What is most valuable?
We like the ease of integrating it with our on-premises environment. We use a hybrid model. We have a SQL Server on-premises, and we have an integration with the cloud version. We do CPU or disk intensive processes on-premises. For accessibility, we offload onto the cloud. When you do a lot of IO and things like that in the cloud, Microsoft charges for the CPU activity.
What needs improvement?
Price definitely may be a negative point. As for most of cloud based solution, certain cost components as CPU and IO usage may cause extremely hi costs.
For how long have I used the solution?
It has been a bit over a year.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
It is scalable. In fact, it is too easy to scale. It just scales and sends you the invoice. You have to tune it to lock it down, and then it doesn't go too far. These are the kind of things you have to take care of to avoid having bad surprises at the end of the month when they send you the resource usage invoice.
How are customer service and technical support?
I didn't contact them regarding SQL Server, but I have contacted them for Azure and Office 365 support. They are usually quite good.
How was the initial setup?
It is too easy. Initially, the database engine itself takes an hour, and that's it. Tuning it is another matter, but tuning is anyways a difficult task in itself.
What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?
It is quite expensive. I would definitely recommend not using the pay-as-you-go model because this will just mean all your money will go to Microsoft. So, really make sure to control resource usage as much as possible.
What other advice do I have?
I would definitely recommend this solution. It is a very good product, and it is difficult to beat. I haven't got anything that I saw missing in it in terms of features. It is always integrated within Azure and Microsoft Office 365 ecosystems. If there is something that the database can't do, it is quite easy to have another path of the offering to take over. They are almost like AWS. They have so many services that it is really difficult not to be able to achieve things. There is always something or someone. It is just a matter of price. You also have access to the service, documentation, and even the user community.
I would rate SQL Azure an eight out of ten.