[This article was contributed by the SQL Azure team.]
Starting today, customers and partners in countries across the globe will be able to launch their SQL Azure Database production applications and services with the support of the full Service Level Agreements (SLAs).
Customers who have yet to upgrade their CTP accounts to paid commercial subscriptions are encouraged to do so at the earliest in order to maintain access to their accounts. SQL Azure Database CTP customers who have not upgraded their accounts will be able to keep using their existing databases but will no longer be able to create new databases. On March 1, 2010, the SQL Azure Database CTP accounts that have not been upgraded will be deleted. On April 1, 2010, the Windows Azure Storage CTP accounts that have not been upgraded will be deleted. It is important to export your data if you do not plan to upgrade to a commercial subscription prior to these dates.
As a number of time zones apply to our customers and partners worldwide, Microsoft will begin charging for use of Windows Azure and SQL Azure Database starting at 12:00 AM February 2, 2010 GMT to ensure that customers and partners are not charged for their free usage in the month of January.
Back to Basics
For customers new to SQL Azure we wanted to answer some of the most common asked questions.
Q: What is Microsoft SQL Azure Database?
A: Microsoft SQL Azure™ Database is a cloud-based relational database service built on SQL Server technologies. It provides a highly available, scalable, multi-tenant database service hosted by Microsoft in the cloud. SQL Azure Database enables easy provisioning and deployment of multiple databases. Developers do not have to install, setup, patch or manage any software. High Availability and fault tolerance is built-in and no physical administration is required. SQL Azure Database supports Transact-SQL (T-SQL). Customers can leverage existing knowledge in T-SQL development and a familiar relational data model for symmetry with existing on-premises databases. SQL Azure Database provides great value by saving on development costs by working with existing toolsets and providing symmetry with on-premises and cloud databases. For more information view this video.
Q: What are the key features are included in SQL Azure Database?
A: SQL Azure Database supports most of the features and data types found in SQL Server 2008. SQL Azure supports many SQL Server 2008 data types; it does not support data types that have been deprecated from SQL Server 2008. For more information about data type support in SQL Azure, see Data Types (SQL Azure Database). Many SQL Server Transact-SQL statements have parameters that allow you to specify file groups or physical file paths. These types of parameters are not supported in SQL Azure because they have dependencies on the physical configuration. In such cases, the command is considered partially supported. For more information about Transact-SQL support, see Transact-SQL Support (SQL Azure Database). Analysis Services, Replication, Reporting Services, and Service Broker are currently not supported.
A variety of SQL Server tools can be used with SQL Azure Database including SSMS, SMO, SSIS, Visual Studio, SQLCMD. Click here for more details
Q: How does Microsoft differentiate SQL Azure Database from Microsoft SQL Server?
A: SQL Azure Database is built on SQL Server database technologies that are used for running mission-critical applications in the enterprise as well as on the Web. Since SQL Server is a broad information platform that can handle all data types from birth to archival, there are many associated capabilities that our information platform provides. SQL Azure Database is exposing a large subset of these relational capabilities and extending them as services in the cloud.
These services feature built-in high scale, availability, and self-management, and are provided in a way that makes it easy for customers and partners to consume over the Internet. Although SQL Azure in its first iteration exposes only the core RDBMS capabilities of what is in the full SQL Server information platform, Microsoft expects these to increase over time, with likely future features including Reporting, Analytics, ETL and other premium services etc. SQL Server and SQL Azure share some technologies and will share some innovations bilaterally.
Q: How is SQL Azure Database different from working with any hosted database?
A: SQL Azure Database provides highly available, scalable, multi-tenant database service hosted by Microsoft in the cloud. SQL Azure Database is self-managing and enables easy provisioning and deployment of multiple databases. Developers do not have to install, setup, patch or manage any software. High Availability and fault tolerance is built-in and no physical administration of hardware, storage or servers is required. SQL Azure Database supports Transact-SQL (T-SQL). Customers can leverage existing knowledge in T-SQL development and a familiar relational data model for symmetry with existing on-premises databases. SQL Azure Database provides a strong value proposition through savings in the cost of development by working with existing toolset and providing symmetry with on-premises and cloud database
With hosted databases, developers are still responsible for installing, updating and managing operating systems and database software. Additionally, hosted database solutions have to manually configure high availability and fault tolerance. SQL Azure Database provides all this for you as part of the service.