I first heard about this edition of SQL Server over a year ago, and at the time I wasn’t sure there was much of a market for it. Microsoft disagreed, and they moved forward, putting this in preview and then finally releasing it this past week. Now you can order and set up an Azure SQL Database Managed Instance. According to Microsoft, this is an edition that is near 100% compatible with on-premises instances. The difference is this is a PaaS option that removes much of the administrative burden for patching, backup, HA, etc.
This seems like a VM that Microsoft manages and you connect to, except this isn’t really a VM. You do not have any access to the host, but you do get the option to have multiple databases and most of the features that don’t exist in Azure SQL Database are here. Keep in mind that near 100% is not 100% and there are limitations, quite a few, which may limit your ability to lift and shift your particular application.
Brent Ozar Unlimited tackled this feature first, putting together quite a few blog posts on the topic. The first one notes that a new instance might take 24 hours to deploy (in the cloud??), and theirs did. In that post, they also discuss the networking, which isn’t necessarily hard, but it’s not as simple as most DBAs and developers are used to. In fact, while reading the post, I recalled memories of my time as a network admin, learning how to migrate from IPX to IP based addressing. For those of you not used to networking terms and configuration, you might want to read about this topic from the experts.
The Azure fabric is managing all the HA behind the scenes, and I’m guessing they’ve got some advanced featuers that might end up in the box product at some point. It seems from reading Brent and Erik’s experiments that you really get a dedicated instance with some CPUs and schedulers turned off it you don’t provision the largest instance. There are new objects inside the instance, which again, might get into the box at some point.
Are Managed Instances for you? Perhaps. Removing this administrative issue might make financial sense for your organization. Not for you, but when you factor in taxes and staff to perform tedious actions, maybe this works. Certainly you should understand if you have an option here for any applications and then present this as an alternative to the business and let them decide if this makes sense. I’m not sold, but I do like the idea of this as a new cloud option. We have public, government, private, hybrid, IaaS, Paas, and SaaS options. This slips somewhere between hybrid and PaaS, giving us more choice, which I do think will work for some organizations.
I don’t know how these will perform, and really none of us do outside of Microsoft. They’ve been testing, and I hope this will work well, failover cleanly, and not be so confusing that customers find themselves misconfiguring networking. However, if you’re using parts of Azure, have AAD implemented, and want to get new instances provisioned that look mostly like what you have in your data center, take a look. Hopefully the provisioning process will smooth out and speed up, since 24 hour notice might be great for some large corporations, but it certainly doesn’t feel like the cloud to me.