Replicate Data to Azure Synapse Analytics with Azure Synapse Link for SQL

By:   |   Updated: 2022-12-20   |   Comments   |   Related: > Azure Synapse Analytics


We have an OLTP database and would like to analyze the data in our dedicated SQL Pool in Azure Synapse Analytics. However, setting up data pipelines between these databases is time-consuming. Is there an easy way to get the data from the source database into Azure Synapse Analytics?


A new feature has been introduced to Azure Synapse Analytics: Azure Synapse Link. With this feature, you can replicate one or more tables from Azure SQL Database or SQL Server 2022 to a dedicated SQL Pool in your Azure Synapse Analytics workspace. This saves considerable effort in creating and maintaining ETL pipelines. When creating a link, a change feed will be set up between the databases. When changes occur in the source database, they're automatically replicated to Azure Synapse.

This tip will explain how to set up such a link. We're using an Azure SQL DB for the source but working with SQL Server 2022 is very similar. Note: Azure Synapse Link and SQL Server 2022 were still in preview when this tip was written.

How to Configure Azure Synapse Link


Before we start, make sure you have the following:

  • Azure subscription (free trial here).
  • Azure SQL database, with one or more tables that contain data. For Azure Synapse Link, the database needs to have a minimum size.
    • For DTU-based provisioning, you need at least 100 DTUs (which corresponds with the Standard S3 tier).
    • For a database in an elastic pool, you need at least 100 eDTUs
    • Or min 1 vCore otherwise
  • An Azure Data Lake Storage Gen2 account

Let's begin with configuring the Azure SQL DB. In the properties of the logical SQL Server, go to Identity and assign a system-managed identity (see image below).

configure system assigned managed identity

Next, go to the Networking section and allow other Azure services/resources to access the SQL Server:

allow all Azure services

Now let's create an Azure Synapse workspace. In the Azure Portal, create a new resource and search for Azure Synapse.

azure synapse in the marketplace

Choose a subscription, and either create a new resource group or choose an existing one. Synapse also needs its own managed resource group. Give your Synapse Analytics workspace a name, choose a region, and your Data Lake Storage account.

configure basic settings

In the Security tab, configure the SQL Server admin login if you want to use SQL authentication.

configure SQL authentication

In the Networking tab, disable the managed virtual network (default setting), and allow connections from all IP addresses.

configure network settings

Review your settings and create the workspace. After a while, it will be ready. In the management portal, you will find a link to Azure Synapse Studio, as shown in the image below. Click on it to open a new tab in your browser.

link to azure synapse studio

Go to the Manage section in the Studio and create a new dedicated SQL pool.

create new pool

Name the new pool and choose the minimum performance level (DW100c), which should be enough to test this new feature. All other settings can be left to the default.

Naming new pool/choosing minimum performance level

Once the dedicated pool is created, remember to pause it if you don't need it because it's a costly resource.

If you want to use the system-assigned managed identity of Azure Synapse to connect to the source database, it needs to be added as a user to the database with the correct permissions. The following T-SQL scripts add the managed identity as a user and assign it to the db_owner role:

ALTER ROLE [db_owner] ADD MEMBER [mssqltips-synapse];

The db_owner role is needed because a changefeed schema will be created with a couple of system objects. For testing purposes, you can create the following table with one record inserted:

CREATE TABLE dbo.LinkTest(
    ,MyText VARCHAR(250) NOT NULL
INSERT INTO dbo.LinkTest(Mytext) VALUES ('Hello World!');

Creating the Link

Go to the Integrate section and click Link connection:

create new link connection

In the dialog, select a linked service to either an Azure SQL DB or a SQL Server 2022 instance. If you haven't created one, you can choose to configure one at this time.

linked service to azure sql db

If the database doesn't have the correct sizing, the following error will be returned:

size error

With a linked service selected, you can choose one or more tables to be replicated:

select tables to be replicated

If a table is incompatible, an error will appear explaining the problem (see the above text in red). There are a couple of requisites, such as that a table should have a primary key. Certain data types are also not allowed. You can find a complete list in the documentation article, Known limitations and issues with Azure Synapse Link for SQL.

In the next screen, choose the destination (target) pool:

select dedicated pool

Finally, specify a name for the link, choose the size, and the replication mode.

specify name, size and schedule

Keep in mind that the size of the link drives the price, as you pay for each hour a core has been running. You can replicate continuously (the most expensive option) or on a schedule. The schedule is a number of minutes, with the minimum being 20 and the maximum being 60. Choosing 20 means the change feed will be checked every 20 minutes.

schedule configuration

The link will be created but will not start yet. First, you must configure the destination tables in the dedicated pool.

configure destination tables

Since we're only replicating a very small table, I chose Replicated as the distribution type (which means the table is replicated over all 60 nodes of the dedicated SQL pool) and a normal Clustered index (instead of the default of a clustered columnstore index). Once every table is configured, the link can be started, which can take a couple of minutes (see the image below).

starting the link

When the link is running, you'll get a link to the monitoring section:

link is running

There, we can see the status of the link, how many rows were processed, and when the last processing time was:

monitoring screen

In the dedicated pool, we can verify that the row from the Azure SQL DB has been replicated successfully:

success, row has been replicated

Let's insert a new row:

INSERT INTO dbo.LinkTest(Mytext) VALUES ('Hello MSSQLTips!');

After about 20 minutes, we can see it will be transferred as well:

second row also replicated

Deleting the Link

The link can easily be stopped and deleted from Synapse Analytics. This will not destroy the data in the dedicated pool. However, the changefeed schema will still exist in the Azure SQL DB (or SQL Server 2022). You may have other links running as well.

If you want to scale the database down to a tier not supported by Azure Synapse Link (S1 for example), there will be an error. All changefeed objects need to be removed from the database first, which can be done with the following stored procedure:

EXEC sys.sp_change_feed_disable_db

After executing this sp, the database can be scaled down again.

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About the author
MSSQLTips author Koen Verbeeck Koen Verbeeck is a seasoned business intelligence consultant at AE. He has over a decade of experience with the Microsoft Data Platform in numerous industries. He holds several certifications and is a prolific writer contributing content about SSIS, ADF, SSAS, SSRS, MDS, Power BI, Snowflake and Azure services. He has spoken at PASS, SQLBits, dataMinds Connect and delivers webinars on Koen has been awarded the Microsoft MVP data platform award for many years.

This author pledges the content of this article is based on professional experience and not AI generated.

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Article Last Updated: 2022-12-20

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