Introduction to Microsoft Azure: Part 3 (Data Service)

Before continuing this article, I highly recommend reading the previous part:

Data Service in Azure

Microsoft SQL Server is implemented extensively across many platforms to store essential business data. Hence, the Windows Azure platform offers to extend existing database solutions to the cloud that rely on the SQL Server database model. Moreover, Azure makes available that data anywhere on-demand, as well as allows the protecting, accessing and analyzing of potential business data in the virtual cloud. This article therefore provides the modality of dissimilar data services used in Windows Azure technology.

Table of Contents 
  • SQL Azure
  • SQL Server Database Creation
  • SQL Management Portal
  • Connection String Retrieval
  • Big Data and Storage
  • Recovery and Backup
  • Conclusions 

SQL Azure

SQL Azure is an exciting innovation, since it is the first relational model cloud database and it has many advantages. For example it offers a familiar environment for most developers. That means existing applications can easily be migrated from existing databases. Moreover, SQL Azure is the first platform supporting the rational database model and database as a service running in the cloud. Hence, this article covers the fundamentals, including how to register to set up your SQL Azure account and how to connect to a cloud database from SSMS. In fact, it is relatively easy to install a SQL Server instance on the cloud Azure by configuring a virtual machine with an image that already resides in the Azure portal gallery. SQL Azure has therefore reached a breakthrough point by introducing the following features: 
  • SQL Azure supports the typical relational database model including T-SQL, SQL query, Stored Procedures, data views and so on.
  • SQL Azure is not limited to .NET only, it also supports JSP and PHP that enables a SQL Azure presence for all internet applications.
  • From a security point of view, SQL Azure provisions the conventional Windows security model.
  • It is fully compatible with all existing relational development tools and IDEs, such as Visual Studio IDE and SQL Server Management Studio.

Windows Azure keeps our data safe with automated backups, ensures high throughput and low latency with managed caching of application data. Moreover, it also makes easy migration of SQL databases from on-premises to the cloud with no code changes required. Windows Azure lets you create new virtual machines running various versions of SQL Server on different versions of Windows Server as in the following.

choose an image

SQL Server Database Creation

Windows Azure SQL Database allows you to extend your business applications into the cloud by building core SQL Server functionality. You can quickly create database solutions that are built on the SQL Server database engine, even decide whether to use an existing SQL database server. Hence, the following Figure indicates how to create a new SQL database in Windows Azure. In fact, there are a couple of other alternatives to create a database, including custom database creation and import. The custom database creation option requires specifying other essential parameters like database size, collating and so on. On the other hand, the import option enables reuse of an existing database signature.

SQL Server Database Creation

Once all the parameters are specified, including database name, location and most importantly the login information pertaining to new database creation via the Azure portal, then the new database will be created as TestDB on the urkw9i06ra server that is similar to an on-premises typical SQL Server in operation, capable of creating tables, indexes, Stored Procedure, triggers, run queries and perform similar database management tasks since we can see it via the Azure portal dashboard.

azure portal dashboard

Subsequently, the following Figure shows the entire Control Panel of that new TestDB database where from a user himself can design the database, queries and even generate a connection string for .NET, PHP and Java platform web applications.

connection string

Then, login into the SQL database server urkw9i06ra using the user name tiger and the password. that will take you to the SQL database management portal.

sql database

SQL Management Portal

The successful login will get you into the SQL management portal that enables doing both database administration and design related underlying tasks, including creation and deletion of tables, creation of procedures and triggers as well as the firing of queries against them. The following figure shows the designing editor of a typical table leveraging all the essential parameters.

SQL Management Portal

Moreover, the portal makes available the column manipulation, index and primary key set up and data filling facility into tables. The following Images show the champu table with filling rows as;


Database Query against a SQL object is a significant undertaking for retrieving the desired results in a fast and efficient manner. Hence, SQL Azure portal also offers query processing related task as well as shows the statistics of query execution by means of a query estimation and actual plan option. The following figure shows the editor that aids in the launching of queries against database objects, as in here where we are retrieving the rows with a salary greater than 2000.


In spite of that, you can analyze the essential information and parameters of any existing database like when the database was created, total size, consumed space and collation data as in the following.

database properties

Connection String Retrival

The connection string information is essential to establish a connection with any database. For instance, in .NET the middleware technology ADO.NET is employed to set up a connection with SQL Server to retrieve record sets. The SQL Azure portal fortunately offers not only connection string information to the .NET front-end application but also can generate a connection automatically for JSP and PHP web applications as in the following:

ado dot net



Big Data and Storage

Big Data (by definition) stores a huge amount of data in a combination of relational and non-relational databases. It is rather complex to analyze Big Data when it is stored in many different manners, for instance XML flat-file databases, text-based log files and binary format storage systems. Hence, an Apache open source project Hadoop is used for handing the problem of analysis of Big Data. In this way, the Windows Azure implementation of Hadoop is called HDInsight, uses clustered virtual machines to store data and analyze data using HDFS. The following figure shows the creation of Hadoop storage in an Azure cloud.

Big Data and Storage

The Azure Storage is a feature exposed by the virtual operating system to offer a location slot for an application to store and read data. It is somewhat like a conventional memory partition, although as with every Windows Azure feature, it is exposed as a logical resource, not a physical one; it has neither a disk drive letter nor a normal path. You can also request multiple local storages, in case you prefer to store data in different places rather than in different folders. Besides that, the storage account can be located in any Windows Azure data center across the globe. The following figure shows the configuration of Azure storage via portal.

Recovery and Backup

The Windows Azure Backup utility lets you automate the backup process of your business data to the cloud because the backup or recovery of any database is a primary task involved in protecting your vital business data. Backups of valuable data to a different location is considered to be a best practice because it eliminates a single point of failure for data restoration. Further, you can rely on the Backup Agent to specify a backup schedule for your registered servers to recover data from the cloud in case a problem occurs when accessing your physical servers. Hence, the SQL Azure portal allows the creation of backup and recovery objects to sustain your business activities as in the following:



During the course of this article, we have covered the fundamentals of SQL Azure as well as stated the importance of SQL Azure cloud features that replaced SQL Data Services. We have seen how to create tables, insert data and query the database using the SQL cloud Management Studio. Moreover, we have explored the storage feature of Azure services that are similar to traditional computer storage, to keep safe our vital data for future retrieval from anywhere. Finally, we have explained the recovery and backup service that is the most significant requirement of any database management system to keep secure and available the data.