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In the first half of this article, we’ll present complete Microsoft Azure SQL Database pricing options in a tabular format  – and we’ll explain the concepts behind the pricing along with administrative best practices in the second half.

Microsoft Azure SQL Database is offered as part of Microsoft Azure’s public cloud platform, and allows developers to utilize an intelligent and scalable relational database service. It conforms to all the characteristics of a genuine cloud service, one being that you only have to pay for what you use.

Azure SQL Pricing

Estimating Microsoft Azure SQL Database pricing can be challenging due to the multiple configurations available. For illustration, consider the following options to get an idea of how many permutations there are:

  • 2 purchase models: DTU (Database Transaction Unit), vCore (Virtual Core)
  • 3 deployment models: Single Database, Elastic Pool, Managed Instance
  • 3 service tiers: General Purpose, Business Critical, Hyperscale
  • 2 compute models: Provisioned, Serverless
  • 4 hardware types: Gen 5, DC-Series, Fsv2-seres, M-Series
Map of Available Options for Azure SQL

The number of choices available can be overwhelming at first. We recommend starting your cost optimization exercise by first starting with what your requirements are. Once you have a clear understanding of what you need, you can use the Azure SQL Database pricing page filter shown in the following image to narrow down the various options.

Azure SQL Pricing Page

Azure SQL Database Single Database Pricing

DTU Pricing

Service TierNameDTUsIncluded StorageMax StoragePrice per Hour
BasicB52 GB2 GB$0.0068/hour
StandardS010250 GB250 GB$0.0202/hour
StandardS120250 GB250 GB$0.0404/hour
StandardS250250 GB250 GB$0.1009/hour
StandardS3100250 GB1 TB$0.2017/hour
StandardS4200250 GB1 TB$0.4033/hour
StandardS6400250 GB1 TB$0.8066/hour
StandardS7800250 GB1 TB$1.6130/hour
StandardS91,600250 GB1 TB$3.2260/hour
StandardS123,000250 GB1 TB$6.0488/hour
PremiumP1125500 GB1 TB$0.6251/hour
PremiumP2250500 GB1 TB$1.2500/hour
PremiumP4500500 GB1 TB$2.5000/hour
PremiumP61,000500 GB1 TB$5.0000/hour
PremiumP111,7504 TB4 TB$9.4088/hour
PremiumP154,0004 TB4 TB$21.5054/hour

vCore Provisioned Compute Pricing

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Gen 5 Hardware Type

vCoreMemoryGeneral PurposeLocally Redundant Cost per HourGeneral PurposeZone Redundant Cost per HourBusiness Critical Cost per HourHyperscale Cost per Hour
210.2 GB$0.5044/hour$0.6871/hour$1.3589/hour$0.5653/hour
420.4 GB$1.0088/hour$1.3741/hour$2.7178/hour$1.1306/hour
630.6 GB$1.5131/hour$2.0611/hour$4.0767/hour$1.6958/hour
840.8 GB$2.0175/hour$2.7482/hour$5.4355/hour$2.2611/hour
1051.0 GB$2.5219/hour$3.4352/hour$6.7944/hour$2.8263/hour
1261.2 GB$3.0262/hour$4.1222/hour$8.1533/hour$3.3916/hour
1471.4 GB$3.5306/hour$4.8092/hour$9.5121/hour$3.9568/hour
1681.6 GB$4.0350/hour$5.4963/hour$10.8710/hour$4.5221/hour
1891.8 GB$4.5393/hour$6.1833/hour$12.2299/hour$5.0873/hour
20102.0 GB$5.0437/hour$6.8703/hour$13.5887/hour$5.6526/hour
24122.4 GB$6.0524/hour$8.2444/hour$16.3065/hour$6.7831/hour
32163.2 GB$8.0699/hour$7.7936/hour$21.7420/hour$9.0441/hour
40204.0 GB$10.0874/hour$13.7406/hour$27.1774/hour$11.3051/hour
80396.0 GB$20.1747/hour$27.4811/hour$54.3548/hour$22.6101/hour

DC-series Hardware Type

vCoreMemoryGeneral PurposeLocally Redundant Cost per HourGeneral PurposeZone Redundant Cost per HourBusiness CriticalCost per HourHyperscaleCost per Hour
29 GB$0.8830/hourNot Available$2.116/hour$1.8400/hour
418 GB$1.7659/hourNot Available$4.233/hour$6.9599/hour
627 GB$2.6498/hourNot Available$6.349/hour$15.3598/hour
836 GB$3.5328/hourNot Available$8.466/hour$27.0318/hour

Fsv2-series Hardware Type

vCoreMemoryGeneral PurposeLocally Redundant Cost per HourGeneral PurposeZone Redundant Cost per HourBusiness CriticalCost per HourHyperscaleCost per Hour
815.1 GB$1.8684/hourNot AvailableNot AvailableNot Available
1018.9 GB$2.3355/hourNot AvailableNot AvailableNot Available
1222.7 GB$2.8026/hourNot AvailableNot AvailableNot Available
1426.5 GB$3.2697/hourNot AvailableNot AvailableNot Available
1630.2 GB$3.7368/hourNot AvailableNot AvailableNot Available
1834.0 GB$4.2039/hourNot AvailableNot AvailableNot Available
2037.8 GB$4.6710/hourNot AvailableNot AvailableNot Available
2445.4 GB$5.6052/hourNot AvailableNot AvailableNot Available
3260.5 GB$7.4735/hourNot AvailableNot AvailableNot Available
3668.0 GB$8.4077/hourNot AvailableNot AvailableNot Available
72136 GB$16.8154/hourNot AvailableNot AvailableNot Available 

M-series Hardware Type

vCoreMemoryGeneral PurposeLocally Redundant Cost per HourGeneral PurposeZone Redundant Cost per HourBusiness CriticalCost per HourHyperscaleCost per Hour
8235.4 GBNot AvailableNot Available$16.4303/hourNot Available
10294.3 GBNot AvailableNot Available$20.5379/hourNot Available
12353.2 GBNot AvailableNot Available$24.6454/hourNot Available
14412.0 GBNot AvailableNot Available$28.7530/hourNot Available
16470.9 GBNot AvailableNot Available$32.8605/hourNot Available
18529.7 GBNot AvailableNot Available$36.9681/hourNot Available
20588.6 GBNot AvailableNot Available$41.0757/hourNot Available
24706.3 GBNot AvailableNot Available$49.2908/hourNot Available
32941.8 GBNot AvailableNot Available$65.7210/hourNot Available
641.839 TBNot AvailableNot Available$131.4420/hourNot Available
1283.678 TBNot AvailableNot Available$262.884/hourNot Available

vCore Serverless Compute Pricing

Minimum vCoresMaximum vCoresMinimum MemoryMaximum MemoryPrice
0.5402.02 GB120 GB$0.0001450/vCore-second($0.5218/vCore-hour)

Azure SQL Database Elastic Pool Pricing

DTU Pricing

Service TiereDTUs per PoolIncluded Storage per PoolMax Storage per PoolMax no. of Database per PoolMax eDTUs per DatabasePrice per Hour
Basic505 GB5 GB1005$0.1009/hour
Basic10010 GB10 GB2005$0.2017/hour
Basic20020 GB20 GB5005$0.4034/hour
Basic30029 GB29 GB5005$0.6051/hour
Basic40039 GB39 GB5005$0.8067/hour
Basic80078 GB78 GB5005$1.6134/hour
Basic1,200117 GB117 GB5005$2.4200/hour
Basic1,600156 GB156 GB5005$3.2267/hour
Standard5050 GB500 GB10050$0.1511/hour
Standard100100 GB750 GB200100$0.3021/hour
Standard200200 GB1 TB500200$0.6042/hour
Standard300300 GB1.25 TB500300$0.9063/hour
Standard400400 GB1.5 TB500400$1.2084/hour
Standard800800 GB2 TB500800$2.4167/hour
Standard1,2001.17 TB2.5 TB5001,200$3.6250/hour
Standard1,6001.56 TB3 TB5001,600$4.8334/hour
Standard2,0001.95 TB3.5 TB5002,000$6.0417/hour
Standard2,5002.44 TB4 TB5002,500$7.5521/hour
Standard3,0002.93 TB4 TB5003,000$9.0626/hour
Premium125250 GB1 TB50125$0.9376/hour
Premium250500 GB1 TB100250$1.8750/hour
Premium500750 GB1 TB100500$3.7500/hour
Premium1,0001 TB1 TB1001,000$7.5001/hour
Premium1,5001.5 TB1.5 TB1001,000$11.2500/hour
Premium2,0002 TB2 TB1001,750$15.0000/hour
Premium2,5002.5 TB2.5 TB1001,750$18.7500/hour
Premium3,0003 TB3 TB1001,750$22.5000/hour
Premium3,5003.5 TB3.5 TB1001,750$26.2500/hour
Premium4,0004 TB4 TB1004,000$30.0000/hour

vCore Provisioned Compute Pricing

Gen 5 Hardware Type

vCoreMemoryGeneral PurposeMax no. of Databases per PoolBusiness Critical Max no. of Databases per PoolGeneral PurposeLocally Redundant Cost per HourGeneral PurposeZone Redundant Cost per HourBusiness Critical Cost per Hour
210.2 GB100Not Available$0.5044/hour$0.6871/hourNot Available
420.4 GB20050$1.0088/hour$1.3741/hour$2.7178/hour
630.6 GB500100$1.5131/hour$2.0611/hour$4.0767/hour
840.8 GB500100$2.0175/hour$2.7482/hour$5.4355/hour
1051.0 GB500100$2.5219/hour$3.4352/hour$6.7944/hour
1261.2 GB500100$3.0262/hour$4.1222/hour$8.1533/hour
1471.4 GB500100$3.5306/hour$4.8092/hour$9.5121/hour
1681.6 GB500100$4.0350/hour$5.4963/hour$10.8710/hour
1891.8 GB500100$4.5393/hour$6.1833/hour$12.2299/hour
20102.0 GB500100$5.0437/hour$6.8703/hour$13.5887/hour
24122.4 GB500100$6.0524/hour$8.2444/hour$16.3065/hour
32163.2 GB500100$8.0699/hour$10.9925/hour$21.7420/hour
40204.0 GB500100$10.0874/hour$13.7406/hour$27.1774/hour
80396.0 GB500100$20.1747/hour$27.4811/hour$54.3548/hour

DC-series Hardware Type

vCoreMemoryGeneral PurposeLocally Redundant Cost per HourGeneral PurposeZone Redundant Cost per HourBusiness CriticalCost per Hour
29 GB$0.8830/hourNot Available$2.116/hour
418 GB$1.7659/hourNot Available$4.233/hour
627 GB$3.3328/hourNot Available$6.349/hour
836 GB$2.8498/hourNot Available$8.466/hour

Fsv2-series Hardware Type

vCoreMemoryGeneral PurposeLocally Redundant Cost per HourGeneral PurposeZone Redundant Cost per HourBusiness CriticalCost per Hour
815.1 GB$1.8684/hourNot AvailableNot Available
1018.9 GB$2.3355/hourNot AvailableNot Available
1222.7 GB$2.8026/hourNot AvailableNot Available
1426.5 GB$3.2697/hourNot AvailableNot Available
1630.2 GB$3.7368/hourNot AvailableNot Available
1834.0 GB$4.2039/hourNot AvailableNot Available
2037.8 GB$4.6710/hourNot AvailableNot Available
2445.4 GB$5.6052/hourNot AvailableNot Available
3260.5 GB$7.4735/hourNot AvailableNot Available
3668.0 GB$8.4077/hourNot AvailableNot Available
72136 GB$16.8154/hourNot AvailableNot Available

M-series Hardware Type

vCoreMemoryBusiness Critical Max no. of Databases per PoolGeneral PurposeLocally Redundant Cost per HourGeneral PurposeZone Redundant Cost per HourBusiness CriticalCost per Hour
8235.4 GB100Not AvailableNot Available$16.4303/hour
10294.3 GB100Not AvailableNot Available$20.5379/hour
12353.2 GB100Not AvailableNot Available$24.6454/hour
14412.0 GB100Not AvailableNot Available$28.7530/hour
16470.9 GB100Not AvailableNot Available$32.8605/hour
18529.7 GB100Not AvailableNot Available$36.9681/hour
20588.6 GB100Not AvailableNot Available$41.0757/hour
24706.3 GB100Not AvailableNot Available$49.2908/hour
32941.8 GB100Not AvailableNot Available$65.7210/hour
641.839 TB100Not AvailableNot Available$131.4420/hour
1283.678 TB100Not AvailableNot Available$262.884/hour

Azure SQL Database Managed Instance Pricing

vCore Pricing – Single Instance

Gen 5 Hardware Type

vCoreMemoryIncluded StoragePrice per Hour
420.4 GBFirst 32 GB per month$1.01/hour
840.8 GBFirst 32 GB per month$2.02/hour
1681.6 GBFirst 32 GB per month$4.04/hour
24122.4 GBFirst 32 GB per month$6.06/hour
32163.2 GBFirst 32 GB per month$8.07/hour
40204.0 GBFirst 32 GB per month$10.09/hour
64326.4 GBFirst 32 GB per month$16.14/hour
80396.0 GBFirst 32 GB per month$20.18/hour

vCore Pricing – Instance Pools

Gen 5 Hardware Type

vCoreMemoryIncluded StoragePrice per Hour
840.8 GBFirst 32 GB per instance per month$2.02/hour
1681.6 GBFirst 32 GB per instance per month$4.04/hour
24122.4 GBFirst 32 GB per instance per month$6.06/hour
32163.2 GBFirst 32 GB per instance per month$8.07/hour
40204.0 GBFirst 32 GB per instance per month$10.09/hour
64326.4 GBFirst 32 GB per instance per month$16.14/hour
80396.0 GBFirst 32 GB per instance per month$20.18/hour

Microsoft Azure SQL Database Pricing Concepts

Selecting the correct Microsoft Azure SQL Database pricing model for your solution can be challenging. With so many options and variations available, choosing the right combination of deployment model, purchase model, compute tier, service tier, and hardware type is complicated. However, understanding what each of these components offers can help you determine your solution’s best configuration.

Azure SQL Deployment Models

If you want to leverage Microsoft Azure SQL Database as your database solution, you can choose between three deployment models.

  • Single Database: The single database resource type creates a database with its own set of resources that you manage via a server.
  • Elastic Pool: The elastic pool deployment model offers auto-scaling of database resources (either vCore or DTU) that are shared among multiple databases. Administrators set a minimum and maximum for the entire pool according to their budget, and also set a minimum and maximum for resource usage for each database, and then simply pay by the hour of total usage.
  • Managed Instance: The Azure SQL Managed Instance deployment model offers the best compatibility benefits and licensing flexibility designed to incentivize migration from on-premise environments. A fully-featured SQL solution running on an Azure VM is compatible with the latest on-prem SQL Server Enterprise Edition, and offers automatic patching, backups, and high availability.
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Azure SQL Purchase Models

Azure SQL Database offers two purchase models for the Single Database and Elastic Pool deployment options: Database Transaction Unit (DTU) and vCore. The Managed Instance deployment model does not have DTU as an option and only offers vCore.

The difference between the two models are the resources provisioned.

  • DTU: bundles compute and storage resources. A DTU represents a composite measure of CPU, memory, reads, and writes.
  • vCore: allows you to provide an exact amount of computing resources via the provisioned compute model.

Azure SQL Compute Tiers

If you choose to leverage the vCore purchase model for the Single Database deployment option, you can opt for Provisioned or Serverless. Note that these compute tiers are only available for this deployment model. The Elastic Pool and Managed Instance deployment models only offer a provisioned solution. The table below outlines the recommended usage, scaling, and billing scenarios for each tier.

 ProvisionedServerless
Usage ScenarioRegular usage patterns with higher compute utilization over time.Irregular, unpredictable usage patterns with lower average compute utilization over time.
ScalingManual  (Managed by Customer)Automatic (Managed by Azure)
BillingPer hourPer second

Azure SQL Service Tiers

vCore Service Tiers

Microsoft Azure SQL Database offers three service tiers under its vCore purchase model: General Purpose, Business Critical, and Hyperscale. However, depending on the deployment you select, not every option is available. The table below correlates the availability of each service tier with the relevant deployment model.

 Single DatabaseElastic PoolManaged Instance
General PurposeAvailableAvailableAvailable
Business CriticalAvailableAvailableAvailable
HyperscaleAvailableNot AvailableNot Available

Each tier offers various performance and SLA guarantees. The option you choose depends on your business requirements. As with every other Azure service, the higher the performance and SLA, the higher the cost.

  • General Purpose: This tier is the default selection for Single Database and Managed Instance. It offers a fully managed database engine with a 99.99% SLA and storage latency between 5 ms and 10 ms.
  • Business Critical: This tier offers better performance than the General Purpose option. It has an SLA of 99.995% and storage latency of between 1ms and 2ms.
  • Hyperscale: The Hyperscale tier leverages highly scalable storage and compute performance. It offers support for databases of 100TB in size, much faster backups and restores, faster log throughput and transaction commit times, and rapid scale-up and scale-out.

DTU Service Tiers

The Single Instance and Elastic Pool deployment models offer a DTU purchase model in addition to vCore. As with the vCore option, the DTU alternative offers three service tiers: Basic, Standard, and Premium. As mentioned previously, a DTU is a blended measure of CPU, memory, reads, and writes. The following table from Microsoft details the features of each DTU service tier.

 BasicStandardPremium
Target workloadDevelopment and ProductionDevelopment and ProductionDevelopment and Production
Uptime SLA99.99%99.99%99.99%
CPULowLow, Medium, HighMedium, High
Maximum Backup Retention7 days35 days35 days
IOPS (approximate)1 to 4 IOPS per DTU1 to 4 IOPS per DTU25 IOPS per DTU
IO latency (approximate)5 ms read, 10 ms write5 ms read, 10 ms write2 ms read and write
Columnstore indexingNot AvailableS3 and aboveSupported
In-memory OLTPNot AvailableNot AvailableSupported

Azure SQL Hardware Types

All three Azure SQL deployment options offer a vCore purchase model. As with the service tiers, you can also select the hardware that will host your Azure SQL database solution. There are four hardware types. However, the options available depend on the service tier and deployment model selected.

  • Gen 5: The Gen 5 hardware type provides a balance between compute and memory resources. It is suitable for most data workloads that do not require higher memory or CPU.
  • Fsv2-series: The Fsv2-series is compute-optimized. It delivers lower CPU latency and higher clock speeds. This hardware type is ideal for compute-intensive data workloads.
  • M-series: The M-series is memory-optimized. It offers 29 GB per vCore, increasing the memory limit relative to a Gen 5 by a factor of eight.
  • DC-series: The DC-series is ideal for secure workloads. It uses Intel processors with Software Guard Extension technology. Like Gen 5, it offers a balance between compute and memory.

Azure SQL Cost Optimization

As with all Azure services, optimizing your Microsoft Azure SQL Database can help you increase efficiency while reducing cost. Azure offers several pricing and configuration options that ensure you get the most resources for every dollar spent.

Pricing Options

When configuring your Azure SQL Database solution, Microsoft offers various pricing options. These include Reserved Capacity and the Azure Hybrid Benefit.

Reserved Capacity

Azure Reserved Capacity can reduce the compute cost of your Azure SQL significantly. However, this cost-saving feature is only available for the vCore Gen 5 options. Savings can range from 16% to 33%, depending on the service tier and Reserved Capacity commitment length. For example, on a vCore Gen 5 General Purpose configuration, a one-year commitment can save you 21% and a three-year commitment 33%. If you upgrade your service tier to Business Critical, the savings are 16% for one-year and 25% for a three-year commitment.

Azure Hybrid Benefit

The Azure Hybrid Benefit is another cost-saving option that can reduce your Azure SQL costs. By leveraging the licensing from an Enterprise Agreement’s Software Assurance, you can realize savings of up to 55% depending on the hardware type and service tier. Azure Hybrid Benefit discounts are available for all vCore hardware types. However, this discount is not an option if you select the DTU purchasing model.

Configuration Options

Besides the various direct cost-saving options, you can also optimize your Azure SQL solution by configuring it efficiently. Using the correct combination of deployment model, purchase model, compute tier, service tier, and hardware type can provide you with the performance you need and deliver it and the lowest possible cost.

Deployment Options

If your solution does not need a dedicated Azure SQL server, then opting for the Elastic Pool deployment model is a better cost option. As you are only paying for the resources you use, this option is highly cost-effective for intermittent or ad hoc data workloads.

Service Tier Options

Both the DTU and vCore purchase models offer various service tiers. Each tier offers different performance and cost features, with the premium or business-critical ones being the most expensive. Selecting the tier that best matches your business requirements is vital. For example, choosing the business-critical or premium tier for a dev/test environment is far from the ideal SQL optimization scenario.

Compute Tier Options

The vCore purchase model allows you to select either a provisioned or serverless compute tier. If your Azure SQL Database workload has irregular, unpredictable usage patterns with lower average compute utilization over time, then this option can also deliver significant cost savings. As you only pay for the resources you use, and billing is per second instead of per hour, selecting the serverless compute option increases the efficiency of your Azure SQL spend.

Hardware Types

The vCore purchase model offers four different hardware types. Depending on the option you choose, prices can vary significantly. For example, the FsV2-series and M-series are not as cost-effective as the Gen 5.

In addition to selecting the correct hardware type, choosing the vCore option that best matches your requirement can also reduce your Azure spend. For example, opting for an 8 vCore solution when your needs do not exceed 6 cores and 30 GB is an inefficient use of resources.

Storage

Storage is often one of the more significant portions of a subscription’s Azure spend. As this component makes up a considerable part of any Azure SQL solution, optimizing the storage you utilize is vital in containing costs. Good database hygiene, such as archiving off older data and storing it on more cost-effective alternatives, should form part of any Azure SQL optimization exercise.

Best Practices for Administering Azure SQL

Ongoing operational management and maintenance of your Azure SQL environment are vital in ensuring its efficiency and security. Unlike traditional SQL Server deployments that require maintenance tasks that include regular log shrinking, Azure SQL is a Platform as a Service (PaaS), which means Microsoft takes care of the traditional infrastructure tasks for you. However, you should apply a few configuration settings to secure and monitor your Azure SQL solution.

Security

Azure SQL security controls have two major functions: protecting data and controlling access.

Protecting Data with Encryption

Microsoft recommends that you encrypt data on Azure while it is in transit and at rest. You should leverage Transport Layer Security (TLS) while data is moving across networks. If you are using a client to connect to your Azure SQL instance, Tabular Data Stream over TLS is another requirement.

While data is at rest, leveraging Transparent Data Encryption secures it from malicious offline activity. This technology is enabled by default. However, existing Azure SQL databases created before May 2017 and SQL databases created through restore, geo-replication, and database copy are not. Databases residing on a Managed Instance deployment model are also encrypted by default. However, this encryption only applies to databases created after February 2019.

Control Access

Leveraging the principle of least privilege, you should limit direct access to Azure SQL data. Only services and individuals that need to query the information directly should be given the relevant authorization. Microsoft recommends implementing Multi-Factor Authentication where possible and limiting the use of password-based authentication for applications.

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Monitoring

Azure offers several monitoring tools you can use to monitor your Microsoft Azure SQL Database’s efficiency and performance. The option to utilize depends on the metric you need to track. The list below highlights the features of each one.

  • Azure Portal: Navigating to the Resources tab on the Overview Blade can give you insight into CPU, memory, and network performance.
  • Azure SQL Analytics: This tool that runs with Azure Monitor helps you track all your Azure SQL databases’ performance across multiple subscriptions. It provides you with a single view collecting and visualizing key performance metrics.
  • Activity Logs: This feature also runs on Azure Monitor and provides insight into subscription-level events such as adding, creating, or deleting a database.
  • Azure Security Center: This Azure resource provides a centralized security view of all your Azure resources. It assesses your environment and its configuration and provides recommended actions to remediate any security vulnerabilities. It also raises security-related alerts when it detects an anomaly or when certain activities exceed a particular threshold.
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