By Tiffany Wissner, Sr. Director for Data Platform Marketing

Today we are announcing general availability for the latest update to Azure SQL Database, introduction of new SQL Database security features, more automation for SQL Server in Azure Virtual Machines and SQL Server on G-Series VMs.  Take a closer look at these exciting new improvements.

1.       New update to Azure SQL Database Generally Available in Europe

Generally available today in Europe, the latest version of SQL Database introduces near-complete SQL Server engine compatibility, greater support for larger databases, and expanded Premium performance. Internal tests on over 600 million rows of data show Premium query performance improvements of around 5x in the new preview relative to today’s Premium SQL Database and up to 100x when applying the In-memory columnstore technology. 

General availability will continue across United States regions on February 9, 2015 with rollout to most datacenters worldwide by March 1, 2015. General availability pricing will take effect for databases on V12 servers worldwide on April 1, 2015.

“As a company committed to maintaining the highest innovation standards for our global clients, we’re always eager to test the latest features,“ said John Schlesinger, Chief Enterprise Architect at Temenos. “So previewing the latest version of SQL Database was a no-brainer for us. After running both a benchmark and some close-of-business workloads, which are required by our regulated banking customers, we saw significant performance gains including a doubling of throughput for large blob operations, which are essential for our customer’s reporting needs.” 

2.       New Security Features for Azure SQL Database

Today also marks the introduction of a suite of security features coming to the latest version of SQL Database; Row-Level Security, Dynamic Data Masking, and Transparent Data Encryption. These security features will join the existing Auditing feature to help customers further protect their cloud data and help further meet corporate and industry compliance policies. Available in public preview today across all of the new service tiers, customers can implement Row-level Security on databases to enable implementation of fine-grained access control over rows in a database table for greater control over which users can access which data.

Coming soon, SQL Database will also preview Dynamic Data Masking which is a policy-based security feature that helps limit the exposure of data in a database by returning masked data to non-privileged users who run queries over designated database fields, like credit card numbers, without changing data on the database. Finally, we are excited to announce that Transparent Data Encryption is coming to SQL Database V12 databases for encryption at rest. As data security is at the top of mind for customers building new applications in the cloud, these new security features will be available the Basic, Standard and Premium service tiers. 

3.       More simplified availability, setup, backup, and patching for SQL Server in an Azure VM

SQL Server AlwaysOn technology provides both the high availability and disaster recovery capabilities needed for mission critical applications.  One of the challenges is getting the HA environment setup, as it’s not trivial.  Now with new auto HA setup capabilities using the AlwaysOn Portal Template added for SQL Server in Azure VMs, this really becomes a simpler task, freeing up your valuable time and resources to focus on other business priorities.  This automated setup provides listener configuration and provisions AlwaysOn VM cluster to meet HA and DR requirements.  This new capability applies for hybrid scenarios where you might be setting up failover for an on-premises SQL Server workload or a cloud only SQL Server workload when you want to setup failover from one Azure region to another.

Backups for data security are easier now as well with the ability to automate full SQL Server backups from an Azure VM to Azure Storage.  Additionally, SQL Server patches delivered through Windows Update also get better with new auto patching capability that gives you more granular control over the windows update scheduler for predictable timing of updates. Monitoring and managing SQL Server instances running in Azure VMs gets better as well with the ability to view and manage SQL Server alerts directly through the Azure Portal.

The new suite of new capabilities along with previously released Azure VM capabilities  helps make running large enterprise SQL Server workloads in Azure VMs more efficient than ever before.

4.       SQL Server on Massive G-Series VMs

The new G-Series VMs are ideal for large SQL Server OLTP workloads, especially combined with SQL Server 2014 in-memory OLTP technology, as the new Azure G-Series VMs offer up to 32vCPUs, 448GB of memory, and 6.59TB of local SSD.  Combine this with the in-memory OLTP technology built-in to SQL Server 2014, you can now maximize the performance of these large VMs by taking advantage of unique parallel processing in-memory architecture that removes database dead locks while ensuring 100% durability.  This means not only can you get x factor transactional performance gains, but you can also gain x factor improvement in concurrency by taking full advantage of 32vCPUs. 

Great options in Azure for your SQL Server enterprise workloads

Whether you are looking to run your SQL Server workload in an Azure virtual machine or via the SQL Database managed service, there’s no better time than now to move your enterprise workloads to the cloud or build new applications with Microsoft Azure.

If you have an ecosystem of IT resources who can continue to manage and maintain your application in the cloud, SQL Server on an Azure Virtual Machine is the ideal option—now with even more built-in productivity, power and scale. If you don’t have an ecosystem of IT resources or don’t want them maintaining and patching every database in your portfolio, the greater SQL Server compatibility, predictable Premium performance, built-in 99.99% availability and upcoming suite of security features make Azure SQL Database an ideal destination.

We’re excited to share these ongoing improvements of our SQL Server cloud offerings with you; helping make SQL Server on an Azure VM and Azure SQL Database two great migration or deployment targets for your enterprise-grade SQL Server workloads.

If you haven’t already, start a free trial on SQL Server in Virtual Machines or Azure SQL Database today!