Azure Data Warehouse: A Comprehensive Guide

BlogsData Engineering

Imagine you're a puzzle enthusiast, with pieces scattered everywhere, and you're struggling to put them all together. Now, imagine if someone handed you a puzzle board that could quickly gather all those scattered pieces and assemble them into a beautiful picture. That's what Azure Data Warehouse does for your business data!

Azure Data Warehouse (ADW) is a powerful cloud-based solution that acts like a magic puzzle board, assembling all your scattered data into a unified view. Introduced by Microsoft in 2016, it is a data warehousing service that is designed to handle large amounts of data, providing high performance and scalability. It allows organizations to process and store massive amounts of structured and unstructured data using a distributed database system.

With ADW, you can easily consolidate multiple data sources into a single data warehouse, allowing you to gain insights into your business operations like never before. It provides a user-friendly data structure, making it easy for non-technical users to access and analyze their data. Plus, with the ability to integrate with existing investments in SQL Server and other Microsoft technologies, Azure SQL Data Warehouse offers a seamless transition to the cloud.

What are the different components of Azure Data Warehousing?

Azure Data Warehousing consists of several components that work together to provide a scalable and efficient solution for storing and analyzing large amounts of data.

The Control Node is the management component of the system. It controls the overall functioning of the data warehouse and interacts with client applications. It handles the distribution of queries to the compute nodes, manages the overall system configuration, and controls the security aspects of the data warehouse.

Compute Nodes are responsible for processing queries in parallel. These nodes contain a large number of processors and memory to allow for fast processing of these queries across a large dataset. When data is loaded into the data warehouse, it is distributed across multiple compute nodes to enable parallel processing of queries.

Storage is another essential component of Azure Data Warehousing. Data is stored in Azure Blob Storage or Azure Data Lake Storage. Data is distributed and replicated across different storage accounts and regions to ensure data redundancy and high availability.

Finally, the Data Movement Service (DMS) is responsible for loading data into the data warehouse. DMS uses PolyBase to load data from external data sources such as Hadoop, Azure Blob Storage, and Azure Data Lake Storage. 

How do these components make Azure Data Warehouse work?

ADW is like a big team of workers who can process a lot of information quickly. It has two main parts: the boss (control node) and the workers (compute nodes). The boss manages everything and talks to the clients who want information. The workers are the ones who actually process this information. The control node manages the communication between the compute nodes and the storage layer. Compute nodes are responsible for processing data and running queries. The storage layer is where data is stored, and the data movement service manages data movement between the control node, compute nodes, and storage.

When you put information into ADW, it gets split up into pieces and sent to different workers to process at the same time. This means that you get your answer much faster, even if you're asking about a lot of information. The compute nodes also make copies of the information so that you don't lose it if something goes wrong.

So how do you ask ADW a question? You use a tool like SQL Server Management Studio or PolyBase. It's like talking to the boss on the phone. The boss tells the workers what to do, and they work on your question at the same time. This makes it faster to get your answer, even if you're asking about a lot of information. You can also use special tools like R and Python to find out more detailed information about your data. 

What Can You Expect from MS Azure Cloud Data Warehousing?

MS Azure Cloud Data Warehousing offers several benefits to businesses that are looking for a powerful and flexible data warehousing solution. Here are some of the things that you can expect from its implementation:

Scalability: Azure Data Warehousing is highly scalable, which means that you can easily adjust the amount of processing power that you need based on your workload. You can add more compute nodes as your data grows, or remove nodes if your workload decreases.

Performance: It uses the massively parallel processing (MPP) architecture to process large amounts of data quickly. This allows for faster query performance, even when dealing with large amounts of data.

Advanced Analytics: You can also use special tools like R and Python to find more detailed information about your data, allowing businesses to perform complex analyses on their data.

Security: Security is the primary pillar of any organization and so, Azure Cloud Data Warehousing offers several security features, including data encryption and access control, to help protect your data from unauthorized access.

Integration: Azure Cloud Data Warehouse integrates with other Azure services, allowing businesses to move data in and out of their data warehouse easily.

Cost-effective: The implementation offers a pay-as-you-go pricing model, which means that you only pay for the resources that you use. This makes it a cost-effective solution for businesses of all sizes.

The different use cases of Azure Data Warehouse

Azure Data Warehouse can be used for a variety of purposes.

One common use case is data warehousing, where it serves as a central repository for all of an organization's data. This allows businesses to consolidate data from multiple sources and analyze it in one place, making it easier to gain insights and make data-driven decisions.

Business intelligence is another area where Azure Data Warehouse can be used. By collecting and analyzing data from various sources, it provides valuable insights into business operations, customer behavior, and market trends. This information can be used to optimize business processes, improve decision-making, and drive growth.

Some additional uses of ADZ are:

  1. Creating a cloud-based data warehouse: Azure SQL Data Warehouse allows businesses to create a scalable, cloud-based data warehouse that can store and process large amounts of data. This can help businesses save on infrastructure costs and provide easier access to data for analytics and reporting.
  1. Migrating existing on-premises data warehouse to the cloud: If a business already has a data warehouse on-premises, they can use Azure SQL Data Warehouse to migrate it to the cloud. This can provide benefits such as scalability, easier management, and lower infrastructure costs.
  1. Data warehouse solution for applications and services: Azure SQL Data Warehouse can be used to provide data storage and retrieval services for web applications and other services that require access to data at runtime. This can help improve application performance and reduce the need for infrastructure management.
  1. Creating hybrid data warehouse solutions: Businesses can use Azure SQL Data Warehouse to create a hybrid data warehouse solution that combines on-premises SQL Server or data warehouse with an Azure-hosted data warehouse. This allows businesses to take advantage of both on-premises and cloud-based resources, providing greater flexibility and scalability.

What are the Common Justifications for Azure SQL Data Warehouse Implementation?

Companies generate vast amounts of data from various sources, and the challenge is to turn that data into meaningful insights. Traditional data storage solutions are no longer sufficient to handle the sheer volume and complexity of data. That's where Azure SQL Data Warehouse comes in. But why implement it?

Multiple Data Consolidation 

In today's digital world, data is generated from a wide variety of sources, including social media, customer feedback, and IoT devices. As a result, businesses often find themselves dealing with multiple data silos, which can make it difficult to gain a complete picture of their operations. By implementing Azure SQL Data Warehouse, companies can consolidate these disparate data resources into a single, unified data source. This enables them to more easily perform analytics and gain insights into their operations.

Historical Analysis

Another common justification for Azure Data Warehouse implementation is historical analysis. Many companies have years or even decades' worth of historical data that they would like to analyze. However, traditional databases may not be able to handle the volume of data or the complexity of the queries required for this type of analysis. AQL provides a solution to this problem by enabling businesses to store and query massive amounts of historical data.

Reduce Silos

Data silos can be a major hindrance to business operations. When data is stored in separate silos, it can be difficult to access and analyze, which can lead to missed opportunities or poor decision-making. By implementing Azure Data Warehouse, businesses can reduce the number of silos they have, which can lead to more efficient and effective data management.

User-friendly Data Structure

Another benefit of Azure Data Warehouse is its user-friendly data structure. The system is designed to be intuitive and easy to use, even for those who are not technical experts. This means that businesses can quickly and easily analyze their data without having to invest in expensive training or hire additional personnel.

Existing Investment

Finally, many companies choose to implement Azure SQL Data Warehouse because they have already invested in other Azure services. Azure Data Warehouse integrates seamlessly with other Azure services, such as Azure Data Factory and Azure Machine Learning. This means that businesses can easily incorporate ADW into their existing IT infrastructure, without having to make major changes or investments.

Advantages and disadvantages of Azure Data Warehouse

Like any solution or software, Azure Data Warehouse has its own set of perks and limitations. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of implementing ADW.


Compliances: Azure Data Warehouse is compliant with industry standards and regulations such as PCI-DSS, SOX, and HIPAA, ensuring that businesses can meet their regulatory requirements.

Cost-effective: With Azure SQL Data Warehouse, businesses can pay for only the storage and processing power they need, making it more cost-effective compared to building and maintaining their data warehouse infrastructure.

Scalable compute power: The implementation of Azure Data Warehouse offers scalable compute power, allowing businesses to easily scale up or down their processing power based on their needs.

System management through Microsoft: Microsoft takes care of system management tasks, such as hardware maintenance, software updates, and security patches, allowing businesses to focus on their data analysis tasks.

Advanced security features: The solution provides built-in security features such as Azure Threat Detection and Transparent Data Encryption (TDE) to secure data at rest.

Integration with other Azure services: Azure Data Warehouse can be easily integrated with other Azure services such as Azure Active Directory, Data Factory, Data Lake Storage, Databricks, and Microsoft Power BI, providing businesses with a comprehensive data analysis solution.


Limitations on connections: Azure Data Warehouse supports a maximum of 1,024 active connections, and only 32 connections at a time, which may limit its scalability for larger businesses.

Lacks support for in-memory OLTP: Azure Data Warehouse does not support in-memory OLTP, which can limit its performance for certain types of data analysis tasks.

Difficulty in data to cloud migration: Moving data from on-premises or other cloud services to Azure Data Warehouse can be challenging and time-consuming.

Limited functions: Some functions and features of Azure Data Warehouse are only available in the classic portal, which may be inconvenient for businesses that prefer to use the new Azure portal.

How Azure SQL Data Warehousing Overcomes These Drawbacks 

Azure SQL Data Warehouse offers several solutions to overcome the aforementioned drawbacks. 

  • First, to address the challenge of moving data into the cloud service, Azure provides various migration tools such as Azure Data Factory, Azure Database Migration Service, and Azure Data Sync. These tools simplify the process of transferring data from on-premises or other cloud services to Azure Data Warehouse, reducing the complexity and time required for data migration.
  • Secondly, to overcome the limitations on connections, Azure Data Warehouse supports dynamic scalability by allowing users to independently scale compute and storage resources based on their business requirements. This enables businesses to add more resources when needed to handle increased workloads and users, thus overcoming the limitations of fixed connections.
  • To address the lack of support for in-memory OLTP, Azure Data Warehouse provides a feature called "memory-optimized tables." This feature allows users to create memory-optimized tables that can significantly improve the performance of OLTP workloads. 
  • Additionally, Azure Data Warehouse supports PolyBase, which allows users to query data stored in Hadoop or Azure Blob Storage using T-SQL commands.
  • Finally, for the inconvenience of some functions only being available in the classic portal, Azure provides a unified Azure portal that consolidates all Azure services, including Azure Data Warehouse. This enables businesses to manage all their services from a single portal, simplifying administration and reducing the need for multiple logins and interfaces.


Azure Data Warehouse offers a unique pricing structure where users are charged for both compute and storage resources separately. By offering a pricing model that separates compute and storage resources, the software allows users to scale their resources up or down based on their business needs. This model also provides more transparency into the cost of running a data warehouse, making it easier for businesses to manage their expenses.

The pricing for storage is based on the size of the data warehouse and includes 7-days of incremental snapshot storage. Currently, the rate for storage is $122.88 per 1 TB per month. Additionally, for disaster recovery, geo-redundant storage is available at a starting rate of $0.12 per GB per month.

The compute resources are provided using a sliding scale based on Data Warehouse Units (DWUs). The DWUs range from DW100c at $1.20 per hour to DW30000c at $360 per hour. The pricing is based on the amount of computing power that is required by the user's workload. Discounts are available for multi-year agreements, and users can choose the level of compute resources that is best suited for their business needs.


Azure Data Warehouse provides a user-friendly data structure, making it easy for non-technical users to access and analyze their data. Plus, it seamlessly integrates with existing investments in SQL Server and other Microsoft technologies, offering a smooth transition to the cloud.

But ADW isn't just a convenient solution for consolidating data. It's a powerful tool that provides scalability, performance, advanced analytics, security, integration, and cost-effectiveness. This makes it an excellent option for a variety of purposes, including data warehousing, business intelligence, and more.

So if you're looking for a flexible and robust data warehousing solution, look no further than Azure Data Warehouse. With its ability to quickly process large amounts of data and provide valuable insights, it's like having a team of workers at your fingertips, ready to solve any puzzle that comes your way!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Azure Data Lake a data warehouse?
Azure Data Lake is not a traditional data warehouse, but rather a data lake that allows for the storage and processing of large volumes of unstructured and structured data.

What is the new name of Azure data warehouse?
Azure Data Warehouse has been rebranded as Azure Synapse Analytics, which combines big data and data warehousing to enable advanced analytics and insights.

Is Azure Databricks a data warehouse?
Azure Databricks is not a data warehouse, but rather a unified analytics platform that combines big data processing and machine learning capabilities for scalable data analysis.

What is an Azure data warehouse?
Azure Data Warehouse, now known as Azure Synapse Analytics, is a cloud-based data warehousing solution that allows businesses to store and analyze large amounts of structured and unstructured data using familiar SQL tools and integrations.

Is Azure Synapse a data warehouse?
Yes, Azure Synapse Analytics is a data warehouse solution that allows businesses to store and analyze large amounts of structured and unstructured data using familiar SQL tools and integrations, as well as big data and machine learning capabilities.

What is the difference between Azure SQL and Azure Data Warehouse? 
The main difference between Azure SQL and Azure Data Warehouse is that Azure SQL is a fully managed relational database service, while Azure Data Warehouse is an enterprise-class distributed data warehousing solution. Azure SQL is suitable for OLTP workloads, whereas Azure data warehouse is designed for analytical workloads.

Is Azure Data Factory a data warehouse? 
Azure Data Factory is not a data warehouse but a cloud-based data integration service that allows you to create, schedule, and manage data pipelines for moving and transforming data across various sources and destinations. It can be used in conjunction with other services like Azure SQL Data Warehouse to build comprehensive data solutions. 

Why use Azure data warehouse? 
Organizations use Azure data warehouse for its scalability, flexibility, and cost-effectiveness in handling large volumes of structured and unstructured data for analytical purposes. It offers features like elastic scaling, columnar storage, and integration with other Azure services for building modern data warehousing solutions. 

Give some Azure data warehouse example 
Some examples of Azure Data Warehouse offerings by Microsoft Azure include Azure Synapse Analytics, Azure HDInsight for big-data processing tasks using Hadoop clusters on the Azure cloud platform, Azure Databricks for collaborative Spark-based analytics workloads, and Cosmos DB for globally distributed NoSQL databases.

What is Azure Data Factory for example? 
Azure Data Factory is an integrated cloud-based service by Microsoft Azure that helps users create automated pipelines to orchestrate movements and transformations between various sources such as on-premises servers or cloud storage like Azure Blob Storage or SQL Database.

What is ETL in Azure? 
In Azure's context, Elastic Inference can be seen as an example of an ETL service wherein customers can attach low-cost GPU-powered accelerators onto EC2 instances during the inference phase without up-front commitment costs related to dedicated GPUs.

Written by
Soham Dutta


Azure Data Warehouse: A Comprehensive Guide