What is Azure SQL Database Serverless?

Published On: 2020-07-01By:

What is Azure SQL Database Serverless? When I hear the term serverless my mind gets confused. How can a database exist without a server? Azure is a cloud platform, is my database just floating in the air? No, I am not really thinking that, but still the word serverless can be hard to understand. So, let’s walk through what it is.

Serverless is a term commonly used for function as a service patterns like Amazon Lambda, or Azure Functions, where you have a piece of code that is called and executed without you deploying any infrastructure. Azure Logic Apps are another version of this—a program that exists to do a thing (say create a user and send them an email) without any notion of what computer it executes on. Serverless in terms of Azure SQL Database is a bit of a misnomer because you still have a logical server to which you connect.

Within the Azure SQL Database service, serverless is a type of deployment in the general-purpose service tier for a single database that allows for autoscaling and auto-pausing. It gives you the ability to manage the resources the service uses, and costs associated with your SQL Database, which in turn can save you a lot of money.

Traditionally, when using Azure SQL Databases, you provision a specific compute tier which provides dedicated resources with fixed costs billed on an hourly rate. This is great when your database has consistent usage patterns, using elastic pools or have average higher utilization. But what if your utilization fluctuates? What if you could save money when utilization is lower? That’s where serverless comes in. When you have those less active workloads serverless will scale back your compute tier and even optionally autopause resources and not charge you for non-use. You can imagine how much this can lower your Azure SQL budget. In addition, serverless costs are based on per second usage verses per hour, so every second you are paused you are saving money.  Note, storage is still billed during the pause time since your data is still consuming storage, which is something to keep in mind. Additionally, you should note that serverless costs more per second than Azure SQL Database does—so if you have a constant workload that is relatively high, your costs may be higher than for a standard database. As always it is important to understand your workload before moving to serverless, but it’s fantastic for most dev and test environments.

If the database id paused it, does not mean your database is not available to your users. Serverless continually monitors for logins and activity at the gateway for your database. When the next activity occurs the database automatically resumes at the proper compute. Autopausing requires two things to occur before a pause is initiated. One there must be zero sessions and two the CPU must equal zero for user workload running in the user pool. To help give you a little control over this there is a performance configuration called autopause delay which allows you to set the evaluation time period of inactivity before an autopause will occur.

What if your workload varies throughout the day therefore causing a wide range of consumption of compute resources? Serverless can help with that too. When setting up a serverless SQL Database you will configure a minimum vCores and a maximum vCores. The SQL Database will automatically operate within this range for scaling on demand. This illustrates an automatic cost saving mechanism without having to manually scale your database each time you need to increase or decrease your compute needs.

This was a very simple explanation of what Azure SQL Database Serverless is. I hope this clears up any confusion you might have had.  Once I realized it just means you can autoscale and are not set to a pre-provisioned compute tier, it was simple to understand.

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New Cartoon Friends that Will Be Traveling With the DCAC Team

Published On: 2020-06-29By:

As the DCAC team has continued to evolve we’ve decided that we need some friends to help us talk about the fact that indexes will make your databases faster.

So I’d like to take a minute to introduce you to Sheamus our crazy wizard, Casandra our playful unicorn (she also goes by Cassie), Molly our intense unicorn, and Peggy our adorable Pegasus. All of our new friends are having stickers made of them which the entire DCAC team will have with them when in-person events start back up; and you may see them pop up in slide decks before then.

Our New Friends

Sheamus is going to perform some white wizard (Lord of the Rings) style tuning on your databases to get them performing perfectly.

Casandra (or Cassie to her friends) is having tons of fun making workloads go faster and showing off her skills.

Molly has had one too many developers explain that indexes are horrible for write performance, but she’s here to fix the performance of your database anyway because Indexes Are Magic.

Peggy is going to fly in, fix your databases, and fly away; all while looking adorable and awesome in the process.

Be sure to find someone from DCAC at your next in-person event and grab some stickers from us of all our new friends.

But Wait There’s More

If you can’t wait for an in-person event, we’ve got you covered. We’re holding a raffle that’s open to everyone where raffles are valid (if you have a skills test to win like Canada we’ll handle that), where we will send 25 people a full set of stickers totally free, anywhere in the world, just for entering our raffle.

(Government employees, the prize has no cash value, but please check with your compliance office before accepting the prize.)


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Encrypting Stored Procedures Doesn’t Make Me Avoid Looking at Your Code

Published On: 2020-06-22By:

Dear Vendors that encrypt stored procedures in SQL Server,

Stop It!

We were having a discussion on Twitter about vendors encrypting stored procedures recently, and this justification came up that had been told about why vendors encrypt stored procedures some times.

To this I point out, that if you’ve encrypted your code so that I won’t look at it by accident, you are actually getting the exact opposite result. Because you are encrypting code that means that I can’t see if. That means that I want to make sure that you aren’t hiding any stupid practices from me. That means that as soon as I see your encrypted procedures I’m decrypting them to see what is going on with this code.

Along with this, because you’ve bothered to encrypt the stored procedures that means that I can’t get an execution plan, and query store can’t be used for the queries within the stored procedure. And since I’m guessing that I can performance tune your database better then your developers can, I’m going to be decrypting the procedures so that I can tune the system.

But It’s Our IP

Another reason that companies have for encrypting stored procedures is that the code is their IP. Does the vendor have a patent or trademark on their code? The answer to this is no, as you can’t patent or trademark the actual code, and anyone that tells you that they can trademark their code, is wrong.

If you have given me your code, then I can look at it. If we have an NDA in place then I can’t use the code. If there’s no NDA in place, then I can use your code all I want. You at that point have no legal way of stopping me.

If you want to stop supporting the software that we have purchased from you, is there something in the EULA about us not decrypting the stored procedures? No, then support it or get risk getting sued for violating the EULA and support contract. And assume that you’ll be loosing us as a customer and that your competitor will be gaining us as a customer (yes I’ve done this at companies, so it’s not an empty threat).

Running Code

When you sell your customer a license to run your software you are giving the customer your code, and you have to trust the customer to not use your code in order systems. The customer has to trust that you are providing them a system that will perform well. You usually don’t and someone has to to some performance tuning on the application that you provided in order to keep their business up and running. If you hamper or slow that process down, expect to have your application replaced in short order. No application is so critical to a business that it can’t be replaced, so make it so that your application doesn’t make the live of the people that have to actually maintain it suck less.


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PASS–An Organization in Trouble

Published On: 2020-06-19By:

PASS is an organization that has helped my career at many levels. I’ve served as a user group leader, a SQL Saturday organizer, a regional mentor, and spoken at PASS events around the world. PASS has a big problem–its main revenue source is the annual PASS Summit, which isn’t happening in person this year due to the pandemic. This is a force majeure event, which would have been challenging for any organization, but especially one that’s been managed as poorly as PASS has in recent years. Today, I’m calling on the PASS Board to put C&C in formal review based on it’s failures to properly manage the organization. 

If you don’t know, PASS is run by a for-profit Canadian company called Christianson & Company, which has been involved with PASS for as long as I have at least. If you look at my good friend Steph Locke’s analysis of the organization’s budget, you can see how little of of the organization’s revenue goes back into community activities. While the board of directors continually praises C&C for their efforts, most members and volunteers have not value for these efforts. SQL Saturday subsidies have been cut, the website has numerous bugs, which has lead many events to no longer be run under PASS’ governance, especially in Europe, where most of the major events are no longer SQL Saturdays. 

The list goes on: the job board never grew into anything worth further investment, the 2019 Microsoft Modernization events sponsored by Microsoft didn’t get the traction it should have, the execution of the Business Analytics Conference was a complete failure (something C&C should have excelled at), the multiple attempts to create lasting events in Europe was a failure (the full PASS Summit and SQL Rally), and all efforts to monetize Summit content has fallen flat. 

This brings us to today: While this pandemic is likely (and hopefully) a once in a lifetime event, for having a full-time management company, it has not been handled well. The conference dragged its feet moving to virtual event, being beat to the punch by many other events. Additionally, as most of those other (admittedly vendor subsidized) events went online, they became free events. So PASS is in a situation where most of their formerly paid competition, like Microsoft Ignite, and VMWare VMWorld are free online conferences. So they need to prove they can deliver value in their paid conference. And arguably the management company is not handling it. They’ve outsourced it to another third party.

At DCAC, we’ve thought about how to make a virtual event better. We haven’t worked out the details, but during Denny and John’s precons on Azure, I’ll be in adjacent chat/breakout room if students in the session want to see a specific demo again, or ask some deeper dive question. A competent management company would been thinking about this since the pandemic became news in February, and it was fairly obvious that the event was going to be virtual. What I would have done is the following:

  1. Plan a small-ish virtual event in late March or early April with 5 prominent community speakers on whatever platform appeared to be your leading candidate for a virtual summit. This does two things–it lets you work out some of the kinds of a virtual conference, and helps your demonstrate the value of your event, by maybe having breakout rooms with out speakers. The community would have helped with this.
  2. After demonstrating that value, announce the virtual conference. Plan a series of smaller virtual events to keep up the energy around the event.

I spoke at event this week that had nearly as many attendees as PASS Summit did. It was run by the volunteers. Great job @eightkbconference

C&C is not a management company. At this point, they are PASS. They have no other revenue, all 20 or so employees work full-time for PASS and they are on an opaque contract with no end in sight. It’s disingenuous for us to consider them anything less. Their organizational oversight is a volunteer board. Not even the executive committee has a fiduciary responsibility to the organization. No one is paid and therefore, no one has skin in the game. That’s why all the excess money is simply funneled into C&C’s pockets while SQL Saturday sponsorship budgets are cut and there is no value to the UGs affiliation beyond the Summit discount and a marketing platform they could get free anywhere else. You want more value from PASS? For this and all the reasons I list above, I say the community should call on the PASS BoD to put C&C in review, accept competing offers, and see what the market will come with.

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And sometimes we’re asked to share what we did, at events like Microsoft’s PASS Summit 2015.

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