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Paul Nielsen

SQL Azure - hands on

As I’ve blogged before, I like the concept of cloud database services. I think that SQL Azure is the right direction. I’ve also blogged that I’m starting a CRM SaaS software startup company. My original business plan had SQL Azure as the hosting service. I like the built-in redundancy and availability.

Last week I took the SQL Azure CTP for a test-drive. It took me about 2 hours to fix all the incompatibilities with my code, and move my test database to SQL Azure. And Wow it’s very, very fast. Did I mention that it’s fast? I really like SQL Azure.

But, sometimes tech decisions need to be driven by business realities. I’ve been crunching numbers and for my business model, SQL Azure is just too expensive. I can buy some nice Dell servers and pay for co-location in downtown Colorado Springs that will have dual power grids and connections to three different internet backbones in the same building for ½ to 1/3 of what SQL Azure costs. As a disclaimer, I intend to host several 5-25 Gb databases each with only a few users, which makes it more efficient for me to host several databases on a single server than pay for each SQL Azure database. If your business model is different then SQL Azure may make more sense for your bottom line.

Since I’ve spoken up so loudly for databases in the cloud, I figured it was only fair to report my current thinking on the subject. So while I’ll keep testing SQL Azure, and I think it’s good tech, this startup is sticking with a traditional SQL Server solution until the SQL Azure pricing model fits my business plan.

Published Monday, September 21, 2009 10:57 AM by Paul Nielsen
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Alexander Kuznetsov said:

Hi Paul,

What do you think about Amazon Cloud?

September 21, 2009 2:10 PM

Paul Nielsen said:

Hi Alex, I don't like the huge single-table type databases - and, AFAIK, that's the model for the Google, Amazon and original SQL Data Services cloud databases. I like that SQL Azure a full SQL Server relational database. -Paul

September 21, 2009 2:17 PM

PP said:

Paul - Is there a document that you can share on how you did this?

September 21, 2009 7:56 PM

ALZDBA said:

"..And Wow it’s very, very fast....."

Ever used a huge dbserver with plenty of procs and ram dedicated to you and only you ;)

Thank you for the feedback.

Looking forward for other impressions.

September 22, 2009 6:45 AM

Glenn Berry said:


Isn't the pricing for SQL Azure $99/month per instance, with a 10GB limit on database size?  What other costs are there?

A nice Dell R710, with two Xeon 5550, 72GB of RAM and eight internal drives is about $8-9K. Depending on your I/O requirements, you could run a lot of small databases on that box. If you need more I/O, you can always hang one or more PowerVault MD1120 SAS arrays off of it.

Of course you would also need SQL Server licenses on top of that.

Can you expand on your cost estimates for either solution?

September 22, 2009 11:51 AM

Bart Czernicki said:

Azure is also about scaling the hardware to meet product/web site growth.  With a cap of 10gig for a database that is a serious problem for me...I know u can architect around it but why?  Azure can scale the memory, processors but the database seems to be a big hold up.

Like you mention in the article...Azure is kind of expensive when u add the data component.  Just because other "web hosts" or cloud vendors can charge several hundred per month for a data instance doesn't mean Azure should do that. 100/month for a 10 gig database is a joke if u have a dedicated server (like I do).

September 26, 2009 12:58 AM

Paul Nielsen said:

Hi Glenn,

First, I loved your post about PanzerBlitz. I had 2 friends in high school and we played Avalon Hill and SSI games. Great Memories.

Re:SQL Azure pricing - there's also the cost of bandwidth. If Brent Ozar is right, and he usually is, then you should budget the bandwidth cost at about 50% of the database cost. So if you host 25x 10Gb SQL Azure databases for 2 years that's $90,000.


September 26, 2009 1:22 PM
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About Paul Nielsen

Paul Nielsen believes SQL is the romance language of data. As such he’s a hands-on database developer, Microsoft SQL Server MVP, trainer, and author of SQL Server Bible series (Wiley). As a data architect, he developed the concepts of Smart Database Design and Nordic – an open source O/R dbms for SQL Server. He lives in Colorado Springs.
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