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A look at the upcoming Microsoft Azure SQL Data Warehouse

The Microsoft Azure SQL Data Warehouse lets you scale compute and storage independently based on your performance needs, so you pay for query performance only when you need it.

Currently in preview, Microsoft refers to its Azure SQL Data Warehouse as a fully managed, elastic and petabyte-scale columnar data warehouse service that's compatible and integrated with the Microsoft SQL Server ecosystem. It provides an enterprise with a distributed database management system that can store and process large volumes of relational and nonrelational data.

The SQL Data Warehouse service enables customers to elastically pause their usage or shut down their compute infrastructure, while maintaining the data. During a pause, the data is maintained, but can't be accessed. Customers pay for only the commodity storage used to persist the data, potentially reducing the cost of their enterprise data warehouse.

With Azure SQL Data Warehouse, customers can increase or decrease query power in seconds. Instead of paying for dedicated fixed ratios of disk and compute, they can take full advantage of storage at cloud scale and then apply query compute based on seasonal requirements. The data warehouse service is delivered with two simple meters -- compute and storage -- so costs can be easily forecasted.

Customers of all sizes across all industries can use Azure SQL Data Warehouse. Organizations with SQL Server and Transact-SQL (T-SQL) expertise may benefit from SQL Data Warehouse if they need to add nonrelational capabilities to their existing data warehouse or no longer want to manage their on-premises data warehouse.

Azure SQL Data Warehouse features

SQL Data Warehouse uses Microsoft's Massively Parallel Processing architecture and SQL Server's column store index technology to deliver performance. Because it's based on Microsoft SQL Server's proven relational database engine, organizations can use the features they've come to rely on, including stored procedures, user-defined functions, table partitioning, indexes and collations.

With the T-SQL and feature commonality among SQL Server, SQL Data Warehouse, SQL Database and Microsoft Analytics Platform System, customers can develop a solution that fits their data needs. They can decide where to keep their data based on performance, security and scale requirements, then transfer data as necessary between on-premises and cloud platforms.

Microsoft's Polybase technology enables customers to query nonrelational data held in Azure Blob -- binary large object -- storage or in Hadoop's File System as though it's a regular table. Users can query across both relational and nonrelational data in the Azure SQL Data Warehouse.

Accessed via the cloud, the Azure SQL Data Warehouse runs on Windows.

Licensing, pricing and support for Azure SQL Data Warehouse

The data warehouse service is sold directly from Microsoft, as well as its partners and service providers.

Customers are billed using two simple metrics: commodity storage rates for data and provisioned compute rates based on an hourly bill. This billing model makes it easy for customers to understand what they will be charged when running a cloud service and not be hit with hidden charges or up-front costs. With capabilities like elastic scale and computational pause, customers have a level of control over the cost and capabilities of their cloud data warehouse.

A free one-month trial of Microsoft Azure is available. By creating a free Azure account, users receive credits they can use to try out paid Azure services, including Azure SQL Data Warehouse. MSDN subscribers receive credits every month that can be used for paid Azure services.

Basic support offering billing and subscription management, community forums, a service dashboard, and Web incident submission is included. Additionally, customers can opt for added support levels including:

  • Developer support, which is $29 per month with unlimited 24/7 break/fix support within eight hours.
  • Standard, which is $300 per month, provides unlimited 24/7 break/fix support within two hours along with three phone support calls per month.
  • Professional Direct, which is $1,000 per month, provides unlimited 24/7 break/fix support within one hour, unlimited support phone calls with escalation, priority handling and limited advisory support.
  • Premier support is negotiable; it adds full advisory support, assigned service delivery management, on-site services and developer mentoring.

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