In an effort to provide an extra level of convenience, we are releasing two features that will simplify the effort to ensure the health of your SQL Virtual Machine and your data. These features, Automated Backup and Automated Patching, automate the processes of backing up and patching your SQL Virtual Machines. Incredibly easy to set up, these features require little input to manage. And these will just be the initial services to be automated.
These services will be available to you for configuring SQL VMs in Azure via Portal and PowerShell. Via PowerShell, you will be able to enable these services for new and existing SQL VMs. In the Azure Portal, you will be able to enable these services when provisioning new VMs.
This service enables you to configure a backup schedule on your SQL Server 2014 Enterprise and Standard Virtual Machines in a very convenient manner while ensuring your data is backed up consistently and safely. Automated Backup is configured to backup all existing and new databases for the default instance of SQL Server. This simplifies the usual process of configuring Managed Backup for new databases and then for each existing database by combining it into one simple automated setup.
This feature is disabled by default, and once it is enabled, requires very little effort to configure. If you do not wish to change the default settings, no work is required beyond enabling the service. If you wish to customize the settings, you can specify the retention period, storage account, and whether you want encryption to be enabled. The retention period, as is standard for Managed Backup, can be anywhere between 1 and 30 days. The storage account defaults to the same storage account as the VM, but can be changed to any other storage account. This provides you with a DR option, allowing you to back up your databases to storage in another datacenter. If you decide to encrypt your backups, an encryption certificate will be generated and saved in the same storage account as the backups. In this scenario, you will also need to enter a password which will be used to protect the encryption certificates used for encrypting and decrypting your backups. This allows you to not worry about your backups beyond the configuration of this feature, and also ensures you can trust that your backups are secure.
You can see a screenshot of what you will see in the Azure Portal here:
Many customers told us that they would like to move their patching schedules off business hours. This feature enables you to do exactly this – define the maintenance window that would keep your patch installs in the range you have specified.
When you look on the settings available for the Automated Patching you could find you are familiar with those, because they mimic settings available from the Windows Update Agent (service that drives patching of your Windows machine). Settings are simple and powerful at the same time. All that you need to define to make sure patches are applied when you want is: day of the week, start of the maintenance window, and duration of the maintenance window. It relies on the Windows Update and the Microsoft Update infrastructure and installs any update that matches the ‘Important’ category for the machine.
This feature allows you to patch your Azure Virtual Machines in effective and predictable way even when those VMs are not joined to any domain and not controlled by any patching infrastructure.
There are a number of ways how you can configure Automated Patching, but the easiest way is to use new Azure Portal, you can see how the configuration screen can look like on the screenshot below.
SQL Server IaaS Agent
Both features are part of the new component that will be installed on the VM when features are enabled and this component is called SQL Server IaaS Agent. It is built in the form of Azure VM Extension meaning all the Azure VM Extension concepts are applicable making it perfect tool for the management of SQL in Azure VMs on scale. You can push this IaaS Agent to a number of VMs at once, you can configure, and you can remove or disable it as well.
This IaaS Agent moves SQL Server one step closer to be the best application to run in Azure VMs.
Try these features out for yourself at https://portal.azure.com.
For further details, here is the documentation page for these features.