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What is SQL Azure?

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Jason Bott
ByPor Jason Bott

Jason has been working as a consultant and project manager with enterprises of all sizes for over 20 years. His expertise lies in utilizing technology to solve problems that reduce costs and increase profits. He has been instrumental in implementing successful software projects for Shell, NOV, C&J, Nabors, Total, Halliburton, Baker Hughes, Noble, American Tower, AIG, NASA, Nike as well as many smaller firms.

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Business needs in today’s world are subject to constant change, but one constant is the vital importance of a reliable and flexible database to keep information accurate, secure, and readily available. Many companies will scale their databases up and down over time, and it is precisely with this in mind that Microsoft developed its cloud database service, SQL Azure. Based on its Windows Azure cloud computing platform, the database gives your business a fully functional, redundant, and scalable relational database in its world-renowned cloud, hosted and managed by Microsoft’s own data centers. The following article will provide an overview of SQL Azure’s main benefits and features, as well as the difference between SQL Azure and Windows Azure.

Maximum Consistency and Scalability

With SQL Azure, you can grow your business according to need without sacrificing performance. Thanks to its use of Document DB, which stores data on write-optimized, low-latency solid-state drives (SSDs), SQL Azure offers you lightning-fast, reliable, and resource-efficient throughput. What is more, you can scale your business linearly to keep up with its pace of growth in real time. In addition, SQL Azure gives you a range of consistency levels, such as eventual, session, and bounded-staleness, so that you can choose the right balance of consistency, availability, and latency for your particular needs.

Automatic Indexing and Schema Agnostic Queries

One of the key advantages of SQL Azure is its highly predictable, robust, and resource-frugal data management. Uniquely, it employs DocumentDB to automatically index all JSON documents you add to your database, even in cases of high document update rates, thus freeing you of the hassle of worrying about schema management. And you can use SQL syntax to carry out real-time queries in order to locate any document in the database, without the need to first specify a specific schema or secondary index.

Ease of Use and Rapid Development

SQL Azure’s use of the Document DB platform means you can get up and running without the hassle and programming delays involved in custom encoding or extensions. Its open design, replete with an array of built-in tools and readily available tutorials on their use, means you can create the apps you need quickly and easily. Furthermore, you can profit from freedom of development by choosing from a variety Software Development Kits (SDKs), including .NET, Node.js, Java, JavaScript, and Python, to build the apps you want the way you want. And you’ll enjoy how simple it is to perform basic tasks like Create, Read, Update and Delete (CRUD); query; and JavaScript processing on your NoSQL databases on a simple Restful HTTP interface.

SQL Azure vs. Windows Azure

A further advantage of SQL Azure is that you can either build your apps in-house and later move them onto SQL Azure, or build them in Windows Azure, storing your data in the cloud. Data synchronization between your on-premise SQL Server and databases in the cloud is stress-free, thanks to SQL Azure’s built-in, fault-tolerant support for SQL Server’s Transact-SQL (T-SQL) query language, enabling most T-SQL data types, operators, and functions (i.e. string, arithmetic, logical, and cursor functions).

It should be noted, however, that SQL Azure does not support all T-SQL data types and commands. For example, it cannot handle SQL Server Agent or jobs. For this reason, in business applications requiring the latter, you’ll want to run SQL Server on your on-premise SQL Server and then connect to the Microsoft Azure SQL Database.

So get started with SQL Azure today, and have your apps up and running in no time. Microsoft’s state oif the art NoSQL database service will give you all the indices, stores, and query data you need to make the app you want using the SQL syntax you already know, with no need for custom programming or extensions.