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When it comes time to migrate your SQL workloads to Azure, you have a choice of two main deployment options: SQL Server on Azure Virtual Machines and Microsoft Azure SQL Database. Each offers its own benefits, so how do you know which is right for your workload? If you’re ready to learn more about moving SQL Server to the cloud, read the e-book, Future-Proof Your Data Infrastructure with Azure: A Business Case for Database Administrators.

Azure SQL deployment options differ primarily in their cost and the amount of control they give you over the underlying platform. You can use the option that best meets the requirements for each application you migrate to the cloud without increasing complexity. By providing a single, unified management experience, Azure SQL eliminates the complexity of managing diverse collections of SQL Server-based applications at scale.

Azure SQL Database

Azure SQL Database is a general-purpose relational database, provided as a managed service. Categorized as a platform as a service (PaaS), Azure SQL Databases are built on standardized hardware and software that is owned, hosted, and maintained by Microsoft. When using Azure SQL Database, you pay-as-you-go, with the option to scale up or out with no service interruption.

Within Azure SQL Database, you have the option to deploy a managed instance. Azure SQL Database Managed Instance is a collection of system and user databases with a shared set of resources. In addition to all the PaaS benefits of Azure SQL Database, this option provides a native virtual network (VNet) and near 100 percent compatibility with on-premises SQL Server. Azure SQL Database Managed Instance provides you with full SQL Server access and feature compatibility for migrating SQL Servers to Azure.

Recommendation: Choose Azure SQL Database for your modern cloud applications, or when you have time constraints in development and marketing.

SQL Server on Azure Virtual Machines

SQL Server on Azure Virtual Machines give you full administrative control over the SQL Server instance and underlying OS for migration to Azure. As an infrastructure as a service (IaaS) solution, SQL Server on Azure Virtual Machines run on standardized hardware that is owned, hosted, and maintained by Microsoft. You can either pay-as-you-go for a SQL Server license already included in a SQL Server image or use existing SQL Server and Windows Server licenses.

Recommendation: Use SQL Server on Azure Virtual Machines when you’re migrating applications that require OS-level access or you’re moving applications that require a fast migration and minimal changes. SQL Server on Azure Virtual Machines is also ideal for rapid development and test scenarios when you don’t want to invest in on-premises non-production SQL Server hardware.

Final advice for choosing an Azure SQL deployment option

Still not sure which Azure SQL deployment option is right for you? Start with Azure SQL Database Managed Instance. Its built-in intelligence learns your application’s patterns and adapts to maximize performance, reliability, and data protection.

However, you may also benefit from using SQL Server on Azure Virtual Machines if you have one of the following scenarios:

  • You need control over your database and operating system and have dependencies on SQL Server Reporting Services.
  • You have independent software vendor (ISV) applications certified on particular SQL Server release years.

The beauty of Azure SQL deployment options is that you can mix and match depending on your application and migration requirements. The deployment options have a consistent code base across the board, based on the SQL engine that’s been perfected over the last 25 years. And Azure SQL is evergreen, meaning patches, updates, and new features are automatically provided. Whether you’re doing a lift-and-shift migration, modernizing existing applications, or building modern cloud services, Azure SQL can help you meet your goals.

Want to learn more about moving SQL Server to the cloud? Download Future-Proof Your Data Infrastructure with Azure: A Business Case for Database Administrators or dig deeper into the various deployment options in Azure SQL.