Microsoft unveils its latest Cosmos DB lure for developers: More free stuff and an emulator for Linux

Also: Blockchain Ledger for Azure SQL Database


Build Microsoft's attempts to bring Cosmos DB to the masses continued at Build 2021 as Redmond threw emulators and freebies at developers, while the more sober world of Azure SQL Database was given the Ledger treatment.

Microsoft's distributed NoSQL database, Cosmos DB, has been around for a good few years and during that time the Windows behemoth has attempted to lure developers its way with a variety of tweaks, from a lowering of the cost of entry to adding serverless options for users with spiky traffic patterns preferring a pay-as-you-go approach.

At the Microsoft's Build 2021 event that serverless option became generally available for the Core, MongoDB, Cassandra, Gremlin and Table APIs. But it was the improvements aimed at persuading developers to take the system out for test drive that were the most eye-catching.

A well as a preview for partial document updates, Microsoft also finally made a Cosmos DB emulator available for Linux and macOS, complementing the existing Windows incarnation. The emulator – see the above – has been a repeated ask by the community and allows developers to play with the technology without requiring an Azure subscription.

Why the long wait? "The bottom line," said Raghu Ramakrishnan, chief technology officer of Azure Data. "We just had a lot on our plate." In a choice between that and Synapse Link, the latter won out.

On-premises fans hoping for news regarding Cosmos DB and Azure Stack were, however, to be disappointed, as Microsoft told us: "We have nothing to share about Cosmos DB on Azure Stack HCI at this time.

"We do offer customers the ability to manage their hybrid deployments using Azure Managed Instance for Apache Cassandra, which is part of the Cosmos DB family."

It's not quite the same, though, is it?

Still, Microsoft significantly upped the freebies on offer for those happy to sign up for Azure. The free tier has increased to 1,000 request units per second of provisioned throughput with 25GB of storage monthly for the lifetime of one Azure Cosmos DB account per Azure subscription. This quite the jump from the previous 400 RU/s and 5GB.

Is it Blockchain or is it Ledger? Or is it both?

As well as Cosmos DB, Microsoft also unveiled Azure SQL Ledger (for those wondering what Redmond was going to do with Azure Blockchain following the product's abrupt End of Life announcement) for its managed SQL database service.

It's a neat bit of technology, and handy for users who have faced the pain of crafting audit trails with triggers. In this instance, it's a matter of enabling the ledger function (currently in preview), which dumps out each transaction in a blockchain data structure.

"The computed hashes," said Microsoft, "of your database are then stored outside of Azure SQL Database in tamper-proof storage (such as Azure immutable Blob storage, or Azure Confidential Ledger), as database digests."

Thus nefarious behavior can be swiftly detected and thwarted: "No database administrator can go in there and make changes," said Ramakrishnan. ®

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