Announcing the new premium-series hardware for SQL Managed Instance
Published Nov 02 2021 08:02 AM 11.5K Views

We’re delighted to announce the public preview in a limited number of regions for the new premium-series hardware generations for Azure SQL Managed Instance, based on the latest generation of Intel® Xeon Scalable processors (3rd gen - Ice Lake).


New premium-series hardware generations offer significantly improved performance and scalability over the standard-series (also known as “Gen 5”) hardware offering, allowing you to migrate your more demanding database workloads to Azure SQL Managed Instance.


A new memory optimized option within the premium-series provides even more memory per vCore to meet the needs of your most memory-intensive workloads.



The following table summarizes the key technical details for the new premium-series hardware generations in SQL Managed Instance:


Standard-series (Gen 5)



Memory optimized premium-series



Intel® E5-2673 v4 (Broadwell),
Intel® SP-8160 (Skylake) and Intel® 8272CL (Cascade Lake) 2.5 GHz processors

Intel® 8370C (Ice Lake) 2.8 GHz processors

Intel® 8370C (Ice Lake) 2.8 GHz processors

Number of vCores

4-80 vCores

4-80 vCores

4-64 vCores


5.1 GB per vCore

Max 408 GB per instance

7 GB per vCore

Max 560 GB per instance

13.6 GB per vCore

Max 870 GB per instance

Max instance reserved storage

(depending on the number of vCores)

General Purpose: up to 16 TB

Business Critical: up to 4 TB

General Purpose: up to 16 TB

Business Critical: up to 5.5 TB

General Purpose: up to 16 TB

Business Critical: up to 16 TB

vCore price difference


+15% over standard-series

+40% over premium-series

+61% over standard-series

Key characteristics for SQL Managed Instance hardware configurations


Key takeaways

  • Both premium-series hardware options are using latest CPUs and memory technologies, which provide a significant boost to compute performance relative to standard-series hardware
  • Premium-series hardware offers more memory per vCore relative to standard-series HW, with memory optimized option offering almost double the amount relative to premium-series
  • In addition, premium-series hardware offers increased max reserved storage for your Business Critical instances, ranging from 5.5 TB per instance in premium-series to a whopping 16 TB capacity in memory optimized premium-series

To learn more about the increased storage limits for Azure SQL Managed Instances, please refer to this blog post by Nevena Nikolic.


Performance results

It’s not a secret that a significant portion of database workloads performs faster when given additional memory – this is because more available memory allows SQL Server to come up with more efficient query execution plans and to execute more queries in parallel.

To showcase the power of new hardware platforms for SQL Managed Instance, we created a simple environment using a well-known TPC-H 300 GB database, and ran two tests:

  1. Single TPC-H query returning a large data set
  2. Simulated workload with 15 instances of a large TPC-H query executed in parallel

We executed these two tests against three different SQL Managed Instances:

  • Standard-series with 8 vCores (comes with 40.8 GB of memory)
  • Premium-series with 8 vCores (comes with 56 GB of memory)
  • Memory optimized Premium-series with 8 vCores (comes with 108.8 GB of memory)
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Performance Testing Results


For test #1, the size of our chosen query was such that even 56 GB of memory available in the premium-series was not enough to avoid the data spilling to temp DB, so the query ran only slightly faster relative to standard-series (42 sec vs 43 sec). However, the same query completed in just 26 seconds on the memory-optimized premium series since the system had enough memory to avoid spilling to temp DB.

For test #2, the instances running on premium-series hardware were able to execute the same workload significantly faster since it was possible to execute more queries in parallel (thanks to more memory).

We are planning to publish additional performance benchmarks soon, so stay tuned for more information in this space.


How to participate in the preview

If you’re in one of the supported regions, there is no need to sign up. You can start using the new premium-series hardware today!

  • Premium-series SQL Managed Instance is available in all public Azure regions
  • Memory optimized premium-series is available in most of the Azure regions, including at least one region in each Azure geography. Please consult the Azure SQL MI resource limits docs page for the latest information on supported regions

Create your first SQL Managed Instance with premium-series hardware

The easiest way to create your first instance with premium-series hardware is via Azure Portal. The updated customer experience looks like this:


Azure Portal experience


In addition to standard-series (Gen 5) hardware generation, there are now two more choices available for the premium-series hardware generations (subject to regional availability, as explained above). Selecting one of the premium-series hardware generations will allow the “Storage in GB” slider to go to 5.5 TB (premium-series) or to 16 TB (memory-optimized premium-series). 

The support for Azure CLI and Power Shell will be available soon.


Reduce your costs for the memory-intensive workloads

Allowing more flexibility for workloads that need large amounts of memory but don’t require lots of CPU power was a frequent ask from some of our largest customers. These workloads often had to provision more vCores than necessary just to get the required amount of memory, which pushed the total price up linearly. With the premium-series hardware generations we are addressing this ask.

Both premium-series hardware generations offer better value in terms of total cost per memory, providing a significant cost saving for memory-intensive workloads:



Memory optimized premium-series

Memory per vCore ratio

(relative to standard-series)



Price per vCore

(relative to standard-series)



Memory amount per $$ spent

(relative to standard-series)

22% better value


68% better value

Comparison of memory costs across the SQL Managed Instance hardware generations


It’s important to note that premium-series hardware generations are only affecting the price for the vCore portion of your overall costs. The price for SQL licenses, reserved instance storage and backup storage stays the same irrespective of which hardware generation you are using.

We have some additional great news to share – the instances using new premium-series hardware generations will be free of charge in the month of November of 2021 (i.e., during the first month of the preview). Starting from December 1st, 2021, we will start charging listed prices for these instances. For more details, please see the SQL Managed Instance pricing page.


Gen 5 hardware generation is being renamed to standard-series (Gen 5)

If you read the entire article, you’ve probably noticed that we’re renaming the Gen 5 hardware generation to “standard-series (Gen 5)”.

Please note that this change applies only to Azure Portal and the supporting documentation – if you are using the REST API or an ARM template to create your standard-series (Gen 5) managed instances, your existing scripts will continue to work. We may announce a full formal rename of Gen 5 later.



In this article, we introduced the new premium-series hardware generations that make Azure SQL Managed Instance a great fit for more of your high-performance and memory-intensive database applications.

Next steps:

  • Create your first premium-series SQL Managed Instance in one of the supported regions and enjoy the blazing-fast performance for your database workloads!
  • Learn more about latest innovation in Azure SQL Managed Instance announced today.
  • Get started with SQL Managed Instance with our Quickstart reference guide.
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