Microsoft Azure Helps SQL Server 2016 Stretch Into the Cloud

A newly announced SQL Server 2016 release candidate build can tap Microsoft's cloud for added capacity without making changes to applications.

Microsoft SQL Server

Microsoft today announced new hybrid-cloud capabilities in a preview build of SQL Server 2016 that offers customers "bottomless capacity" as their database workloads grow.

When combined with the Azure-backed SQL Server Stretch Database companion service, SQL Server 2016 enables organizations to essentially scale their on-premises databases to Azure's virtually limitless compute and storage with "no changes to the application," Mark Jewett, director of product marketing for Microsoft's Cloud Platform division, told eWEEK. In preview, the feature is capped at 60 terabytes (TB) per database.

The new offering is an example of Microsoft's cloud-first approach to software, even in products like SQL Server that are traditionally deployed on-premises in customer data centers. (SQL Server can also be deployed as an Azure virtual machine, and often is, Jewett said.) It also is Microsoft's answer to what it views as a "data explosion problem" that is putting pressure on both enterprise IT budgets and the administrators tasked with managing bigger and more complex server and storage infrastructures, said Jewett. Enterprises are getting buried under "much bigger data at this point" and struggling with "much bigger cost and management challenges," he added.

Cost-wise, SQL Server 2016 with SQL Server Stretch Database allows organizations to toss their warm and cold data onto "low-cost public cloud storage" and reserve their comparatively expensive on-premises capacity for higher-value workloads, Jewett said. In terms of deployment and management, "you turn it on and it starts to work."

Offloading SQL data onto Azure doesn't mean customers have to skimp on security, Jewett said, adding that the company's Always Encrypted technology only transfers pre-encrypted data to Azure and the "keys are kept by the customer." In short, at no point can Microsoft personnel, or unauthorized persons for that matter, access a customer's raw data. "We're hyper-focused on security," he said.

Also today, Microsoft announced the general availability of StorSimple Virtual Array. Announced in December, StorSimple Virtual Array software is aimed at businesses seeking to provide centrally managed data protection and disaster-recovery services to satellite offices and other environments where deploying StorSimple hardware appliances may be overkill or simply not feasible.

"The virtual array can be run as a virtual machine on your Hyper-V or VMware ESXi hypervisors and can be configured as a File Server (NAS) or as an iSCSI server (SAN)," Sharath Suryanarayan, senior program manager at Microsoft StorSimple, said in an announcement. "The hybrid approach stores the most used data (hottest) local on the virtual array and (optionally) tiers older stale data to Azure. The virtual array also provides the ability to back up the data to Azure (offsite) and enables a quick disaster recovery (DR) capability."

Each StorSimple Virtual Array can manage up to 64TB of cloud data. Jewett characterized the software as another "great example of how you can bring this bottomless capacity to your IT assets."

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...