What is Microsoft SQL Azure?

cloud trapped in server room
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SQL Azure is a cloud-based relational database that supports Transact-SQL using Microsoft SQL Server Technology but allowing you to place all of the server and operating system administration tasks in the hands of Microsoft Engineers.

Features of SQL Server in the Cloud

Some of the features you'll obtain by using SQL Azure are:

  • Simplified administration, leaving the management of the database platform, operating system and hardware in the hands of others
  • Scalable resources, allowing you to quickly add or remove resources as your needs change
  • Integration with ODBC, PHP, and ADO.NET data access
  • Management through SQL Server Management Studio (using the version shipped with SQL Server 2008 R2 or later)
  • Most of the basic functionality of Microsoft SQL Server


It's important to recognize that, while SQL Azure is a cloud-based alternative to Microsoft SQL Server, it is not the same as a hosted SQL Server environment. There are several important distinctions

  • Databases are limited to 10GB.
  • Some datatypes (specifically the CLR datatypes, which include geospatial data) are not supported
  • Vague warnings that your connection may be terminated for "excessive resource usage"


Overall, SQL Azure is a very interesting product and may be quite appealing to those in a specific niche seeking high-performance cloud-based databases under 10GB. However, most web users will probably find that they can find similar pricing from various ISPs that include the cost of web hosting. Expect to see SQL Azure grow in popularity as it rolls out more scalable solutions supporting more advanced SQL Server functionality.

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