SQL Centre of Excellence

If you are looking at running SQL Server in the cloud a key question you will ask is “Should I rent or Buy” SQL licenses. E.g. should you use the stock images and pay by the hour or should you buy your own licences.

Some facts that will help you decide:

  • SQL Server Enterprise Edition can vary in price from say 16,000 euro to 24,000 euro per four cores depending on your licensing scheme and bartering ability.
  • You MUST pay for software assurance at 20% per year to transfer licenses to the cloud (Azure or Amazon)
  • Azure charges about 1,164 euro per month for enterprise edition, per four cores.
  • Buying licences with SA gives you rights to use a “DR” instance without paying for its license. When renting you need to pay for DR while its turned on (not good for say a passive mirror).

So assuming full retail prices we can say the following:

  • If you are running for more than 2 years at 100% up time you should buy.
  • If you are powering down images then factor this in. So if 50% powered down,  only buy if you are sweating the licences for > 4 years.
  • If you are running “warm” DR Servers then buy licenses if run for more than a year. Effectively buying licences becomes twice as appealing.

One thing I am looking at the moment is a scale out architecture where there may be two nodes up 100% of the time and then additional nodes scaled on demand. In this hybrid case it makes sense to buy licenses on the permanent nodes and “rent” on the elastic nodes.

Obviously this doesn’t take into account that renting gives you more flexibility, so is certainly the mode of choice for temporary environments.

Hot of the press is the announcement of MS Azure support for local SSD, up to 800GB which should be enough for “most” TempDBs.

Now this doesn’t have me too excited as its volatile and core storage is still a bit challenging to get IOPS on, especially if you need “burst” capability. What has me super excited is the introduction of the “memory” intensive images, or the D series with very competitive pricing.


Annoyingly the pricing is a bit misleading as provisioning page has the price above (768.48 per month), but the pricing page has a different price




If we look at a 16 core server options with close to 128GB ram we can compare the old and new offerings against Amazon. The only way to get 16 cores before was via the A9 image and it was really pricey, now we have local SSD thrown in for 51% price drop (ok with no infiniband, but I'm good with the trade).

  Azure (Old Pricing) Azure (new) Amazon EC2
Name A9 STANDARD_D14 r3.4xlarge
Cost/Month € 2,715 1,314 1,092
Spec 16 Cores
112 GB
40 GBit Infiniband
16 Cores
112 GB
800GB Local SSD
16 Cores
122 GB
2x320GB Local SSD

So, while the price for 16 core images has come down a lot its still not as competitive as the Amazon offering.

What is it missing to be a technically superior solution to Amazon for running SQL Server. A few things IMO:

  • Provisioned IOPS
  • Wholesale Replacement of old fashioned Magnetic Media with SSD
  • Burst Capably on IOPS

Amazon still has these trump cards and while it does, it will be holding the technical edge for running SQL Server at the high end on demanding IO based workloads.

However todays announcement is a huge leap forward. If you can leverage the Local SSD and/or don’t need massive IOPS then you can pocket a higher business value.

Why Pay for Professionals ?

by Bob Duffy 9. September 2014 09:23

Often, especially when working for larger organisations that need to go through a procurement process I get asked why our rates seem so high. They can hire SQL people from the global outsourced companies at 3-4 times less, and even go to general local consultancy practises for 1/2 of the rates.

The preferred solution to a lot of this trouble is to move away from charging by hour and to charge for results. Its super hard to do a lot of the time when people are so used to watching per hour costs rather than the quality and overall business value.

Here are two of my favourite memes doing the rounds.

“There is Always Someone who will do it Cheaper”


Another favourite line floating around the last while is

“If you think hiring a professional is expensive, wait until you hire an amateur”

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