Update Policy for Azure SQL Managed Instance
Published May 22 2024 10:00 AM 2,142 Views

We're thrilled to announce general availability of the Update Policy feature for Azure SQL Managed Instance. This new configuration option brings you more flexibility in getting access to the latest SQL engine features with no additional cost or extra downtime.


With the new feature, you can choose between two update policies:

  • Always-up to date is a more agile policy, with cloud-native way of delivering new SQL engine features as soon as they are ready in Azure. It enables you to always be at the forefront – to quickly adopt new engine features, benefit from them in everyday operations and keep a competitive edge without waiting for the next major release of SQL Server.
  • SQL Server 2022 policy offers a more traditional approach to updates, following the Cumulative Update (CU) releases of SQL Server 2022. Your managed instance gets security patches, fixes, and functional improvements of the existing comprehensive set of SQL engine features through regular service updates.


Regardless of the update policy chosen, you continue to benefit from Azure SQL platform innovation. Improvements and new features not related to the SQL engine such as zone redundancy, instance stop/start capability, networking and connectivity improvements, business continuity, new hardware generations and the like – everything that makes Azure SQL Managed Instance a true PaaS service – will continue to be delivered to your Azure SQL Managed Instance resources, bringing it to new heights of efficiency, resilience, performance, security, and control.


Configuring update policy for an existing managed instanceConfiguring update policy for an existing managed instance


Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s dive into the specifics of each update policy.


Always-up-to-date policy

It’s a fast lane - unique to Azure - for getting access to new SQL engine features without waiting for the next major release of SQL Server. Quality assurance process and safe deployment practices of Azure are strictly followed, making new features ready for production use as soon as they reach general availability. Regular service updates bring smaller or larger new features, but also security patches, fixes, and functional improvements of the existing features. Azure SQL Database inherently applies Always-up-to-date policy since the inception of the service more than a decade ago.


The underlying database format evolves with some of the new features introduced, making it gradually diverge from the database format used by the latest major release of SQL Server. Due to the database format mismatch some means of copying a database from managed instance with Always-up-to-date policy configured to a SQL Server instance are not available, while the same operations in the opposite direction remain available. This applies to restore of a database backup and to database replication using managed instance link feature based on the Always On technology. Alternative means of copying a managed instance database to SQL Server remain available, like data export/import, transactional replication, or using Azure Data Factory service.


You can configure Always-up-date policy during instance creation, or you can change the policy of your existing managed instance to Always-up-to-date as long as the instance is enabled for November 2022 feature wave. Once Always-up-to-date policy is configured for a managed instance, it cannot be changed since database format cannot be downgraded.

As an illustration of a new SQL engine feature exclusive to instances with Always-up-to-date policy configured, check External REST Endpoint Invocation. More features are coming soon.


SQL Server 2022 policy

As its name suggests, the SQL Server 2022 update policy follows the mainstream servicing lifecycle of SQL Server 2022. Regular service updates bring cumulative update (CU) payload consisting of security patches, fixes, and functional improvements of the existing features. No new SQL engine features get delivered.


Thanks to the database format alignment, instances with this update policy configured enjoy easier database mobility to SQL Server 2022 instances. Restoring a database backup and database replication using the link feature are available in both directions between managed instance with SQL Server 2022 update policy configured and SQL Server 2022 instance.


All existing managed instances have this policy configured. It’s also the default update policy for newly created instances. It can be changed to Always-up-to-date policy during creation of the instance, or for existing instances with November 2022 feature wave enabled. The update policy cannot be changed back from Always-up-to-date to SQL Server 2022 because database format cannot be downgraded, just like database from SQL Server 2017 cannot be restored or Always On replicated to SQL Server 2016. That’s why SQL Server 2022 is configured as the default update policy.


The policy remains available until the end of mainstream support for SQL Server 2022. Upon expiry of the mainstream support period, instances with SQL Server 2022 update policy configured will be automatically upgraded to update policy corresponding to the latest SQL Server major release at that time, colloquially referred to as “SQL Server vNext”. With the new update policy configured, instances will also get access to the entire set of SQL engine features introduced with vNext. The database compatibility level remains unchanged, protecting you from unwanted behavior changes of the existing features.


Which update policy is the right choice for me?

If you don’t care about restoring database backups from your instance to SQL Server, or establishing near real-time database replication to SQL Server, then Always-up-to-date policy is the right choice for you. You will keep getting access to new SQL engine features. While you may have no interest in or have no time for adopting some of those features in your solutions, some other features will automatically bring benefits. As an example, think of potential future features improving resiliency or performance, like accelerated database recovery or optimized locking did in the past.


If you have regulatory compliance, contractual, or other reasons important to you for copying databases from managed instance to SQL Server, consider using SQL Server 2022 update policy and staying with the current set of SQL engine features. You can still achieve it with Always-up-to-date policy configured using alternative features like database export/import or transactional replication, or services like Azure Data Factory.


If you are not sure what are all the requirements for your solution – take your time and start with SQL Server 2022 update policy. You can switch to Always-up-to-date policy later if that turns out to be the right choice and you identify new features that you’d like to adopt as soon as possible.


You can also use both update policies based on the requirements for each of your solutions and respective sets of managed instances. You may decide to configure Always-up-to-date policy in your development environment to have new features at hand and stay current with the new opportunities, and still use SQL Server 2022 update policy for the other environments if required.

If you plan to use both update policies within the same solution, check the limitations of cross-instance features used between instances with different update policies configured. They are typically related to point-in-time restore between two instances, or Always On based features like geo-replication using failover groups or database copying.


Best practices



Whether you're all about staying ahead of the curve with brand new engine features, or happy with the existing comprehensive set of SQL engine features available in SQL Server 2022 and need easy database portability, we’ve got you covered with the Update Policy choice for managed instance. Regardless of the update policy chosen, you keep getting benefits from all the innovations in Azure SQL platform.


For more details visit Update policy documentation and stay tuned for the announcements of new SQL engine features coming to instances with Always-up-to-date policy configured.

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‎May 22 2024 10:01 AM
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