Microsoft to introduce a free tier of its Cosmos DB NoSQL database

Microsoft has added a new free tier for Azure Cosmos DB, its multi-model, globally distributed cloud database. Here's how it works.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft is going to add a free tier to its CosmosDB offering. Officials accidentally announced its plan on March 4, but will make the announcement official on March 6.

"You may have seen that we have announced a Free-Tier for Azure Cosmos DB," tweeted the Azure Cosmos DB Twitter account on March 4. "Due to a technical glitch, this announcement went out early. Free Tier will officially be announced and available on March 6. Stay tuned. We hope you like it."

Microsoft debuted Azure Cosmos DB -- its globally distributed, multi-model database -- at Build 2017. Azure Cosmos DB was designed t be a superset of Microsoft's existing NoSQL Document DB database. Its codename was "Project Florence," and Microsoft execs consider it a "born in the cloud/cloud native" database that's designed to be scalable and usable by customers of any size.

Microsoft currently charges by provisioned throughput and consumed storage by the hour for Azure Cosmos DB. Before the introduction of the free tier, Microsoft already offered customers the ability to try Cosmos DB for free using the Azure Cosmos DB local emulator for developing and testing production-ready apps from a local machine. There's also an option to create and run "a global commitment-free Azure Cosmos DB database for 30 days" with no Azure subscription (an option renewable for "any number of times."

Microsoft has made free-tier versions available for a number of its products, including Teams and Power BI, as a way to try to convince customers to upgrade to paid versions. 

I'll update this post with more details once Microsoft makes them available on Friday. On Twitter, officials emphasized this won't be a limited time free plan; it will be a new tier that's "free forever."

Updated (March 6): As indicated, Microsoft provided more particulars today about the Azure Cosmos DB Free Tier.

Microsoft describes the free tier as being suited for building new apps, development and testing and/or running "small production workloads." Officials said via the Free Tier, users get the first 400 request units (RUs)/throughput and 5 GB of storage in their accounts for free each month for the lifetime of the account. (Users also can create up to 25 containers in a shared throughput database sharing the free 400RUs.) Users can have up to one Free Tier account per Azure subscription.

Users will only pay if they exceed the 400 RU/5GB limits, according to the company's blog post.

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