no Web or Business) will be eligible to upgrade to this new preview.

I am incredibly excited for you to try this preview which will help you more easily build or migrate more robust SQL-based applications on Azure while gaining the near-zero administration benefits of database-as-a-service.

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