Microsoft announces Arc-enabled Azure SQL general availability

The ability to run Azure SQL Managed Instance -- a cloud version of SQL Server -- on non-Azure clouds, and even on-premises, will be generally available and production-ready on July 30th, 2021.
Written by Andrew Brust, Contributor

Microsoft is announcing today that Arc-enabled Azure SQL will be released to general availability (GA) on July 30th. That means enterprise customers can now run Azure SQL Managed Instance -- instances of SQL Server managed by Microsoft on the customer's behalf -- on competing clouds, including Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud, as well as in those customers' own data centers. In fact, this flavor of Microsoft's flagship operational database can now run on any Kubernetes (K8s) cluster, and all such deployments can still be managed from the Azure portal. Such multi/hybrid-cloud portability is the hallmark of Azure Arc.

Gradual evolution

The ability to run SQL Server on Linux and in Docker containers, first enabled with the release of SQL Server 2017, was really the technological down payment for Arc-Enabled Azure SQL. Next, with the release of SQL Server 2019 Big Data Clusters (BDC), came the ability deploy multiple server instances of the database to Kubernetes clusters, along with a full command line interface for initiating and monitoring such deployments. While Azure SQL Managed Instance is typically not used in big data scenarios, the technology behind the BDC control plane has been readily leverageable for the Arc-enabled SQL Managed Instance release.

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Arc-Enabled Azure SQL was released to public preview as Azure Arc-enabled SQL Managed Instance in September, 2020. It's part of the broader Azure Arc-enabled data services (originally Azure data services anywhere), which also includes Azure PostgreSQL Hyperscale. The broader Azure Arc program also includes Arc-enabled versions of Azure App ServiceAzure FunctionsAzure Logic AppsAzure Event Grid and Azure API Management.

More Arc goodies

In concert with Arc-enabled Azure SQL's GA, Microsoft is announcing it is working with a broad network of managed service providers (MSPs) and solution integrators (SIs) to help customers deploy and operate Azure data services in multi-cloud and on-premises environments. On the hardware and Kubernetes side, Microsoft is also announcing the Azure Arc validation program, essentially a certification program for Arc-ready infrastructure and K8s distributions.

And there's more to come. Rohan Kumar, Corporate Vice President, Azure Data, in a blog post today, said "New product features and capabilities will be rolled out on a continuous basis, and customers will be able to opt-in to future Azure Arc-enabled services as they become generally available. Additionally, customers will have the opportunity to test out future road map preview features and provide early feedback in early adopter programs."

What's old is new again

Container technology is shaking up the cloud world, allowing portability across clouds and bringing managed, appliance-style on-premises deployments back into vogue. While some might view this as regressive, it's really a fit-and-finished evolution of the cloud that rationalizes its managed model with many companies' wish to manage their own infrastructure. While the dust has not fully settled, the market is starting to see genuine nuance in the cloud's economic and infrastructure models, likely to the delight of most enterprise customers.

Microsoft is a customer of Brust's advisory firm, Blue Badge Insights. He is also a Microsoft Data Platform MVP.

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