AWS RDS vs Microsoft Azure SQL Database: What does it mean for the business?

As a freelance industry analyst who has worked with GigaOm, I’m pleased to see the GigaOM Transactional Field Test derived from the industry-standard TPC Benchmark™ E (TPC-E) report which compares Amazon Web Services Relational Database Service (AWS RDS) and Microsoft Azure SQL Database. It’s written by William McKnight and Jake Dolezal from GigaOm.

From the business intelligence perspective, it is incredibly useful to compare AWS RDS and Microsoft Azure SQL Database. Before we dive in, what do they have in common? They are both fully-managed cloud SQL Server offerings, and from the Business Intelligence perspective, it can be difficult for business decision makers to choose between them. In this post, we’ll distill the technical language so that business decision makers find it easier to make the right decision for them.

Why SQL Server?

SQL Server is one of the most mature, well-known and common databases in the world, according to data from DB-Engines ranking. In fact, there is some evidence to suggest that SQL Server is going to overtake Oracle, potentially due to the cheaper price tag.

SQL Server offers fantastic business intelligence features, and this is probably one of the key areas where it wins over Oracle. In my experience, this is where I saw SQL Server ‘creep’ into IT estates due to its superior business intelligence solutions in SQL Server, which were easier to use. In particular, the SQL Server Reporting Services solution solved problems for Finance departments; they could get repeatable financial reports very easily, and Microsoft SQL Server solved a business problem. So it took hold.

Why SQL Server in the cloud?

Generally speaking, the cloud is attractive to businesses due to its lower costs, scalability and pay-as-you-go pricing model.

For IT Departments, cloud databases are mainly used for read-intensive, data intensive applications such as data warehousing, data mining and business intelligence operations which need elasticity and scalability. Cloud databases offer reliable computing, storage, backup and network facilities at the lowest cost, which is particularly important when the IT Department is regarded as a cost center.

AWS RDS and Microsoft Azure SQL Database are both web services that makes it easy to set up and scale a relational database in the Cloud. They are designed for developers or businesses that want cloud databases.

AWS RDS vs Microsoft Azure SQL Database

GigaOm have held a GigaOM Transactional Field Test which aims at comparing the two databases. In the test, the performance was scaled to meet the needs of 80,000 customers, and the performance was tuned to meet the database engine’s optimal capability to process data. The tests consisted of five test runs that lasted a duration of two hours each for both platforms. You can read more detail about the test runs in the GigaOM Transactional Field Test.

Cost Differentiation

The paper found that Microsoft Azure SQL Database was considerably less expensive to run in comparison to AWS RDS over a month. Of course, the reader should try out different scenarios in order to make the decisions that are right for their environment. That said, the cost savings are compelling, and if you have not looked at Microsoft Azure SQL Database before, then it is worth reviewing the cost differences. This held to be true over different reviews of the solutions, such as cost, licencing and time reservations.

The paper concluded that the database, along with the cloud, matters to latency which is
the killer for important transactional applications. Microsoft Azure SQL Database presents a compelling proposition for the modern transactional workload, meeting the need for data warehousing, data mining and business intelligence operations which are the engine of many of today’s businesses.


The reality is that we live in a multi-cloud world. Apart from cost, how can organizations show that they are creating uniquely desirable products and services rather than simply discussing cost?

Since Microsoft are the creators and owners of Microsoft Azure SQL Database, the differentiation here is that Microsoft lead with research, development and innovation in SQL Server. This means that Microsoft lead with the ability to design, deliver and support SQL Server in its different guises, whether on-premises, in the cloud, or a hybrid mixture of both platforms.

Since Microsoft own SQL Server, they are uniquely placed to understand the dynamics of the customer needs and the market, thereby meeting those needs to develop uniquely well-specified products for the market. Therefore, it makes sense that Azure would be finely tuned to rise up and meet these needs. Hence, it makes sense that Microsoft SQL Azure Database costs are optimized to be lower, and this is reflected in the costing differences found in the study.

To read the GigaOM Transactional Field Test derived from the industry-standard TPC Benchmark™ E (TPC-E) report, please refer to the article. Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.

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