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Sunday, 26 April 2020

Stairway to Microsoft Azure SQL Database Part 1 : Deployment Options

Recently I started working with Azure SQL Database. It took some time for me to understand the concepts of the Azure SQL database. Earlier I have experience in AWS RDS for SQL server, but in Azure it works in a little complex way. Once you understand the different offerings, security, deployment model, etc, it is is easy to provision the resources as per the requirements.

Through a set of articles, I will try to explain the Azure SQL database in a very concise way. All this information is available in Azure documentation. For the granular level of information, always refer to Azure documentation.   

Microsoft Azure database is a fully managed platform as a service (PaaS). Azure provides three different deployment options to cater to the different needs of the customer.

  • Managed Instance 
  • Single Database 
  • Elastic Pool
Let us look into the details of each deployment model :

Managed Instance: Managed instance is one of the most suitable deployment option for those who are moving to cloud from an on-premise server. This deployment model supports most of our on-premise database features.
  • Managed instance does not provide access to the Operating system.
  • It does not allow you to specify the version of the SQL Server. Managed instance always runs the latest stable SQL engine version, which is equal to or higher than the latest available RTM version of SQL Server. 
  • Supports 
    • SQL Agent service 
    • DB mail with external SMTP server
    • Service broker
    • SQL Agent service 
    • Transactional replication
    • Change Data Capture (CDC)  
    • CLR creation from binary (Not using the assembly file)
    • linked server 
    • Managed instance supports SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) and can host SSIS catalog (SSISDB) that stores SSIS packages, but they are executed on a managed Azure-SSIS Integration Runtime (IR) in Azure Data Factory (ADF)
    • To choose the time zone
  • Not yet supporting the file stream or file table.
On top of that, managed instance support all PaaS features like :
  • No separate purchase of infrastructure and managing the underlying hardware of the database server.
  • Automated patching and version upgrade. There is no option to control the maintenance window of patching or upgrade. To handle the connection error during the maintenance window, you need to implement the retry mechanism in your code.
  • No headache of scheduling and monitoring of backups. Automated backups are available 
Migration to the managed instance is much easier as this supports restoring from the native backup created from the on-premises server. To restore the backup in the managed instance, the backup should be available in Azure storage account and should use RESTORE DATABASE FROM URL. Managed instances also allow the customer to take COPY_ONLY backups which do not break the azure automated backup chain. 

Managed instance is placed inside the Azure virtual network and in a dedicated subnet. This provides :
  • Secure private IP address.
  • The ability to connect an on-premises network to a managed instance.
  • The ability to connect a managed instance or another on-premises database server through a linked server.
Managed instances also provide public endpoints. Public endpoint provides the ability to connect to the Managed Instance from the Internet without using a VPN. Access is disabled by default unless explicitly allowed. We need to explicitly whitelist the IP address to access through the public IP address.

managed instance provides two flavors of compute and storage :
  • General Purpose: This supports most of the production workload. Support up to 80 vCore and 8TB fast storage
  • Business Critical: For IO intensive and compute-intensive workload.Support up to 80 vCore and 4 TB super fast storage 
Managed instance also support to bring your own license with software assurance (SA). Considering all these, managed instances are the best option for lift and shift of your existing workload to the cloud. Note that, if you need direct access to OS/filesystem or dependent on a specific version of SQL server or required specific features that are not supported in the Azure SQL server then Azure Paas database service is not suitable unless you resolve those dependencies.

Single Database:  A single database is a fully-managed database as a service (DbaaS) under the Azure PaaS offering. This deployment option is most suited for modern application development like microservices. The single database deployment option creates a database in Azure with its own set of resources and is managed via a SQL database server. With a single database, each database resources are isolated from each other. A SQL database server is completely different from the SQL server that we used to have in the on-premise installation. In this context of azure DbaaS, an SQL database server is a logical construct that acts as a central administrative point for one or more single databases.
  • Single database does not provide access to the Operating system.
  • It does not allow you to specify the version of the SQL Server. Single database always runs the latest stable SQL engine version, which is equal to or higher than the latest available RTM version of SQL Server. 
  • Does not Supports 
    • SQL Agent service 
    • DB mail service
    • Service broker
    • Replication (can be push subscriber )
    • Change Data Capture (CDC)  
    • CLR creation 
    • linked server 
    • To choose the time zone
    • File Stream and File table
In short, Single database support only database-level features and does not support server level features.  To migrate your existing workload to a single database,  there are three primary methods.
  • Export to a BACPAC file and import the BACPAC file into azure single database. (BACPAC file is a ZIP file with an extension of BACPAC containing the metadata and data from a SQL Server database. A BACPAC file can be stored in Azure Blob storage or in local storage in an on-premises location and later imported back into Azure SQL Database or into a SQL Server on-premises installation). This is a time-consuming process and requires downtime. The time required to complete the migration depends on the size of the database.
  • Using transactional replication: Azure single database can be configured as a subscriber of your on-premise database publication. There is no UI available.  Need to configure through T-SQL. Once the complete data synched with the source server, on migration day cut down the traffic to your on-premise database and after synchronizing the data, point your application to the new Azure database 
  • Use the Azure DMS (Data Migration service ).
Azure database server does not allow you to host inside the Vnet. By default, the access is through the public endpoint.  All the traffic through this endpoint is blocked and you need to explicitly whitelist the required IP address to connect to the database server through this endpoint. There is no option to disable the private endpoint but as mentioned earlier, no one can connect through public endpoint unless you provide the access by whitelisting the IP addresses. You can enable the private endpoint by integrating virtual network private endpoints. Private endpoint helps to connect from the same VNet or peered VNet in the same/cross-region or from on-premises using a VPN.  Note that virtual network private endpoint will be billed separately 

Azure Database provides two types of purchase :
  • DTU base
  • vCore base
Users can select the option based on their workload. In the vCore model, azure allows you to bring your own license. We will discuss these options in another post.

Single database support PaaS features like :

  • No separate purchase of infrastructure and managing the underlying hardware of the database server.
  • Automated patching and version upgrade. There is no option to control the maintenance window of patching or upgrade. To handle the connection error during the maintenance window, you need to implement the retry mechanism in your code.
  • No headache of scheduling and monitoring of backups. Automated backups are available 

Elastic Pool: Elastic Pool Is a set of single databases with a shared resource pool. In a single database, each database will have its own dedicated resource. In the elastic pool, resources are configured in the pool level and each single database connected with that pool shares the resource of elastic pool. SQL Database elastic pools are a simple solution for managing and scaling multiple databases that have varying and unpredictable usage demands. For example, let us assume you are providing some SaaS solutions to multiple clients in different time zone. Each customer data are stored in independent databases. In this scenario, the resource can be utilized in a much better way by adding those databases to the elastic pool instead of allocating dedicated resources to each individual customer database. Apart from this, the rest of the characteristics are the same as the Single database mentioned in the above section.

Hope the below pictorial representation helps you to understand different deployment option available in Azure DbaaS. 






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