Free Azure SQL Database

During the development of a data-driven application, we can usually make do with a small database to store the data we’ll need while we develop. Once we move the application to staging and then to production we might want to store a larger amount of data or want high throughput.

If our solution requires the use of an Azure SQL database, then the smallest and cheapest database we can get is on the Basic pricing tier with 5 DTUs and 100 MB of storage. For this database, we will be paying around $5/month (USD).

We can see this when we are adding a new SQL Database and then specify the size:

 

While $5/month (USD) is not a considerable amount of money, we might simply want a cheaper alternative.

Fortunately, by following a series of simple steps we can provision a single Azure SQL database with 32 MB of data and 5 DTUs for free!

Mobile App

Rather than going to the portal and creating an Azure SQL database, we’ll instead first create a new Mobile App:


Once the Mobile App has been created, we’ll select it in the portal and click the “Quickstart” option in the Mobile App blade. This will bring up a number of different Quickstart templates to choose from:

Since we won’t complete each of the steps in Quickstart, it doesn’t really matter which template we choose, but for this demo we’ll select “Windows (C#)”.

This brings up the Quickstart blade where the first step is to “Connect a database”.

Clicking on Step 1 will bring up the Data Connections blade. Since we don’t yet have a data connection to choose from, we’ll  click “Add” and on the “Add data connection” blade select “SQL Database” as the Type and click on “Configure required settings” to bring up the Database blade.

In order to configure the SQL Database, we’ll need to go through a couple of blades to create a new database and create a new database server:

With the database configured, we now get to specify the pricing tier. Upon clicking on “Pricing tier” option, in addition to seeing the same pricing tiers as before, we have now unlocked the Free pricing tier:

We can now “Apply” the Free pricing tier, “Select” the SQL Database we just configured and “OK” the new data connection we just created. This will begin the provisioning of the SQL Server and SQL Database. Once everything is provisioned, your resource group will show the four new resources:

At this point, you can remove the Mobile App and the App Service plan and keep the free database.

Limitations

This process will allow you to get up to one free Azure SQL database per region. If you attempt this same process to create another free database in the same region, you will receive the following error:

As you can see from the error message, you can create another free database in a different region or if you want the same region, you will need to use a different subscription.

Summary

While 32 MB of data is not much, it is usually enough when you are just getting started. Also, this being an Azure SQL database, you can easily scale up when you outgrow the 32 MB and 5 DTU limits.

I would love to hear how you make use of the free Azure SQL database. Please comment below and let me know how you used the database and if you ever needed to scale up.

Preparing to pass Azure 70-533 Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions certification exam

[This post is a recap of what I used to prepare to pass the Azure 70-533 certification. For more information about the exam, visit BuildAzure.]

I have been developing on the Microsoft web stack for well over 15 years and while I consider myself an expert in several Microsoft technologies, I had never gotten around to having a third-party validate my self-proclaimed “expertise”.

I had already been working on Azure for a couple of years and felt this would be the perfect platform where a certification could come in handy.

With this being my first ever certification, I was a bit lost as to where to start. My options for an Azure certification were:

  • Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions (70-532)
  • Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions (70-533)
  • Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions (70-534)

Fortunately, I came across Chris Pietschmann’s guide on the Azure certification exams. His guide showed me how the 70-532, 70-533, and 70-534 all fit together and it was at this point that I knew I wanted to take the 70-532 and 70-533.

Choosing to take the 70-533

I felt pretty comfortable with Azure’s Platform as a Service (PaaS) offerings since I had previously developed solutions on Cloud Services, Websites and more recently Web Apps, but the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) side was a bit alien to me. This should have naturally lead me to take the 70-532 first, however, when I looked up the courses offered on Pluralsight to make use of my subscription, the only complete Azure learning path was for the 70-533 (Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions (70-533)). This learning path was made up of 7 courses that covered each topic on the infrastructure exam.

Studying for the 70-533

Using Pluralsight

I began the training path in August of 2016 and would squeeze in a couple of modules whenever I had a chance. It was not until late November/early December that I decided to get serious about studying and managed to complete the videos before the end of the year:

Some time in November, Microsoft announced that the 70-533 exam would get a refresh and use ARM template deployment model instead of the “Classic” approach, which is what the training material had mostly been based on.

Using Opsgility

I’m not really sure how I came upon Opsgility, but after I soon discovered that their 70-533 training material was updated to use ARM deployment model I decided to make use of their free trial.

Practice Exam

The registration for the Azure certification exam included a practice exam along with a test and a retake. The practice exam was administered by MeasureUp. Initially, I thought I had one chance to take the practice exam, but it turns out, I had a one-month access to retake the practice exam!

As evident from the results of my first practice exam, my Azure experience centered around App Services. While the results were a bit disappointing, the breakdown allowed me to pinpoint what sections I should focus on; clearly Active Directory and Virtual Machines.

Results of my initial 70-533 practice exam
Results of my initial 70-533 practice exam

Pluralsight vs. Opsgility

When I initially started preparing for the 70-533 I wanted to make use of the Pluralsight subscription I was already paying for, so I didn’t look any further. However, after Microsoft refreshed the exam to use ARM deployment model I knew I had to find updated training material.

Overall, Tim Warner and Razi bin Rais provided a good overview of each topic, however, I don’t think that I would have signed up for a Pluralsight subscription based on their 70-533 offering.

On the other hand, Opsgility training videos provided a good depth of information and were easy to follow, I think following their hands-on lab are what mainly helped me pass the exam.

Results

In early January I took my first certification exam and I’m happy to announce that I passed! Passing this exam earned me the Specialist: Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions certification.

Specialist: Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions