Overview of Microsoft Azure
The core Azure services
Billing on Azure
Begun in February 2010 after the announcement of its development two years before, MS Azure has quickly grown, adding many services - including the flagship Azure Virtual Machines, an IaaS compute platform.
This Introduction to Microsoft Azure course, created by our Azure expert Ganapathi Subramanian, is an introduction to the whole Microsoft Azure Platform. It will start from the most basic concepts you'll need to get started with the whole Azure family. We'll also give you a quick overview of the most important services in the platform for computing, storage, and database.
Who should follow this course
This is a beginner, introductory course to Azure, so you can enjoy it with no previous knowledge. You might, however, want to take a look at our introductory courses "Introduction to Cloud Computing" and "Introduction to Virtualization Technologies" to learn more about Cloud Computing and Virtualization from a low-level, provider-agnostic point of view.
The Azure SQL Database is one of the key services in Azure. We'll cover the various features of Azure SQL and demonstrate how to use it. Azure SQL Database is a relational database as a service in the Cloud. Azure SQL supports a highly scalable, high performance database infrastructure that can be leveraged for simple or complex applications. With a database as a service model, the users will be freed from the managing and patching of the database server and will focus only on managing the application database. Azure SQL supports a variety of tiers and performance levels.
It offers flexibility in choosing a specific type of service tier, based on application requirements.
Microsoft Azure SQL service tiers: Premium tier vs Standard tier
Azure SQL supports the following service tiers: the basic tier is suitable for applications that perform single operations at a given point in time. It supports five DTU, reliability on an hourly basis and a maximum database size of two gigabytes.
DTU means database throughput units, which is similar to transactions per unit of time; TPH means transactions per hour; TPM means transactions per minute; and TPS means transactions per second.
The standard tier can be used by applications which need to support concurrency. It provides a varying degree of DTU levels, reliability per minute and a maximum database size of 250 gigabytes.
The Premium Edition is suitable for mission-critical, highly transactional concurrent applications. It also supports varying levels of DTU, reliability per second and a maximum database size of 500 gigabytes. Web and Enterprise Editions are legacy options and will be discontinued by 2015. Azure SQL supports predictable performance levels, based on the tier and throughput model selected. The database is scaled internally by SQL Azure to meet the performance levels.
For large databases, Azure SQL supports a Federation model. This feature can be used to partition data based on various patterns like user groups, location, etc.
Azure SQL database availability
Azure SQL offers a highly available database service. It can support an availability of 99.99% for the basic, standard and premium tiers. The data stored in the SQL database is automatically replicated across regions by Azure to support high availability. The number of replica copies is proportional to the usage tier selected. Azure SQL supports a backup and restore service, which can be used for periodic database backups. The backup data is stored in Azure storage, using the geo redundant feature of Azure storage. The data is replicated across various regions. These features allow seamless failure recovery.
How to access Azure SQL database
SQL Azure Database can be accessed using familiar Microsoft database access tools. SQL Database can be accessed using Database Management Portal or by SQL server management tools. Azure SQL can also be accessed using the standard Azure access models like Rest APIs and PowerShell Scripts. Applications can use a familiar ADO. NET programming model to interact with the database. Azure SQL also supports framework for various technology platforms like Java, PHP, Ruby on Rails and Node.js for database access. Azure SQL supports features like import/export, moving data. The synchronization features of Azure can be used for synchronizing Azure and non-Azure databases. Azure SQL is a highly secure database platform.
Database objects are protected by a hierarchy of user level access. Users or applications need to authenticate before accessing the database. User access can also be restricted at granular database objects level. In addition to authentication, Azure supports a firewall feature which can be used to restrict access only to certain IPs.
Azure SQL database auditing: how to collect audit data
Azure provides a built-in auditing feature to collect auditing data. The auditing data is stored in a specified Azure storage account for monitoring. We'll use a demo to show the database curation process in Azure SQL. Azure SQL databases are created using the Azure Management Portal. The first step in the process is to log into the Azure Management Portal using the Microsoft Live account. We'll use an existing Live account for this demo.
After login, select the SQL database on the left side menu, and click new on the bottom menu option. This will show the Wizard screen to create an SQL database.
The Wizard screen allows inputs from the user for several parameters. Let's give a name to the database and select the service tier. We'll use Basic tier for this demo. We'll create a new database server for this demo by selecting new database server in the server option. This will show the screen to create the database server. We'll populate the login name and password for the admin user of the server and select U.S. West region as the hosting region for this demo. This will provision the database server in the database. The dashboard section of the database shows various options to monitor, scale and configure replication. The manage option found at the bottom menu of the screen can be used to manage the database. Upon clicking, it'll prompt for username and password for authentication.
Optionally, the database name can also be provided. Once authenticated, the Management Portal will be displayed. Standard SQL statements can be executed in the portal to perform database operations. The Manage Allowed IP Address option in the dashboard section of the portal can be used to configure the firewall rules. Click on the Manage Allowed IP Address link and in the resulting screen, enter the IP address that should be allowed to access the Azure SQL database. This screen can also be used to configure whether other Azure services will be allowed to access the SQL.
Trevor Sullivan is a Microsoft MVP for Windows PowerShell, and enjoys working with cloud and automation technologies. As a strong, vocal veteran of the Microsoft-centric IT field since 2004, Trevor has developed open source projects, provided significant amounts of product feedback, authored a large variety of training resources, and presented at IT functions including worldwide user groups and conferences.