What is the Difference Between MS SQL Server and Azure Synapse Server?

As businesses embrace cloud computing and advanced data analytics, Microsoft's SQL Server and Azure Synapse Server have emerged as powerful database solutions. Both are designed to handle vast amounts of data and provide robust management and querying capabilities. However, there are significant differences between the two platforms. In this blog, we will explore the dissimilarities between SQL Server and Azure Synapse Server to help you understand which one suits your organization's needs.

1. Deployment and Architecture:

SQL Server: SQL Server is an on-premises relational database management system (RDBMS) designed to run on dedicated physical or virtual servers. It provides various editions (Standard, Enterprise, etc.) with different features and capabilities.

Azure Synapse Server: Azure Synapse Server, formerly known as Azure SQL Data Warehouse, is a cloud-based data warehousing service within Microsoft's Azure ecosystem. It is built on top of SQL Server and utilizes a distributed architecture to handle large-scale data analytics workloads.

2. Workload:

SQL Server: SQL Server is primarily designed for transactional workloads and online transaction processing (OLTP) applications. It excels at handling real-time data processing, managing databases, and serving as a backend for business applications.

Azure Synapse Server: Azure Synapse Server is geared towards analytical workloads and online analytical processing (OLAP). It is optimized for complex queries, data analytics, and data warehousing, making it ideal for businesses that require large-scale data processing and analysis.

3. Scalability:

SQL Server: In an on-premises environment, SQL Server's scalability is limited to the resources of the physical or virtual server it runs on. Scaling up (adding more resources to the server) is a common approach to handle increased demands.

Azure Synapse Server: As a cloud-based service, Azure Synapse Server offers massive scalability. It can handle petabytes of data and automatically scales resources based on workload demands. Azure Synapse's elasticity allows you to pay for the resources you use, making it cost-effective for dynamic workloads.

4. Integration and Analytics:

SQL Server: SQL Server integrates well with Microsoft's business intelligence tools like Power BI, Reporting Services, and Analysis Services. It provides robust support for data integration and ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) processes.

Azure Synapse Server: Azure Synapse Server offers deep integration with Azure's data analytics services, including Azure Data Factory, Azure Data Lake Storage, and Azure Databricks. It provides seamless data integration and advanced analytics capabilities, making it a comprehensive solution for big data scenarios.

5. Cost Model:

SQL Server: SQL Server follows a traditional licensing model, where you purchase licenses based on the edition and number of cores or users. Additionally, you need to consider hardware and infrastructure costs for on-premises deployments.

Azure Synapse Server: Azure Synapse Server follows a pay-as-you-go pricing model, allowing you to pay for the resources you consume on Azure. It offers cost-effective solutions for businesses with fluctuating workloads, as you can easily scale resources up or down based on demand.

6. Management and Maintenance:

SQL Server: In an on-premises environment, SQL Server requires manual management and maintenance. Tasks like backups, updates, and security patches need to be handled by database administrators.

Azure Synapse Server: As a fully managed cloud service, Azure Synapse Server handles most of the management and maintenance tasks automatically. Microsoft takes care of infrastructure management, backups, updates, and security, allowing you to focus on data analysis and insights.


In summary, SQL Server and Azure Synapse Server cater to different types of workloads and deployment scenarios. SQL Server is well-suited for transactional applications and on-premises environments, while Azure Synapse Server excels at handling analytical workloads and big data in the cloud. The decision to choose between the two largely depends on your organization's requirements, scale, and preference for on-premises or cloud-based solutions. Evaluating the differences between SQL Server and Azure Synapse Server will help you make an informed decision and harness the power of the right database platform for your business needs.

Remember that the choice between SQL Server and Azure Synapse Server can have a significant impact on your data infrastructure, so it's essential to carefully assess your current and future needs before making a decision.

Disclaimer: The information in this blog is based on the state of SQL Server and Azure Synapse Server as of the publication date. It is advisable to check for any updates or changes that may have occurred after this date.



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