This is guest post by Paras Doshi. Paras Doshi is a research Intern at SolidQ.com and a Microsoft student partner. He is currently working in the domain of SQL Azure.
SQL Azure is nothing but a SQL server in the cloud. SQL Azure provides benefits such as on demand rapid provisioning, cost-effective scalability, high availability and reduced management overhead. To see an introduction on SQL Azure, check out the post by Pinal here
In this article, we are going to discuss how to extend SQL Azure with the Azure worker role. In other words, we will attempt to write a custom code and host it in the Azure worker role; the aim is to add some features that are not available with SQL Azure currently or features that need to be customized for flexibility. This way we extend the SQL Azure capability by building some solutions that run on Azure as worker roles. To understand Azure worker role, think of it as a windows service in cloud. Azure worker role can perform background processes, and to handle processes such as synchronization and backup, it becomes our ideal tool.
First, we will focus on writing a worker role code that synchronizes SQL Azure databases.
Before we do so, let’s see some scenarios in which synchronization between SQL Azure databases is beneficial:
- scaling out access over multiple databases enables us to handle workload efficiently
- As of now, SQL Azure database can be hosted in one of any six datacenters. By synchronizing databases located in different data centers, one can extend the data by enabling access to geographically distributed data
Let us see some scenarios in which SQL server to SQL Azure database synchronization is beneficial
- To backup SQL Azure database on local infrastructure
- Rather than investing in local infrastructure for increased workloads, such workloads could be handled by cloud
- Ability to extend data to different datacenters located across the world to enable efficient data access from remote locations
Now, let us develop cloud-based app that synchronizes SQL Azure databases. For an Introduction to developing cloud based apps, click here
Now, in this article, I aim to provide a bird’s eye view of how a code that synchronizes SQL Azure databases look like and then list resources that can help you develop the solution from scratch.
Now, if you newly add a worker role to the cloud-based project, this is how the code will look like.
(Note: I have added comments to the skeleton code to point out the modifications that will be required in the code to carry out the SQL Azure synchronization. Note the placement of Setup() and Sync() function.)
Enabling SQL Azure databases synchronization through sync framework is a two-step process. In the first step, the database is provisioned and sync framework creates tracking tables, stored procedures, triggers, and tables to store metadata to enable synchronization. This is one time step. The code for the same is put in the setup() function which is called once when the worker role starts.
Now, the second step is continuous (or on demand) synchronization of SQL Azure databases by propagating changes between databases. This is done on a continuous basis by calling the sync() function in the while loop. The code logic to synchronize changes between SQL Azure databases should be put in the sync() function.
Discussing the coding part step by step is out of the scope of this article. Therefore, let me suggest you a resource, which is given here. Also, note that before you start developing the code, you will need to install SYNC framework 2.1 SDK (download here). Further, you will reference some libraries before you start coding. Details regarding the same are available in the article that I just pointed to.
You will be charged for data transfers if the databases are not in the same datacenter. For pricing information, go here
Currently, a tool named DATA SYNC, which is built on top of sync framework, is available in CTP that allows SQL Azure <-> SQL server and SQL Azure <-> SQL Azure synchronization (without writing single line of code); however, in some cases, the custom code shown in this blogpost provides flexibility that is not available with Data SYNC. For instance, filtering is not supported in the SQL Azure DATA SYNC CTP2; if you wish to have such a functionality now, then you have the option of developing a custom code using SYNC Framework.
Now, this code can be easily extended to synchronize at some schedule. Let us say we want the databases to get synchronized every day at 10:00 pm. This is what the code will look like now:
Don’t you think that by writing such a code, we are imitating the functionality provided by the SQL server agent for a SQL server? Think about it. We are scheduling our administrative task by writing custom code – in other words, we have developed a “Light weight SQL server agent for SQL Azure!” Since the SQL server agent is not currently available in cloud, we have developed a solution that enables us to schedule tasks, and thus we have extended SQL Azure with the Azure worker role!
Now if you wish to track jobs, you can do so by storing this data in SQL Azure (or Azure tables). The reason is that Windows Azure is a stateless platform, and we will need to store the state of the job ourselves and the choice that you have is SQL Azure or Azure tables.
Note that this solution requires custom code and also it is not UI driven; however, for now, it can act as a temporary solution until SQL server agent is made available in the cloud. Moreover, this solution does not encompass functionalities that a SQL server agent provides, but it does open up an interesting avenue to schedule some of the tasks such as backup and synchronization of SQL Azure databases by writing some custom code in the Azure worker role.
Now, let us see one more possibility – i.e., running BCP through a worker role in Azure-hosted services and then uploading the backup files either locally or on blobs. If you upload it locally, then consider the data transfer cost. If you upload it to blobs residing in the same datacenter, then no transfer cost applies but the cost on blob size applies. So, before choosing the option, you need to evaluate your preferences keeping the cost associated with each option in mind.
In this article, I have shown that Azure worker role solution could be developed to synchronize SQL Azure databases. Moreover, a light-weight SQL server agent for SQL Azure can be developed. Also we discussed the possibility of running BCP through a worker role in Azure-hosted services for backing up our precious SQL Azure data.
Thus, we can extend SQL Azure with the Azure worker role.
But remember: you will be charged for running Azure worker roles. So at the end of the day, you need to ask – am I willing to build a custom code and pay money to achieve this functionality?
I hope you found this blog post interesting. If you have any questions/feedback, you can comment below or you can mail me at Paras[at]student-partners[dot]com
Reference: Pinal Dave (http://blog.SQLAuthority.com)