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Azure SQL Pricing Simplified

Azure SQL is Azure’s Platform as a Service version of Microsoft SQL Server. It has a complex service model with 18 possible combinations of deployment options, service tiers and compute models. In addition, there are two pricing models you can use to pay for Azure SQL—Database Transaction Units (DTU) and vCores.

In this post, we’ll briefly explain Azure SQL’s service and pricing options, and provide a quick guide to the most common pricing options, as part of our series of articles on Azure Cost Management. In addition, we’ll show how NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP can help save storage costs for Azure SQL deployment.

In this article, you will learn:

Azure SQL Services: Deployment Models and Service Tiers

In order to understand Azure SQL pricing, we should first explain how the Azure SQL service is offered.  

Azure SQL has three deployment models:

  1. Single Database—a fully managed database used by an organization.
  2. Elastic Pool—a group of Azure SQL Single Databases with a shared set of resources.
  3. Managed Instance—a fully managed Microsoft SQL Server Database Engine running in Azure, enabling easy migration of on-premises SQL Server databases.

There are three service tiers:

  1. General Purpose/Standard—for common workloads
  2. Business Critical/Premium—for high throughput OLTP applications requiring low latency and high resilience
  3. Hyperscale—for very large OLTP systems, performs auto-scaling of storage and compute

In addition, there are two compute models:

  1. Provisioned—Azure SQL provides Azure resources that run your database
  2. Serverless—the database is provisioned as a serverless component with auto-scaling compute and billing for use per second

So there are essentially 3 X 3 X 2 = 18 “flavors” of SQL database. Each flavor has its own pricing.

All pricing options are shown on the official pricing page, be sure to select the deployment model, service tier and computer tier at the top of the page to see the appropriate pricing:

SQL Database pricing options

We’ll provide a summary of the most important price combinations in the following sections.

Azure SQL Database Pricing Models

On top of the large variety of deployment options, there are also two pricing models you can use to pay for Azure SQL: The Database Transaction Unit (DTU) model and the vCore model.

DTU pricing model
Database Transaction Units (DTU) are a way of measuring compute resources required to run the SQL database. Azure provides a DTU calculator you can use to measure how many DTUs your database requires. You can then select from one of several instance types or pool sizes (for the elastic pool deployment option). Each type offers a certain number of DTUs (representing the processing capacity) and a certain amount of storage.

vCore model
A vCore model is suitable for larger databases. It gives you a certain number of virtual SQL servers running in Azure. You can select vCores with physical hardware characteristics of your choice (CPUs, number of cores, RAM, etc.) and a certain quantity of data storage, log storage, and attached backup storage.

An important benefit of the vCore model is that you can transfer your existing SQL Server licenses from your on-premise database servers to your Azure SQL vCores. This lets you use Azure Hybrid Benefit, a program in which Azure waives charges for Microsoft software as part of VM cost. Azure Hybrid Benefit lets you save up to 55% on vCore costs if you use existing licenses.

Switching models
Microsoft documentation states that if your workloads require more than 300 DTUs, you should consider switching from a DTU to a vCore model. The rule of thumb for conversion is 100 DTUs = 1 vCore in General Purpose tier, and 125 DTUs = vCore in Business Critical tier.

You can convert your SQL database at any time from a DTU to a vCore model, using an API or the Azure portal, with no downtime.

To see how Azure SQL pricing compares to other storage services, see our in-depth article about Azure storage pricing. Also learn about low-cost Azure storage options that can help you conserve costs.

Azure SQL Cost Examples: DTU Pricing

Below we show DTU pricing for Azure SQL using the General Purpose/Standard service tier, for a Single Database deployment, in the West US 2 region.

Instance Type

DTUs

Maximum Storage Allowed*

Price for DTUs and Included Storage

S0

10

250 GB

$0.0202

S1

20

250 GB

$0.0404

S2

50

250 GB

$0.1009

S3

100

1 TB

$0.2017

S4

200

1 TB

$0.4033

S6

400

1 TB

$0.8066

S7

800

1 TB

$1.6130

S9

1,600

1 TB

$3.2260

S12

3,000

1 TB

$6.0488

* All options come with minimal Included Storage of 250GB

Additional data charges:

  • If you use extra data storage beyond the included storage, the price is $0.17 per GB-month.
  • If you need long-term retention of data using RA-GRS blob storage, the price is $0.05 per GB-month.

Azure SQL Cost Examples: vCore Pricing

Below we show vCore pricing for Azure SQL using the General Purpose/Standard service tier, for a Single Database deployment, in the West US 2 region.

Serverless Compute Option

If you choose serverless compute, you can dynamically select between 0.5 and 16 vCores, with between 2.02 GB and 48 GB of memory.

The price is $0.5218 per vCore hour and $0.115 per GB-month.

Additional data charges:

  • If you need point-in-time restore, you’ll pay $0.20 per GB-month for backup storage
  • If you need long-term retention, you’ll pay $0.05 per GB-month

Provisioned Compute Option

In the provisioned compute option, you need to select a number of vCores and your capacity and prices are determined accordingly.

There is a regular vCore price including the Microsoft software license, and a lower price for Azure Hybrid Benefit, in case you transfer your existing SQL Server licenses to your vCores. In this scenario, the Azure Hybrid Benefit discount is 40%.

vCores

Total Memory (GB)

Price Per Hour Including License

Price Per Hour with Azure Hybrid Benefit

2

10.2

$0.5044

$0.3045

4

20.4

$1.0088

$0.6089

6

30.6

$1.5131

$0.9134

8

40.8

$2.0175

$1.2178

10

51

$2.5219

$1.5222

12

61.2

$3.0262

$1.8267

14

71.4

$3.5306

$2.1311

16

81.6

$4.0350

$2.4355

18

91.8

$4.5393

$2.7400

20

102

$5.0437

$3.0444

24

122.4

$6.0524

$3.6533

32

163.2

$8.0699

$4.8710

40

204

$10.0874

$6.0887

80

396

$20.1747

$12.1774

Additional storage charges:

  • The vCore prices above only cover compute. You are charged separately for storage, using the Premium tier of the Azure Blob Storage service, at a cost of $0.115 per GB/month.
  • If you need point-in-time recovery, you’ll pay $0.20 per GB-month.
  • If you need long-term retention, you’ll pay $0.05 per GB-month.

To calculate Azure SQL costs for your specific scenario, see the official Azure pricing calculator. To better understand the related storage costs and compare different storage options, see NetApp’s storage-focused Azure calculator.

Reducing Azure SQL Costs with Cloud Volumes ONTAP

NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP, the leading enterprise-grade storage management solution, delivers secure, proven storage management services on AWS, Azure and Google Cloud. Cloud Volumes ONTAP supports up to a capacity of 368TB, and supports various use cases such as file services, databases, DevOps or any other enterprise workload.

In particular, Cloud Volumes ONTAP provides storage efficiencies, including thin provisioning, data compression, and deduplication, reducing the storage footprint and costs for Microsoft SQL databases by up to 70%.

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