Microsoft Announces the General Availability of Azure SQL Data Sync

| by Steef-Jan Wiggers Follow 7 Followers on Jun 30, 2018. Estimated reading time: 2 minutes |

Microsoft announced the general availability (GA) of Azure SQL Data Sync, a service allowing customers to synchronize data between Azure SQL Databases and any of other SQL endpoints unidirectionally or bidirectionally. Furthermore, this release includes new capabilities in configuration, faster database schema refresh, and a more secure data synchronization process.

The GA release of Azure SQL Data Sync was a follow-up from a previous version last year in June – the Azure SQL Data Sync Refresh including several significant improvements like new Azure portal support, PowerShell and REST API support, and enhancements to security and privacy. This release includes a few further improvements too, according to the blog post about the release; Xiaochen Wu, senior program manager, Azure SQL Database, mentions:

  • Better configuration experience – More reliable configuration workflow and more intuitive user experience.
  • More reliable and faster database schema refresh – Load database schema more efficiently using the new SMO library.
  • More secured data synchronization – We reviewed the end-to-end sync workflow and ensured user data are always encrypted at rest and in transit. Data Sync service now meets GDPR compliance requirement.

With Azure, SQL Data Sync enterprises can enable a hybrid SQL deployment and allow local data access from both Azure and on-premises applications. Furthermore, they can deploy their data-driven applications globally and have a local copy of the data in each region, and thus can keep data synchronized across all the regions. In a The Register article about the release, Richard Speed said:

By pointing applications at their local copy of the database, Microsoft reckons that access time and responsiveness will be improved significantly and latency and connection failures reduced.

The SQL Azure Data Sync service requires a central hub database in Azure and several member databases in Azure or on-premise. A database administrator configures the databases as a Sync group and specifies the direction of data between member databases and the central hub database (either uni- or bidirectional). When the sync process starts the databases will receive Insert, Update and Delete triggers, which will lead to a push data changes into a table that eventually finds its way to the Hub. Next, the member databases pull this data. The Sync group contains a Conflict Resolution Policy, which handles conflicts by applying the policy Hub Wins - the Hub will overwrite data in the member or vice versa with the Member Wins. Note that with multiple members, the final value depends on which member syncs first.


Azure SQL Data Sync does have various limitations, ranging from no support for Timestamps to the operations synchronised being eventual consistent. Furthermore, data sync uses triggers for database changes, and these can impact performance according to the documentation. However, the intent of SQL Azure Data Sync service, according to Richard Speed in the same The Register article, is:

To be fair, Microsoft is clear that users should not use this technology for disaster recovery or scaling up Azure workloads, nor is it intended to replace the Azure Database Migration Service, to shift on-premises SQL to Redmond's cloud. The software maker sees it filling a niche for customers who want an up-to-date copy of their data for reporting and analytics purposes.

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