What is SQL Server on Windows Azure Virtual Machines?

Applies to: SQL Server on Azure VM

This article provides an overview of SQL Server on Azure Virtual Machines (VMs) on the Windows platform.

If you're new to SQL Server on Azure VMs, check out the SQL Server on Azure VM Overview video from our in-depth Azure SQL video series:

Overview

SQL Server on Azure Virtual Machines enables you to use full versions of SQL Server in the cloud without having to manage any on-premises hardware. SQL Server virtual machines (VMs) also simplify licensing costs when you pay as you go.

Azure virtual machines run in many different geographic regions around the world. They also offer a variety of machine sizes. The virtual machine image gallery allows you to create a SQL Server VM with the right version, edition, and operating system. This makes virtual machines a good option for many different SQL Server workloads.

Feature benefits

When you register your SQL Server on Azure VM with the SQL IaaS agent extension you unlock a number of feature benefits. You can register your SQL Server VM in lightweight management mode, which unlocks a few of the benefits, or in full management mode, which unlocks all available benefits. Registering with the extension is completely free.

The following table details the benefits unlocked by the extension:

Feature Description
Portal management Unlocks management in the portal, so that you can view all of your SQL Server VMs in one place, and enable or disable SQL specific features directly from the portal.
Management mode: Lightweight & full
Automated backup Automates the scheduling of backups for all databases for either the default instance or a properly installed named instance of SQL Server on the VM. For more information, see Automated backup for SQL Server in Azure virtual machines (Resource Manager).
Management mode: Full
Automated patching Configures a maintenance window during which important Windows and SQL Server security updates to your VM can take place, so you can avoid updates during peak times for your workload. For more information, see Automated patching for SQL Server in Azure virtual machines (Resource Manager).
Management mode: Full
Azure Key Vault integration Enables you to automatically install and configure Azure Key Vault on your SQL Server VM. For more information, see Configure Azure Key Vault integration for SQL Server on Azure Virtual Machines (Resource Manager).
Management mode: Full
Flexible licensing Save on cost by seamlessly transitioning from the bring-your-own-license (also known as the Azure Hybrid Benefit) to the pay-as-you-go licensing model and back again.
Management mode: Lightweight & full
Flexible version / edition If you decide to change the version or edition of SQL Server, you can update the metadata within the Azure portal without having to redeploy the entire SQL Server VM.
Management mode: Lightweight & full
Configure tempdb You can configure your tempdb directly from the Azure portal, such as specifying the number of files, their initial size, their location, and the autogrowth ratio. Restart your SQL Server service for the changes to take effect.
Management mode: Full
Defender for Cloud portal integration If you've enabled Microsoft Defender for SQL, then you can view Defender for Cloud recommendations directly in the SQL virtual machines resource of the Azure portal. See Security best practices to learn more.
Management mode: Lightweight & full
SQL best practices assessment Enables you to assess the health of your SQL Server VMs using configuration best practices. For more information, see SQL best practices assessment.
Management mode: Full
View disk utilization in portal Allows you to view a graphical representation of the disk utilization of your SQL data files in the Azure portal.
Management mode: Full

Getting started

To get started with SQL Server on Azure VMs, review the following resources:

Videos

For videos about the latest features to optimize SQL Server VM performance and automate management, review the following Data Exposed videos:

High availability & disaster recovery

On top of the built-in high availability provided by Azure virtual machines, you can also leverage the high availability and disaster recovery features provided by SQL Server.

To learn more, see the overview of Always On availability groups, and Always On failover cluster instances. For more details, see the business continuity overview.

To get started, see the tutorials for availability groups or preparing your VM for a failover cluster instance.

Licensing

To get started, choose a SQL Server virtual machine image with your required version, edition, and operating system. The following sections provide direct links to the Azure portal for the SQL Server virtual machine gallery images.

Azure only maintains one virtual machine image for each supported operating system, version, and edition combination. This means that over time images are refreshed, and older images are removed. For more information, see the Images section of the SQL Server VMs FAQ.

Tip

For more information about how to understand pricing for SQL Server images, see Pricing guidance for SQL Server on Azure Virtual Machines.

Pay as you go

The following table provides a matrix of pay-as-you-go SQL Server images.

Version Operating system Edition
SQL Server 2019 Windows Server 2019 Enterprise, Standard, Web, Developer
SQL Server 2017 Windows Server 2016 Enterprise, Standard, Web, Express, Developer
SQL Server 2016 SP2 Windows Server 2016 Enterprise, Standard, Web, Express, Developer
SQL Server 2014 SP2 Windows Server 2012 R2 Enterprise, Standard, Web, Express
SQL Server 2012 SP4 Windows Server 2012 R2 Enterprise, Standard, Web, Express
SQL Server 2008 R2 SP3 Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise, Standard, Web, Express

To see the available SQL Server on Linux virtual machine images, see Overview of SQL Server on Azure Virtual Machines (Linux).

Note

Change the licensing model of a pay-per-usage SQL Server VM to use your own license. For more information, see How to change the licensing model for a SQL Server VM.

Bring your own license

You can also bring your own license (BYOL). In this scenario, you only pay for the VM without any additional charges for SQL Server licensing. Bringing your own license can save you money over time for continuous production workloads. For requirements to use this option, see Pricing guidance for SQL Server Azure VMs.

To bring your own license, you can either convert an existing pay-per-usage SQL Server VM, or you can deploy an image with the prefixed {BYOL}. For more information about switching your licensing model between pay-per-usage and BYOL, see How to change the licensing model for a SQL Server VM.

Version Operating system Edition
SQL Server 2019 Windows Server 2019 Enterprise BYOL, Standard BYOL
SQL Server 2017 Windows Server 2016 Enterprise BYOL, Standard BYOL
SQL Server 2016 SP2 Windows Server 2016 Enterprise BYOL, Standard BYOL
SQL Server 2014 SP2 Windows Server 2012 R2 Enterprise BYOL, Standard BYOL
SQL Server 2012 SP4 Windows Server 2012 R2 Enterprise BYOL, Standard BYOL

It is possible to deploy an older image of SQL Server that is not available in the Azure portal using PowerShell. To view all available images using PowerShell, use the following command:

Get-AzVMImageOffer -Location $Location -Publisher 'MicrosoftSQLServer'

For more information about deploying SQL Server VMs using PowerShell, view How to provision SQL Server virtual machines with Azure PowerShell.

Customer experience improvement program (CEIP)

The Customer Experience Improvement Program (CEIP) is enabled by default. This periodically sends reports to Microsoft to help improve SQL Server. There is no management task required with CEIP unless you want to disable it after provisioning. You can customize or disable the CEIP by connecting to the VM with remote desktop. Then run the SQL Server Error and Usage Reporting utility. Follow the instructions to disable reporting. For more information about data collection, see the SQL Server Privacy Statement.

Since SQL Server on Azure VMs is integrated into the Azure platform, review resources from related products and services that interact with the SQL Server on Azure VM ecosystem:

Next steps

Get started with SQL Server on Azure Virtual Machines:

Get answers to commonly asked questions about SQL Server VMs:

View Reference Architectures for running N-tier applications on SQL Server in IaaS