Windows Azure Storage: SQL Database versus Table Storage

I wrote an article for Windows Azure a while back called Guidance for OData in Windows Azure, where I described options for hosting OData services in Windows Azure. The easiest way to do this is to create a hosted WCF Data Service in Windows Azure that uses EF to access a SQL Database instance as the data source. This lets you access and change data stored in the cloud by using OData. Of course, another option for you is to simply store data directly in the Windows Azure Table service, since this Azure-based service already speaks OData. Using the Table service for storage is less work in terms of setting-up , but using the Table service for storage is fairly different from storing data in SQL Database tables.

Note #1: As tempting as it may seem, do note make the Table service into a data source for WCF Data Services. The Table service context is really just the WCF Data Services client context—and it doesn’t have the complete support for composing all OData queries.

Leaving the discussion of an OData service aside, there really is a fundamental question when it comes to storing data in Windows Azure.

Note #2: The exception is for BLOBs. Never, ever store blobs anywhere but in the Windows Azure Blob service. Even with WCF Data Services, you should store blobs in the Blob service and then implement the streaming provider that is backed by the Blob service.

Fortunately, some of the guys that I work with have just published a fabulous new article that addresses just this SQL Database versus Tables service dilemma, and they do the comparison in exquisite detail. I encourage you to check out this new guidance content.

Windows Azure Table Storage and Windows Azure SQL Database - Compared and Contrasted

This article even compares costs of both options. If you are ever planning to store data in Windows Azure—this article is very much worth your time to read.


Glenn Gailey
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