Microsoft continues hybrid push with stretchable SQL Server

A new feature lets enterprises keep hot data on-premises and move cold data to the cloud

Microsoft is keeping up its push to provide businesses with hybrid cloud tools by offering a new feature that lets companies stretch their database tables from on-premises infrastructure to its Azure storage service. 

Microsoft is launching its SQL Server Stretch Database Service Wednesday, along with the first release candidate beta of SQL Server 2016. The new feature allows database administrators to set up certain tables to stretch from their on-premises infrastructure to Microsoft's cloud, while still allowing applications to access all the data across both environments. 

When a table is set up to use SQL Stretch Database, administrators can specify a length of time after which data is automatically moved from their on-premises SQL Server instance to Azure. Applications querying that database table will be able to see both the data stored on-premises and the data stored in Azure.

That functionality is key because it means that application developers shouldn't have to modify their work in order to take advantage of the feature -- administrators just need to enable it. 

The feature is designed to take advantage of the flexibility of the cloud to save enterprises money and allow them to use more costly on-premises resources for data they want to keep there, while still being able to hold onto data for long periods of time. 

The feature would be useful for organizations like retailers that want to keep years of customer purchase data on hand, but don't want to store all of it on premises, Mark Jewett, Microsoft's director of enterprise cloud and integrated systems marketing, said in an interview.

In the future, businesses can expect to use parameters other than the age of data to have the service move it automatically to the cloud.

Enterprises can also take advantage of SQL Server's Always Encrypted feature to ensure that their data is encrypted with a key that remains on-premises before the data is sent up to the cloud. That should help alleviate some concerns that administrators may have around the security of their data as it moves back and forth between their data centers and Azure. 

The new service is part of Microsoft's continuing push to attract companies looking to move to the cloud without jumping all the way into the deep end. Last month, the company released its first technical preview of Azure Stack, a software package that will allow businesses to run an Azure environment inside their own data centers. 

Microsoft has emphasized its hybrid cloud capabilities in an effort to capture the business of organizations that are gradually moving to the cloud. That strategy makes sense for the company because Amazon and Google, its competitors in the hyperscale cloud market, don't have the same investments in providing on-premises server software. 

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