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Feb 16 2016

Microsoft Brings SQL Server Express to Azure

Cloud, web and app developers who rely on smaller-scale MS SQL databases to test and run their products have long waited for this moment: images of the server software's cost-free edition are now available from the Azure Gallery, along with tools for the 2014, 2012 and 2008 R2 releases.

First introduced in late 2005, SQL Server Express is a DB software and RDBMS that was designed to drive embedded systems and/or less resource-hungry applications, such as web servers or content management systems like Drupal and WordPress. The software was a freebie from day one and quickly gained popularity, not just because of the cost advantage, but also because – unlike many other free products – it retains most of the functionalities of the commercial editions. The images, which may be downloaded from the Azure Marketplace, include the core SQL Server engine, a set of GUI tools commonly known as SQL Server Management Studio, and a selection of 'comfort functions' you wouldn't expect, such as online backups, syncing, and reporting. However, being a giveaway it does come with certain limitations: the size of a single database may not exceed 10 GB, and RAM capacity is limited to 1 GB. And even though Redmond doesn't charge license fees, users will have to pay for each virtual machine that runs the software. To make this more digestible, Microsoft recommends suspending that particular VM when it's not in use, as a simple means to stop racking up unwanted costs.

Along with SQL Server Express, Microsoft has released what it calls the ADF M&M App, a solution for managing and monitoring Azure Data Factory (ADF), the firm's "cloud-based data integration service that orchestrates and automates the movement and transformation of data." ADF M&M offers a host of features and functions, among them sorting, filtering, and batch execution of management activities and may be configured to fit individual developers' and data scientists' needs. Like SQL Server Express, it's available from the Azure Marketplace.


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