Compare vCore and DTU-based purchasing models of Azure SQL Database

APPLIES TO: Azure SQL Database

Azure SQL Database lets you easily purchase a fully managed platform as a service (PaaS) database engine that fits your performance and cost needs. Depending on the deployment model you've chosen for Azure SQL Database, you can select the purchasing model that works for you:

  • Virtual core (vCore)-based purchasing model (recommended). This purchasing model provides a choice between a provisioned compute tier and a serverless compute tier. With the provisioned compute tier, you choose the exact amount of compute resources that are always provisioned for your workload. With the serverless compute tier, you specify the autoscaling of the compute resources over a configurable compute range. The serverless compute tier automatically pauses databases during inactive periods when only storage is billed and automatically resumes databases when activity returns. The vCore unit price per unit of time is lower in the provisioned compute tier than it is in the serverless compute tier. The Hyperscale service tier is available for single databases that are using the vCore-based purchasing model.
  • Database transaction unit (DTU)-based purchasing model. This purchasing model provides bundled compute and storage packages balanced for common workloads.

Purchasing models

There are two purchasing models:

The following table and chart compares and contrasts the vCore-based and the DTU-based purchasing models:

Purchasing model Description Best for
DTU-based This model is based on a bundled measure of compute, storage, and I/O resources. Compute sizes are expressed in DTUs for single databases and in elastic database transaction units (eDTUs) for elastic pools. For more information about DTUs and eDTUs, see What are DTUs and eDTUs?. Customers who want simple, preconfigured resource options
vCore-based This model allows you to independently choose compute and storage resources. The vCore-based purchasing model also allows you to use Azure Hybrid Benefit for SQL Server to save costs. Customers who value flexibility, control, and transparency

Pricing model comparison

vCore purchasing model

A virtual core (vCore) represents a logical CPU and offers you the option to choose between generations of hardware and the physical characteristics of the hardware (for example, the number of cores, the memory, and the storage size). The vCore-based purchasing model gives you flexibility, control, transparency of individual resource consumption, and a straightforward way to translate on-premises workload requirements to the cloud. This model allows you to choose compute, memory, and storage resources based on your workload needs.

In the vCore-based purchasing model for SQL Database, you can choose between the General Purpose and Business Critical service tiers. Review service tiers to learn more. For single databases, you can also choose the Hyperscale service tier.

In the vCore-based purchasing model, your costs depend on the choice and usage of:

  • Service tier
  • Hardware configuration
  • Compute resources (the number of vCores and the amount of memory)
  • Reserved database storage
  • Actual backup storage

DTU purchasing model

The DTU-based purchasing model uses a database transaction unit (DTU) to calculate and bundle compute costs. A database transaction unit (DTU) represents a blended measure of CPU, memory, reads, and writes. The DTU-based purchasing model offers a set of preconfigured bundles of compute resources and included storage to drive different levels of application performance. If you prefer the simplicity of a preconfigured bundle and fixed payments each month, the DTU-based model might be more suitable for your needs.

In the DTU-based purchasing model, you can choose between the basic, standard, and premium service tiers for Azure SQL Database. Review DTU service tiers to learn more.

To convert from the DTU-based purchasing model to the vCore-based purchasing model, see Migrate from DTU to vCore.

Compute costs

Compute costs are calculated differently based on each purchasing model.

DTU compute costs

In the DTU purchasing model, DTUs are offered in preconfigured bundles of compute resources and included storage to drive different levels of application performance. You are billed by the number of DTUs you allocate to your database for your application.

vCore compute costs

In the vCore-based purchasing model, choose between the provisioned compute tier, or the serverless compute tier. In the provisioned compute tier, the compute cost reflects the total compute capacity that is provisioned for the application. In the serverless compute tier, compute resources are auto-scaled based on workload capacity and billed for the amount of compute used, per second.

For single databases, compute resources, I/O, and data and log storage are charged per database. For elastic pools, these resources are charged per pool. However, backup storage is always charged per database.

Since three additional replicas are automatically allocated in the Business Critical service tier, the price is approximately 2.7 times higher than it is in the General Purpose service tier. Likewise, the higher storage price per GB in the Business Critical service tier reflects the higher IO limits and lower latency of the local SSD storage.

Storage costs

Storage costs are calculated differently based on each purchasing model.

DTU storage costs

Storage is included in the price of the DTU. It's possible to add extra storage in the standard and premium tiers. See the Azure SQL Database pricing options for details on provisioning extra storage. Long-term backup retention is not included, and is billed separately.

vCore storage costs

Different types of storage are billed differently. For data storage, you're charged for the provisioned storage based upon the maximum database or pool size you select. The cost doesn't change unless you reduce or increase that maximum. Backup storage is associated with automated backups of your databases and is allocated dynamically. Increasing your backup retention period may increase the backup storage that's consumed by your databases.

By default, seven days of automated backups of your databases are copied to a storage account. This storage is used by full backups, differential backups, and transaction log backups. The size of differential and transaction log backups depends on the rate of change of the database. A minimum storage amount equal to 100 percent of the maximum data size for the database is provided at no extra charge. Additional consumption of backup storage is charged in GB per month.

The cost of backup storage is the same for the Business Critical service tier and the General Purpose service tier because both tiers use standard storage for backups.

For more information about storage prices, see the pricing page.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Do I need to take my application offline to convert from a DTU-based service tier to a vCore-based service tier?

No. You don't need to take the application offline. The new service tiers offer a simple online-conversion method that's similar to the existing process of upgrading databases from the standard to the premium service tier and the other way around. You can start this conversion by using the Azure portal, PowerShell, the Azure CLI, T-SQL, or the REST API. See Manage single databases and Manage elastic pools.

Can I convert a database from a service tier in the vCore-based purchasing model to a service tier in the DTU-based purchasing model?

Yes, you can easily convert your database to any supported performance objective by using the Azure portal, PowerShell, the Azure CLI, T-SQL, or the REST API. See Manage single databases and Manage elastic pools.

Next steps