What is a Managed Instance (preview)?

Azure SQL Database Managed Instance (preview) is a new capability of Azure SQL Database, providing near 100% compatibility with SQL Server on-premises, providing a native virtual network (VNet) implementation that addresses common security concerns, and a business model favorable for on-premises SQL Server customers. Managed Instance allows existing SQL Server customers to lift and shift their on-premises applications to the cloud with minimal application and database changes. At the same time, Managed Instance preserves all PaaS capabilities (automatic patching and version updates, backup, high-availability), that drastically reduces management overhead and TCO.


For a list of regions in which Managed Instance is currently available, see Migrate your databases to a fully managed service with Azure SQL Database Managed Instance.

The following diagram outlines key features of the Managed Instance:

key features

Managed Instance is envisioned as preferred platform for the following scenarios:

  • SQL Server on-premises / IaaS customers looking to migrate their applications to a fully managed service with minimal design changes.
  • ISVs relying on SQL databases, who want to enable their customers to migrate to the cloud and thus achieve substantial competitive advantage or global market reach.

By General Availability, Managed Instance aims to deliver close to 100% surface area compatibility with the latest on-premises SQL Server version through a staged release plan.

The following table outlines key differences and envisioned usage scenarios between SQL IaaS, Azure SQL Database, and Managed Instance:

Usage scenario
Managed Instance For customers looking to migrate a large number of apps from on-premises or IaaS, self-built, or ISV provided, with as low migration effort as possible, propose Managed Instance. Using the fully automated Data Migration Service (DMS) in Azure, customers can lift and shift their on-premises SQL Server to a Managed Instance that offers compatibility with SQL Server on-premises and complete isolation of customer instances with native VNET support. With Software Assurance, you can exchange their existing licenses for discounted rates on a SQL Database Managed Instance using the Azure Hybrid Use Benefit for SQL Server. SQL Database Managed Instance is the best migration destination in the cloud for SQL Server instances that require high security and a rich programmability surface.
Azure SQL Database Elastic pools: For customers developing new SaaS multi-tenant applications or intentionally transforming their existing on-premises apps into a SaaS multitenant app, propose elastic pools. Benefits of this model are:
  • Conversion of the business model from selling licenses to selling service subscriptions (for ISVs)
  • Easy and bullet-proof tenant isolation
  • A simplified database-centric programming model
  • The potential to scale out without hitting a hard ceiling
Single databases: For customers developing new apps other than SaaS multi-tenant, whose workload is stable and predictable, propose single databases. Benefits of this model are:
  • A simplified database-centric programming model
  • Predictable performance for each database
SQL IaaS For customers needing to customize the operating system or the database server, as well as customers having specific requirements in terms of running third-party apps by side with SQL Server (on the same VM), propose SQL VMs / IaaS as the optimal solution


How to programmatically identify a Managed Instance

The following table shows several properties, accessible through Transact SQL, that you can use to detect that your application is working with Managed Instance and retrieve important properties.

Property Value Comment
@@VERSION Microsoft SQL Azure (RTM) - 12.0.2000.8 2018-03-07 Copyright (C) 2018 Microsoft Corporation. This value is same as in SQL Database.
SERVERPROPERTY ('Edition') SQL Azure This value is same as in SQL Database.
SERVERPROPERTY('EngineEdition') 8 This value uniquely identifies Managed Instance.
@@SERVERNAME, SERVERPROPERTY ('ServerName') Full instance DNS name in the following format:..database.windows.net, where is name provided by the customer, while is auto-generated part of the name guaranteeing global DNS name uniqueness (“wcus17662feb9ce98”, for example) Example: my-managed-instance.wcus17662feb9ce98.database.windows.net

Key features and capabilities of a Managed Instance

PaaS benefits Business continuity
No hardware purchasing and management
No management overhead for managing underlying infrastructure
Quick provisioning and service scaling
Automated patching and version upgrade
Integration with other PaaS data services
99.99% uptime SLA
Built in high availability
Data protected with automated backups
Customer configurable backup retention period (fixed to 7 days in Public Preview)
User-initiated backups
Point in time database restore capability
Security and compliance Management
Isolated environment (VNet integration, single-tenant service, dedicated compute and storage
Encryption of the data in transit
Azure AD authentication, single sign-on support
Adheres to compliance standards same as Azure SQL database
SQL auditing
Threat detection
Azure Resource Manager API for automating service provisioning and scaling
Azure portal functionality for manual service provisioning and scaling
Data Migration Service

single sign-on

Managed Instance service tier

Managed Instance is initially available in a single service tier - General Purpose - that is designed for applications with typical availability and common IO latency requirements.

The following list describes key characteristic of the General Purpose service tier:

  • Design for the majority of business applications with typical performance and HA requirements
  • High-performance Azure Premium storage (8 TB)
  • 100 databases / instance

In this tier, you can independently select storage and compute capacity.

The following diagram illustrates the active compute and the redundant nodes in this service tier.

General Purpose service tier

The following outlines the key features of the General Purpose service tier:

Feature Description
Number of vCores* 8, 16, 24
SQL Server version / build SQL Server (latest available)
Min storage size 32 GB
Max storage size 8 TB
Expected storage IOPS 500-7500 IOPS per data file (depends on data file). See Premium Storage
Number of data files (ROWS) per the database Multiple
Number of log files (LOG) per database 1
Managed automated backups Yes
HA Based on remote storage and Azure Service Fabric
Built-in instance and database monitoring and metrics Yes
Automatic software patching Yes
VNet - Azure Resource Manager deployment Yes
VNet - Classic deployment model No
Portal support Yes

* A virtual core represents the logical CPU offered with an option to choose between generations of hardware. Gen 4 Logical CPUs are based on Intel E5-2673 v3 (Haswell) 2.4 GHz processors and Gen 5 Logical CPUs are based on Intel E5-2673 v4 (Broadwell) 2.3 GHz processors.

Advanced security and compliance

Managed Instance security isolation

Managed Instance provide additional security isolation from other tenants in the Azure cloud. Security isolation includes:

  • Native virtual network implementation and connectivity to your on-premises environment using Azure Express Route or VPN Gateway
  • SQL endpoint is exposed only through a private IP address, allowing safe connectivity from private Azure or hybrid networks
  • Single-tenant with dedicated underlying infrastructure (compute, storage)

The following diagram outlines isolation design:

high availability

Auditing for compliance and security

Managed Instance auditing tracks database events and writes them to an audit log in your Azure storage account. Auditing can help maintain regulatory compliance, understand database activity, and gain insight into discrepancies and anomalies that could indicate business concerns or suspected security violations.

Data encryption in motion

Managed Instance secures your data by providing encryption for data in motion using Transport Layer Security.

In addition to transport layer security, SQL Database Managed Instance offers protection of sensitive data in flight, at rest and during query processing with Always Encrypted. Always Encrypted is an industry-first that offers unparalleled data security against breaches involving the theft of critical data. For example, with Always Encrypted, credit card numbers are stored encrypted in the database always, even during query processing, allowing decryption at the point of use by authorized staff or applications that need to process that data.

Dynamic data masking

SQL Database dynamic data masking limits sensitive data exposure by masking it to nonprivileged users. Dynamic data masking helps prevent unauthorized access to sensitive data by enabling you to designate how much of the sensitive data to reveal with minimal impact on the application layer. It’s a policy-based security feature that hides the sensitive data in the result set of a query over designated database fields, while the data in the database is not changed.

Row-level security

Row-level security enables you to control access to rows in a database table based on the characteristics of the user executing a query (such as by group membership or execution context). Row-level security (RLS) simplifies the design and coding of security in your application. RLS enables you to implement restrictions on data row access. For example, ensuring that workers can access only the data rows that are pertinent to their department, or restricting a data access to only the relevant data.

Threat detection

Azure SQL Database Threat Detection complements auditing, by providing an additional layer of security intelligence built into the service that detects unusual and potentially harmful attempts to access or exploit databases. You are alerted about suspicious activities, potential vulnerabilities, and SQL injection attacks, as well as anomalous database access patterns. Threat Detection alerts can be viewed from Azure Security Center and provide details of suspicious activity and recommend action on how to investigate and mitigate the threat.

Azure Active Directory integration and multi-factor authentication

SQL Database enables you to centrally manage identities of database user and other Microsoft services with Azure Active Directory integration. This capability simplified permission management and enhances security. Azure Active Directory supports multi-factor authentication (MFA) to increase data and application security while supporting a single sign-on process.


SQL database authentication refers to how users prove their identity when connecting to the database. SQL Database supports two types of authentication:

  • SQL Authentication, which uses a username and password.
  • Azure Active Directory Authentication, which uses identities managed by Azure Active Directory and is supported for managed and integrated domains.


Authorization refers to what a user can do within an Azure SQL Database, and is controlled by your user account's database role memberships and object-level permissions. Managed Instance has same authorization capabilities as SQL Server 2017.

Database migration

Managed Instance targets user scenarios with mass database migration from on-premises or IaaS database implementations. Managed Instance supports several database migration options:

Data Migration Service

The Azure Database Migration Service is a fully managed service designed to enable seamless migrations from multiple database sources to Azure Data platforms with minimal downtime. This service streamlines the tasks required to move existing third party and SQL Server databases to Azure. Deployment options include Azure SQL Database, Managed Instance, and SQL Server in Azure VM at Public Preview. See How to migrate your on-premises database to Managed Instance using DMS.

Backup and restore

The migration approach leverages SQL backups to Azure blob storage. Backups stored in Azure storage blob can be directly restored into Managed Instance.

SQL features supported

Managed Instance aims to deliver close to 100% surface area compatibility with on-premises SQL Server coming in stages until service general availability. For a features and comparison list, see SQL common features.

Managed Instance supports backward compatibility to SQL 2008 databases. Direct migration from SQL 2005 database servers is supported, compatibility level for migrated SQL 2005 databases are updated to SQL 2008.

The following diagram outlines surface area compatibility in Managed Instance:


Key differences between SQL Server on-premises and Managed Instance

Managed Instance benefits from being always-up-to-date in the cloud, which means that some features in on-premises SQL Server may be either obsolete, retired, or have alternatives. There are specific cases when tools need to recognize that a particular feature works in a slightly different way or that service is not running in an environment you do not fully control:

  • High-availability is built in and pre-configured. Always On high availability features are not exposed in a same way as it is on SQL IaaS implementations
  • Automated backups and point in time restore. Customer can initiate copy-only backups that do not interfere with automatic backup chain.
  • Managed Instance does not allow specifying full physical paths so all corresponding scenarios have to be supported differently: RESTORE DB does not support WITH MOVE, CREATE DB doesn’t allow physical paths, BULK INSERT works with Azure Blobs only, etc.
  • Managed Instance supports Azure AD authentication as cloud alternative to Windows authentication.
  • Managed Instance automatically manages XTP filegroup and files for databases containing In-Memory OLTP objects

Managed Instance administration features

Managed Instance enable system administrator to focus on what matters the most for business. Many system administrator/DBA activities are not required, or they are simple. For example, OS / RDBMS installation and patching, dynamic instance resizing and configuration, backups, database replication (including system databases), high availability configuration, and configuration of health and performance monitoring data streams.


For a list of supported, partially supported, and unsupported features, see SQL Database features. For a list of T-SQL differences in Managed Instances versus SQL Server, see Managed Instance T-SQL Differences from SQL Server

Next steps