Your Guide to Azure SQL Pricing

Your Guide to Azure SQL Pricing

To understand how Azure SQL pricing works, we’ll first talk about how the Azure SQL service is offered. Expanding from one limited offering to a set of services, Azure SQL is a family of managed products built upon the familiar SQL Server database engine, useful for migrating SQL workloads, modernizing existing applications, and more. 

Running Azure SQL database

When Azure SQL Database first launched in 2010, its only offering was a single pricing option. But, now the Azure SQL portfolio has a more complex service model, with many possible combinations of deployment options, including compute models and service tiers. It has grown from “Azure SQL” to a multi-faceted service. It offers three deployment models, two service tiers, and two compute options. 

To run Azure SQL databases, you’ll first need to choose your deployment option. This is how you’ll structure the SQL server and its databases. Then, you’ll need to choose your purchase model to pay for your service. Select your service tier for the level of compute power you want. And, your compute tier to be able to either compute 24/7 or on-demand basis. 

Azure SQL Deployment Models

Azure SQL deployment options differ primarily in their cost and the amount of control they give you over the underlying platform. Deployment options determine how to structure the “SQL Server” and its databases. The three options available are:

  • Azure SQL Database is a general-purpose relational database, provided as a managed service. 
  • Azure SQL Managed Instance – this option modernizes existing SQL Server applications at scale with the managed instance as a service.
  • SQL Server on Azure VMs for lifting-and-shifting the SQL Server workload provides full control over the SQL Server instance

Azure SQL Pricing Models

Depending on the deployment model you’ve chosen for Azure SQL database. There are two purchasing models available:

Here are some examples of how the various pricing options play out: 

To better understand the related storage costs and compare different storage options, calculate Azure SQL costs for your specific scenario using Azure’s pricing calculator.

Azure SQL Service Tiers 

There are two service tiers used by Azure SQL Database and Azure SQL Managed Instance, each with a different architectural model. These service tiers include: 

  • A General Purpose tier for common workloads 
  • A Business Critical tier for high throughput OLTP applications requiring low latency and high resilience 

And, Azure SQL Database offers an additional service tier called:

  • A Hyperscale tier for very large OLTP systems with faster auto-scaling, backup and restore support.

Azure SQL Compute Tiers 

Under the Azure SQL Database deployment option, under the vCore pricing model with General Purpose storage, you’ll find two options for your compute resources, these include:

  • Provisioned: Azure SQL provides Azure resources that run your database with a fixed amount of compute resources for a fixed hourly price.
  • Serverless: the database is provisioned as a serverless component with auto-scaling compute and billing for use per second

Optimizing Costs on Azure SQL

The choice to mix and match Azure SQL deployment options depends on your application and migration requirements. If you are still not sure which Azure SQL deployment option is right for your workloads, here are some tips from Microsoft on how to choose. 

Now, to monitor and control your storage expenses and optimize usage in your SQL databases, yes, you can use Azure Cost Management. However, even though cloud efficiency is a core tenant of the Microsoft Azure Cost Management tool, optimization is not its strongest suit.

Another way to save money on Azure SQL Database and SQL Managed Instance is by committing to a reservation for compute resources compared to pay-as-you-go prices. With reserved capacity, you make a commitment for SQL Database and/or SQL Managed Instance use for a period of one or three years to get a significant discount on the compute costs. Or, In the provisioned compute tier of the vCore-based purchasing model, you can exchange your existing licenses for discounted rates on Azure SQL Database and Azure SQL Managed Instance by using Azure Hybrid Benefit. 

ParkMyCloud continues to add ways to optimize cloud environments no matter what cloud service you use. Azure SQL database types are just the latest cloud resources you can manage in the ParkMyCloud platform. Scheduling and parking recommendations will be available soon on these resources so you can optimize your costs more efficiently and automatically. 

If you’re new to ParkMyCloud, you can get started with a free trial

The Azure Well-Architected Review is Worth Your Time

The Azure Well-Architected Review is Worth Your Time

In July, Microsoft introduced the Azure Well-Architected Framework best practices – a guide for building and delivering solutions built with Azure’s best practices. If you’ve ever seen the AWS Well-Architected Framework, Azure’s will look… familiar. It strikes many similarities with the Google Cloud Architecture Framework as well, which was released in May. This is perhaps a sign that despite the frequently argued differences between the cloud providers (and people love to compare – by far the most-read post on this blog is this one on AWS vs. Azure vs. Google Cloud market share), they are more similar than different. Is this a bad thing? We would argue, no. 

There are many aspects of a well-designed architecture and these frameworks to discuss. Given ParkMyCloud’s focus on cost here, we’ll examine the cost optimization principles in Azure’s framework and how they compare to AWS and Google’s.

Architecture Guidelines at a High Level

The three cloud providers each provide architecture frameworks with similar sets of principles. AWS and Azure use the “pillar” metaphor, and in fact, the pillars are almost identically named:

While at first it is somewhat amusing to note these similarities (did Azure just ctrl+c?), it is reassuring that between the major cloud providers, all can agree what components comprise the best architecture. Better yet, they are providing ever-improving resources, training, assessments and support for their users to learn and apply these best practices.

Who Should Use the Azure Well-Architected Framework – and How to Get Started

Speaking of users – which ones are these architecture frameworks for? In their announcement, Azure noted the shifting of responsibility of security, operations, and cost management from centralized teams toward the workload owner. While the truth of this statement will depend on the organization, we have recognized this shift as well

So while Azure’s framework is aimed largely at new Azure users and/or new applications, we would recommend every Azure user skim the table of contents and take the well-architected review assessment. The assessment takes the form of a multiple-choice “quiz”. At the end of the assessment, you are given a score and results on a scale from 1 to 100. You are also linked to next steps with detailed articles for each question where there is room for improvement. This assessment is worth the time (and won’t take much of it), giving you a straightforward action plan. 

There is also a set of Microsoft Learn pathways that should take about six hours to complete. 

Cloud Cost Optimization Pillar Comparison

The architecture resources provided by Google Cloud are much briefer than AWS and Azure’s frameworks, and they combine performance and cost optimization into one principle, so it’s not surprising several topics are missing – including any discussion of governance or ownership of cost. AWS focuses on this the most, particularly with the new section on cloud financial management, but Azure certainly also discusses organizational structure, governance, centralization, tagging, and policies. We appreciate the stages of cost optimization Azure uses, from design, to provisioning, to monitoring, to optimizing. 

All three cloud providers have similar recommendations in cost optimization regarding scalable design, using tagging for cost governance and visibility, using the most efficient resource cost models, and rightsizing. 

Azure puts it this way: cost is important, but you should seek to achieve balance between all the pillars. Shoring up any of the other pillars will almost always increase costs. Invest in security first, then performance, then reliability. Operational excellence can increase or decrease costs. Cost optimization will always be important for any organization in public cloud, but it does not stand alone. 

AWS vs. Azure vs. Google Cloud Governance Models

AWS vs. Azure vs. Google Cloud Governance Models

The deliverability of cloud governance models has improved as public cloud usage continues to grow and mature. These models allow large enterprises to tier and scale their AWS Accounts, Azure Subscriptions and Google Projects across hundreds and thousands of cloud users and services. When we first started talking to customers 5+ years ago, mostly AWS users at the time, they often had a single AWS account for their entire organization and required third-party tools to manage usage and costs by project, line of business or application owner. But now, the “Big 3” cloud providers offer an array of ways for even the largest Fortune 500 enterprises to set up, run and manage their use of the dizzying volume of cloud services.

Why Cloud Governance Models are Important

The main way cloud providers allow cloud administrators to manage and grant access to their services is by leveraging Identity and Access Management (IAM) and providing options for roles and policies that govern both access and usage. IAM lets you grant granular access to specific AWS, Azure and/or Google Cloud resources and helps prevent access to other resources. IAM lets you adopt the security principle of least privilege, where you grant only necessary permissions to access specific resources like VM’s, Databases, Storage, Containers, etc.. With IAM, you manage access control by defining who (identity) has what access (role) for which resource. 

In ParkMyCloud, we apply this with Teams and Roles. Admins can create Teams (equivalent to Projects, Applications, or Lines of Business) and can invite a Team Lead to manage that PMC Team, and they can in turn grant users access and set permissions for them, which can then by automated based on policies, usually by leveraging tags but you can use other metadata as well. 

What if you want more flexibility with the cloud providers to both manage user access and to more tightly align your cloud services and usage to your organizational structure, projects and applications? Each of the major providers has designed ways for large enterprises to implement a hierarchical usage of cloud users and services that probably can look very similar to that enterprises organization chart. (If you can understand their jargon.)

How AWS, Azure, and Google Apply Cloud Governance Models

We dug into AWS, Azure and Google and this is what we found:

  • Amazon Web Services (AWS)
    • Tier 1: AWS Organization
      • Tier 2: Organization Unit
        • Tier 3: AWS Accounts
          • Tier 4: Tags

  • Microsoft Azure
    • Tier 1: Azure Enterprise Portal
      • Tier 2: Departments
        • Tier 3: Accounts
          • Tier 4: Subscriptions
            • Tier 5: Resource Groups
              • Tier 6: Tags

  • Google Cloud
    • Tier 1: Organization
      • Tier 2: Folders
        • Tier 3: Projects
          • Tier 4: Resources
            • Tier 6: Tags

Tips for implementing Cloud Governance Models:

  1. Research and attend web sessions on these cloud governance models to ensure you understand the nuance
  2. Implement your cloud provider’s latest hierarchies and governance models prior to mainstream cloud adoption in your organization
  3. Make sure you run the hierarchies you plan to implement by CloudOps, ITOps, DevOps and FinOps to ensure proper organizational mapping and reporting

The cloud providers have done a pretty good job of documenting their roles, policies and hierarchies and creating a graphical representation of their current hierarchical structures cloud governance models. Of course, none of them use the same terminology – I mean, why would you, too easy, right? (And why does Google rank a ‘Folder’ above a ‘Project’? )

With these options available to you, your cloud operations team can make sure to use this to your advantage when planning new resources, accounts, and use cases within your organization. Let us know your thoughts and if you use any of these models to improve your cloud usage.

Your Guide to Microsoft Ignite 2020: Now Free, Online, and Split in Two

Your Guide to Microsoft Ignite 2020: Now Free, Online, and Split in Two

As we look forward to this year’s Microsoft Ignite 2020, we can’t help but also reflect on our first visit to the sold-out live event last year. Part of the live conference experience is the fun surrounding meeting new people, having conversations, attending sessions, spending some time at the expo hall meeting vendors, checking out product demos, plus the swag and cool prizes. However, Microsoft Ignite 2020 is going to look a little bit different this year in its new format as a free digital event. 

September is Only The First Part of Ignite

In response to the current global health crisis, Microsoft announced that Ignite, its conference for developers and IT professionals, will follow the company’s other upcoming events and shift to a digital-only format, instead of the in-person conference scheduled to be held in New Orleans. In addition, Microsoft will split Ignite into two events. The first event will take place on September 22-24, while the second one is planned for early 2021.

Announcements, Speakers, and More!

Microsoft has yet to release the full agenda for Ignite, but one thing it has revealed is the introduction of TableTalks and TableTopics to drive community conversation during the digital event. TableTopics will feature multiple tables with designated topics hosted on the Microsoft tech community where you can comment on a conversation or start your own. It will use a built-in AI translation to enable a global conversation giving everyone the opportunity to network between peers around the world. And, TableTalks will be hosted by a moderator for face-to-face conversations (a.k.a. team meetings) for a real-time conversation over video chat.

You can expect in-depth sessions on how to use Azure, Teams, GitHub, and other Microsoft assets, new capabilities across its major platforms to enhance cloud computing and productivity and cover topics such as: 


How to Get the Most Out of Digital-Only events

Last year Microsoft announced Azure Arc, Azure Synapse Analytics, along with other updated capabilities in Azure, and Power Platform, so while you wait for this year’s digital event, you can revisit last year’s event highlights and sessions now available on-demand from the MyIgnite community website. 

Microsoft plans to make all events digital-only at least through mid-2021. Earlier this year, Build, Microsoft’s annual developer conference, was also held in a virtual-only event with a focus on practical tools, services, and resources for developers, with some sessions live and others pre-recorded as well as their partner conference Inspire.

While it won’t be the same as a live event, here are a few ways to maximize the experience:

  • Create a schedule – block off the full days in your calendar now, so you don’t get overbooked with meetings. Once the schedule is released, plan in advance which sessions you’ll attend and put them on your calendar. 
  • Find a watch party – it can actually be easier with a digital event to find other folks to discuss and chat with. If coworkers are tuning in, create a Teams or Slack channel to chat about sessions and announcements. Or, use the #MSIgnite hashtag on Twitter. Many local meetup groups will have their own mechanisms to watch together. And don’t count out Reddit groups and other forums.
  • Look for offers from would-be sponsors – if there are Microsoft product/service-related vendors you’re interested in, sign up for their mailing lists now. There will likely be many online swag/prize giveaways to make up for the loss of the conference hall, which can be a fun way to win cool stuff and of course, learn about potential solutions. (You can always unsubscribe!) We’ll keep an eye out for giveaways and update here. 

The registration is set to open on September 3rd, you can check Ignite’s website for more updates. Both Ignite and Build are expected to once again be hosted virtually for the earlier part of 2021.

Azure Classic vs. ARM VMs: It’s Time to Migrate

Azure Classic vs. ARM VMs: It’s Time to Migrate

We get requests from customers occasionally about whether ParkMyCloud can manage Microsoft Azure Classic vs. ARM VMs. Short answer: no. Since Azure has already announced the deprecation of Azure classic resources – albeit not until March 2023 – you’ll find similar answers from other third-party services. Microsoft advises only to use resource manager VMs. And in fact, unless you already had classic VMs as of February 2020, you are not able to create new classic VMs. 

As of February, though, 10% of IaaS VMs still used the classic deployment model – so there are a lot of users with workloads that need to be migrated in order to use third-party tools, new services, and avoid 2023 deprecation.  

Azure Classic vs. ARM VM Comparison

Azure Classic and Azure Resource Manager (ARM) are two different deployment models for Azure VMs. In the classic model, resources exist independently, without groups for applications. In the classic deployment model, resource states, policies, and tags are all managed individually. If you need to delete resources, you do so individually. This quickly becomes a management challenge, with individual VMs liable to be left running, or untagged, or with the wrong access permissions. 

Azure Resource Manager, on the other hand, provides a deployment model that allows you to manage resources in groups, which are typically divided by application with sub-groups for production and non-production, although you can use whatever groupings make sense for your workloads. Groups can consist of VMs, storage, virtual networks, web apps, databases, and/or database servers. This allows you to maintain consistent role-based access controls, tagging, cost management policies, and to create dependencies between resources so they’re deployed in the correct order. Read more: how to use Azure Resource Groups for better VM management.

How to Migrate to Azure Resource Manager VMs

For existing classic VMs that you wish to migrate to ARM, Azure recommends planning and a lab test in advance. There are four ways to migrate various resources:

  • Migration of VMs, not in a virtual network – they will need to be on a virtual network on ARM, so you can choose a new or existing virtual network. These VMs will need to be restarted as part of the migration.
  • Migration of VMs in a virtual network – these VMs do not need to be restarted and applications will not incur downtime, as only the metadata is migrating – the underlying VMs run on the same hardware, in the same network, and with the same storage. 
  • Migration of storage accounts – you can deploy Resource Manager VMs in a classic storage account, so that compute and network resources can be migrated independently of storage. Then, migrate over storage accounts.
  • Migration of unattached resources – the following may be migrated independently: storage accounts with no associated disks or VMs, and network security groups, route tables, and reserved IPs that are not attached to VMs or networks. 

There are a few methods you can choose to migrate:

We recommend that you move toward ARM resources and eliminate or migrate classic resources as soon as you can. Farewell, classic!

AWS vs Azure vs Google Free Tier Comparison

AWS vs Azure vs Google Free Tier Comparison

Whether you’re new to public cloud altogether or already use one provider and are interested in trying another, you may be interested in a comparison of the AWS vs Azure vs Google free tier.  The big three cloud providers – AWS, Azure and Google Cloud – each have a free tier available that’s designed to give users the cloud experience without all the costs. They include free trial versions of numerous services so users can test out different products and learn how they work before they make a huge commitment. While they may only cover a small environment, it’s a good way to learn more about each cloud provider. For all of the cloud providers, the free trials are available to only new users.

AWS Free Tier Offerings

AWS free tier includes more than 60 products. There are two different types of free options that are available depending on the product used: always free and 12 months free. To help customers get started on AWS, the services that fall under the free 12-months are for new trial customers and give customers the ability to use the products for free (up to a specific level of usage) for one year from the date the account was created. Keep in mind that once the free 12 months are up, your services will start to be charged at the normal rate. Be prepared and review this checklist of things to do when you outgrow the AWS free tier. 

Azure Free Tier Offerings

The Azure equivalent of a free tier is referred to as a free account. As a new user in Azure, you’re given a $200 credit that has to be used in the first 30 days after activating your account. When you’ve used up the credit or 30 days have expired, you’ll have to upgrade to a paid account if you wish to continue using certain products. Ensure that you have a plan to reduce Azure costs in place. If you don’t need the paid products, there’s also the always free option. 

Some of the ways people choose to use their free account are to gain insights from their data, test and deploy enterprise apps, create custom mobile experiences and more. 

Google Cloud Free Tier Offerings

The Google Cloud Free Tier is essentially an extended free trial that gives you access to free cloud resources so you can learn about Google Cloud services by trying them on your own. 

The Google Cloud Free Tier has two parts – a 90 day free trial with a $300 credit to use with any Google Cloud services and always free, which provides limited access to many common Google Cloud resources, free of charge. Google Cloud gives you a little more time with your credit than Azure, you get the full 90 days of the free trial to use your credit. Unlike free trials from the other cloud providers, Google does not automatically charge you once the trial ends – this way you’re guaranteed that the free tier is actually 100% free. Keep in mind that your trial ends after 90 days or once you’ve exhausted the $300 credit. Any usage beyond the free monthly usage limits are covered by the $300 free credit – you must upgrade to a paid account to continue using Google Cloud. 

Free Tier Limitations

It’s important to note that the always-free services vary widely between the cloud providers and there are usage limitations. Keep in mind the cloud providers’ motivations: they want you to get attached to the services so you start paying for them. So, be aware of the limits before you spin up any resources, and don’t be surprised by any charges. 

In AWS, when your free tier expires or if your application use exceeds the free tier limits, you pay standard, pay-as-you-go service rates. Azure and Google both offer credits for new users that start a free trial, which are a handy way to set a spending limit. However, costs can get a little tricky if you aren’t paying attention. Once the credits have been used you’ll have to upgrade your account if you wish to continue using the products. Essentially, the credit that was acting as a spending limit is automatically removed so whatever you use beyond the free amounts, you will now have to pay for. In Google Cloud, there is a cap on the number of virtual CPUs you can use at once – and you can’t add GPUs or use Windows Server instances.

For 12 months after you upgrade your account, certain amounts of popular products are free. After 12 months, unless decommissioned, any products you may be using will continue to run, and you’ll be billed at the standard pay-as-you-go rates.

Another limitation is that commercial software and operating system licenses typically aren’t available under the free tiers.

These offerings are “use it or lose it” – if you don’t use all your credits or utilize all your usage, there will be no rollover into future months. 

Popular Services, Products, and Tools to Check Out for Free

AWS has 33 products that fall under the one-year free tier – here are some of the most popular: 

  • Amazon EC2 Compute: 750 hours per month of compute time, per month of Linux, RHEL, SLES t2.micro or t3.micro instance and Windows t2.micro or t3.micro instance dependent on region.
  • Amazon S3 Storage: 5GB of standard storage
  • Amazon RDS Database: 750 hours per month of db.t2.micro database usage using MySQL, PostgreSQL, MariaDB, Oracle BYOL, or SQL Server, 20 GB of General Purpose (SSD) database storage and 20 GB of storage for database backups and DB Snapshots. 

For the always-free option, you’ll find a number of products as well, some of these include:

  • AWS Lambda: 1 million free compute requests per month and up to 3.2 million seconds of compute time per month.
  • Amazon DynamoDB: 25 GB of database storage per month, enough to handle up to 200M requests per month.
  • Amazon CloudWatch: 10 custom metrics and alarms per month, 1,000,000 API requests, 5GB of Log Data Ingestion and Log Data Archive and 3 Dashboards with up to 50 metrics.

Azure has 19 products that are free each month for 12 months – here are some of the most popular:

  • Linux and Windows virtual machines: 750 hours (using B1S VM) of compute time 
  • Managed Disk Storage: 64 GB x 2 (P6 SSD) 
  • Blob Storage: 5GB (LRS hot block) 
  • File Storage: 5GB (LRS File Storage) 
  • SQL databases: 250 GB

For their always free offerings, you’ll find even more popular products – here are a few:

  • Azure Kubernetes Service: no charge for cluster management, you only pay for the virtual machines and the associated storage and networking resources consumed.
  • Azure DevOps: 5 users for open source projects and small projects (with unlimited private Git repos). For larger teams, the cost ranges from $6-$90 per month.
  • Azure Cosmos DB (400 RU/s provisioned throughput)

Unlike AWS and Azure, Google Cloud does not have a 12 months free offerings. However, Google Cloud does still have a free tier with a wide range of always free services – some of the most popular ones include:

  • Google BigQuery: 1 TB of queries and 10 GB of storage per month.
  • Kubernetes Engine: One zonal cluster per month
  • Google Compute Engine: 1 f1-micro instance per month only in U.S. regions. 30 GB-months HDD, 5 GB-months snapshot in certain regions and 1 GB of outbound network data from North America to all region destinations per month.
  • Google Cloud Storage: 5 GB of regional storage per month, only in the US. 5,000 Class A, and 50,000 Class B operations, and 1 GB  of outbound network data from North America to all region destinations per month.

 

Check out these blog posts on free credits for each cloud provider to see how you can start saving: