Scaling Azure SQL Database

One of the advantages Azure SQL Database has over on-prem SQL Server is the ease in which it can scale.  I’ll discuss the various options for horizontal scaling, vertical scaling, and other similar features.

Horizontal scaling refers to adding or removing databases in order to adjust capacity or overall performance. This is also called “scaling out”.  Sharding, in which data is partitioned across a collection of identically structured databases, is a common way to implement horizontal scaling.

Vertical scaling refers to increasing or decreasing the performance level of an individual database—this is also known as “scaling up.”

Elastic Database features enables you to use the virtually unlimited database resources of Azure SQL Database to create solutions for transactional workloads, and especially Software as a Service (SaaS) applications.  Elastic Database features are composed of the following:

You can change the service tier and performance level of your SQL database with the Azure portal, PowerShell (using the Set-AzureSqlDatabase cmdlet), the Service Management REST API (using the Update Database command), or Transact-SQL (via the ALTER DATABASE statement).  You can use DMVs to monitor the progress of the upgrade operation for a database.  This allows you to easily scale up or down a database, and it will remain online and available during the entire operation with no downtime.  This is vertical scaling.  See Change the service tier and performance level (pricing tier) of a SQL database.

Another feature is called Stretch Databases, to let your on-prem SQL Server database hold just the core data, with old/cold data that continues to grow sidelined transparently in Azure SQL Database.  This is a feature only available in SQL Server 2016.  See Stretch Database.

More info:

Elastic Database features overview

Video Azure SQL Database Elastic Scale

Video Elastic for SQL – shards, pools, stretch

SQL Azure Performance Benchmarking

Azure SQL Database DTU Calculator

About James Serra

James is a big data and data warehousing solution architect at Microsoft. Previously he was an independent consultant working as a Data Warehouse/Business Intelligence architect and developer. He is a prior SQL Server MVP with over 25 years of IT experience.
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5 Responses to Scaling Azure SQL Database

  1. Pingback: Scaling Azure SQL Database – Curated SQL

  2. Paul Brewer says:

    Hi James,
    There’s a question about scaling Azure DW databases, and the associated cost, here that you may be able to help with -

    Thanks and regards

  3. Kritika Kapoor says:

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