Introduction to Windows Azure – Running SQL Server in a Windows Azure Virtual Machine

Again continuing on the series "An introduction to Windo?s Azure" first delivered in this blog, I thought I would further detail leveraging the new Windows Azure Virtual Machines (VM) capabilities.  One of the greatest things about Windows Azure Virtual Machines is that they leverage the capabilities of your storage account, meaning OS and disk drives are automatically persisted in Windows Azure by default and you have the option for geo replication.  This makes the Windows Azure Virtual Machine an ideal solution for migrating your on premise database applications to Windows Azure, without having to modify the application.  In addition, with the exception of a few features during the preview period, which we will discuss further below, you can utilize all of the features available in SQL Server 2012 within the VM.  The support for full SQL Server functionality makes the Windows Azure Virtual Machine an ideal solution for the following database scenarios including:

During the preview period you will have access to an image in the gallery with the SQL Server 2012 Evaluation edition to try out running SQL Server in a Windows Azure VM.  During the preview period, Database Mirroring, Log Shipping, Transaction Replication & Backup Restore features will be supported, however, SQL Server 2012 AlwaysOn Availability Groups and Clustering will not be supported.  By the time Virtual Machines move from a preview state to general availability. AlwaysOn Availability groups will be supported, leaving only the need for Failover Clustering Instance support.  Outside of this one feature, by General Availability of Windows Azure Virtual Machine you will have the full feature and functionality of SQL Server 2012 within Virtual Machines.

The 4 key scenarios for running SQL Server within a Windows Azure Virtual Machine are;

  • Migrating your existing on-premises SQL Server applications

Our enterprise customers today likely have applications that are not yet virtualized and would like to virtualize them.  In moving your existing applications, we recommend starting with your departmental Tier 2 and Tier 3 applications.  If the application is not yet virtualized, you can use System Center 2012 to virtualize the applications to Windows Server Hyper-V .vhd format, alternatively if your application is already virtualized on another virtualization technology you can use System Center 2012 to convert the already virtualized application to Windows Server Hyper-V .vhd format.  Either way System Center 2012 makes this process very easy for you.  Once the application is in the proper format you can either transfer just the database to the Windows Azure Virtual Machine or alternatively move the entire on-premises VHD to the Windows Azure VM. 

  • Developing and testing

For development and testing in a Windows Azure Virtual Machine you start by using the same on-premise SQL Server Data Tools that you are familiar with to develop your application, than you upload the database application to the Virtual Machine and deploy the VM to start testing the application.  You can later decide to take the application back on premise without having to modify the application. 

  • Backing up your on-premises SQL Server databases or entire on-premises virtual machines

To Backup Database or entire VMs to the cloud you start by creating your back up files using SQL Server Management Studio and once the backup files are created you simply transfer them to Windows Azure storage using the Windows Azure Preview Portal.

  • Extending your On-premises Database Applications to Windows Azure Virtual Machines

To extend your on-premises applications to an application running in a Windows Azure Virtual Machine you can take advantage of the new Windows Azure Virtual Network feature that allows you to securely domain join your Windows Azure network running the VM to your on premise network.  This allows you to have seamless authentication for your end user with your existing on premises Active Directory identity store.   This scenario lets you take advantage of the global reach and cost effectiveness of Windows Azure while still being able to comply with any local, industry or corporate data compliance laws.

If you haven’t already, try out the SQL Server 2012 evaluation edition available now in the Windows Azure Virtual Machine preview.   Learn more about the new Windows Azure Virtual Machine here 

In addition you will find the following guides useful for running SQL Server on a Windows Azure Virtual Machine:


Get started today to experience these new capabilities by visiting Azure and clicking on the Free Trial link

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