Frequently asked questions about different APIs in Azure Cosmos DB

APPLIES TO: NoSQL MongoDB Cassandra Gremlin Table

General FAQ

What are the typical use cases for Azure Cosmos DB?

Azure Cosmos DB is a good choice for new web, mobile, gaming, and IoT applications where automatic scale, predictable performance, fast order of millisecond response times, and the ability to query over schema-free data is important. Azure Cosmos DB lends itself to rapid development and supporting the continuous iteration of application data models. Applications that manage user-generated content and data are common use cases for Azure Cosmos DB.

How does Azure Cosmos DB offer predictable performance?

A request unit (RU) is the measure of throughput in Azure Cosmos DB. A 1RU throughput corresponds to the throughput of the GET of a 1-KB document. Every operation in Azure Cosmos DB, including reads, writes, SQL queries, and stored procedure executions, has a deterministic RU value that's based on the throughput required to complete the operation. Instead of thinking about CPU, IO, and memory and how they each affect your application throughput, you can think in terms of a single RU measure.

You can configure each Azure Cosmos DB container with provisioned throughput in terms of RUs of throughput per second. For applications of any scale, you can benchmark individual requests to measure their RU values, and provision a container to handle the total of request units across all requests. You can also scale up or scale down your container's throughput as the needs of your application evolve. For more information about request units and for help with determining your container needs, try the throughput calculator.

How does Azure Cosmos DB support various data models such as key/value, columnar, document, and graph?

Key/value (table), columnar, document, and graph data models are all natively supported because of the ARS (atoms, records, and sequences) design that Azure Cosmos DB is built on. Atoms, records, and sequences can be easily mapped and projected to various data models. The APIs for a subset of models are available right now (NoSQL, MongoDB, Table, and Gremlin) and others specific to additional data models will be available in the future.

Azure Cosmos DB has a schema agnostic indexing engine capable of automatically indexing all the data it ingests without requiring any schema or secondary indexes from the developer. The engine relies on a set of logical index layouts (inverted, columnar, tree) which decouple the storage layout from the index and query processing subsystems. Azure Cosmos DB also has the ability to support a set of wire protocols and APIs in an extensible manner and translate them efficiently to the core data model (1) and the logical index layouts (2) making it uniquely capable of supporting more than one data model natively.

Can I use multiple APIs to access my data?

Azure Cosmos DB is Microsoft's globally distributed, multi-model database service. Where multi-model means Azure Cosmos DB supports multiple APIs and multiple data models, different APIs use different data formats for storage and wire protocol. For example, SQL uses JSON, MongoDB uses BSON, Table uses EDM, Cassandra uses CQL, Gremlin uses JSON format. As a result, we recommend using the same API for all access to the data in a given account.

Each API operates independently, except the API for Gremlin and NoSQL, which are interoperable.

Is Azure Cosmos DB HIPAA compliant?

Yes, Azure Cosmos DB is HIPAA-compliant. HIPAA establishes requirements for the use, disclosure, and safeguarding of individually identifiable health information. For more information, see the Microsoft Trust Center.

What are the storage limits of Azure Cosmos DB?

There's no limit to the total amount of data that a container can store in Azure Cosmos DB.

What are the throughput limits of Azure Cosmos DB?

There's no limit to the total amount of throughput that a container can support in Azure Cosmos DB. The key idea is to distribute your workload roughly evenly among a sufficiently large number of partition keys.

Are Direct and Gateway connectivity modes encrypted?

Yes both modes are always fully encrypted.

How much does Azure Cosmos DB cost?

For details, refer to the Azure Cosmos DB pricing details page. Azure Cosmos DB usage charges are determined by the number of provisioned containers, the number of hours the containers were online, and the provisioned throughput for each container.

Is a free account available?

Yes, you can sign up for a time-limited account at no charge, with no commitment. To sign up, visit Try Azure Cosmos DB for free or read more in the Try Azure Cosmos DB FAQ.

If you're new to Azure, you can sign up for an Azure free account, which gives you 30 days and a credit to try all the Azure services. If you have a Visual Studio subscription, you're also eligible for free Azure credits to use on any Azure service.

You can also use the Azure Cosmos DB Emulator to develop and test your application locally for free, without creating an Azure subscription. When you're satisfied with how your application is working in the Azure Cosmos DB Emulator, you can switch to using an Azure Cosmos DB account in the cloud.

How can I get additional help with Azure Cosmos DB?

To ask a technical question, you can post to one of these two question and answer forums:

To fix an issue with your account, file a support request in the Azure portal.

Try Azure Cosmos DB subscriptions

You can now enjoy a time-limited Azure Cosmos DB experience without a subscription, free of charge and commitments. To sign up for a Try Azure Cosmos DB subscription, go to Try Azure Cosmos DB for free and use any personal Microsoft account (MSA). This subscription is separate from the Azure Free Trial, and can be used along with an Azure Free Trial or an Azure paid subscription.

Try Azure Cosmos DB subscriptions appear in the Azure portal next other subscriptions associated with your user ID.

The following conditions apply to Try Azure Cosmos DB subscriptions:

  • Account access can be granted to personal Microsoft accounts (MSA). Avoid using Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) accounts or accounts belonging to corporate Azure AD Tenants, they might have limitations in place that could block access granting.
  • One throughput provisioned container per subscription for API for NoSQL, Gremlin, and Table accounts.
  • Up to three throughput provisioned collections per subscription for MongoDB accounts.
  • One throughput provisioned database per subscription. Throughput provisioned databases can contain any number of containers inside.
  • 10-GB storage capacity.
  • Global replication is available in the following Azure regions: Central US, North Europe, and Southeast Asia
  • Maximum throughput of 5 K RU/s when provisioned at the container level.
  • Maximum throughput of 20 K RU/s when provisioned at the database level.
  • Subscriptions expire after 30 days, and can be extended to a maximum of 31 days total. After expiration, the information contained is deleted.
  • Azure support tickets can't be created for Try Azure Cosmos DB accounts; however, support is provided for subscribers with existing support plans.

Set up Azure Cosmos DB

How do I sign up for Azure Cosmos DB?

Azure Cosmos DB is available in the Azure portal. First, sign up for an Azure subscription. After you've signed up, you can add an Azure Cosmos DB account to your Azure subscription.

What is a primary key?

A primary key is a security token to access all resources for an account. Individuals with the key have read and write access to all resources in the database account. Use caution when you distribute primary keys. The primary primary key and secondary primary key are available on the Keys blade of the [Azure portal][azure-portal]. For more information about keys, see View, copy, and regenerate access keys.

What are the regions that PreferredLocations can be set to?

The PreferredLocations value can be set to any of the Azure regions in which Azure Cosmos DB is available. For a list of available regions, see Azure regions.

Is there anything I should be aware of when distributing data across the world via the Azure datacenters?

Azure Cosmos DB is present across all Azure regions, as specified on the Azure regions page. Because it's the core service, every new datacenter has an Azure Cosmos DB presence.

When you set a region, remember that Azure Cosmos DB respects sovereign and government clouds. That is, if you create an account in a sovereign region, you can't replicate out of that sovereign region. Similarly, you can't enable replication into other sovereign locations from an outside account.

Is it possible to switch from container level throughput provisioning to database level throughput provisioning? Or vice versa

Container and database level throughput provisioning are separate offerings and switching between either of these require migrating data from source to destination. Which means you need to create a new database or a new container and then migrate data by using bulk executor library or Azure Data Factory.

Does Azure Cosmos DB support time series analysis?

Yes Azure Cosmos DB supports time series analysis, here is a sample for time series pattern. This sample shows how to use change feed to build aggregated views over time series data. You can extend this approach by using spark streaming or another stream data processor.

What are the Azure Cosmos DB service quotas and throughput limits

See the Azure Cosmos DB service quotas and throughout limits per container and database articles for more information.

Frequently asked questions about API for NoSQL

How do I start developing against the API for NoSQL?

First you must sign up for an Azure subscription. Once you sign up for an Azure subscription, you can add a API for NoSQL container to your Azure subscription. For instructions on adding an Azure Cosmos DB account, see Create an Azure Cosmos DB database account.

SDKs are available for .NET, Python, Node.js, JavaScript, and Java. Developers can also use the RESTful HTTP APIs to interact with Azure Cosmos DB resources from various platforms and languages.

Can I access some ready-made samples to get a head start?

Samples for the API for NoSQL .NET, Java, Node.js, and Python SDKs are available on GitHub.

Does the API for NoSQL database support schema-free data?

Yes, the API for NoSQL allows applications to store arbitrary JSON documents without schema definitions or hints. Data is immediately available for query through the Azure Cosmos DB SQL query interface.

Does the API for NoSQL support ACID transactions?

Yes, the API for NoSQL supports cross-document transactions expressed as JavaScript-stored procedures and triggers. Transactions are scoped to a single partition within each container and executed with ACID semantics as "all or nothing," isolated from other concurrently executing code and user requests. If exceptions are thrown through the server-side execution of JavaScript application code, the entire transaction is rolled back.

What is a container?

A container is a group of documents and their associated JavaScript application logic. A container is a billable entity, where the cost is determined by the throughput and used storage. Containers can span one or more partitions or servers and can scale to handle practically unlimited volumes of storage or throughput.

  • For API for NoSQL, the resource is called a container.
  • For API for MongoD, a container maps to a Collection.
  • For API for Cassandra and Table, a container maps to a Table.
  • For API for Gremlin, a container maps to a Graph.

Containers are also the billing entities for Azure Cosmos DB. Each container is billed hourly, based on the provisioned throughput and used storage space. For more information, see Azure Cosmos DB Pricing.

How do I create a database?

You can create databases by using the Azure portal, as described in Add a container, one of the Azure Cosmos DB SDKs, or the REST APIs.

How do I set up users and permissions?

You can create users and permissions by using one of the Azure Cosmos DB API SDKs or the REST APIs.

Does the API for NoSQL support SQL?

The SQL query language supported by API for NoSQL accounts is an enhanced subset of the query functionality that's supported by SQL Server. The Azure Cosmos DB SQL query language provides rich hierarchical and relational operators and extensibility via JavaScript-based, user-defined functions (UDFs). JSON grammar allows for modeling JSON documents as trees with labeled nodes, which are used by both the Azure Cosmos DB automatic indexing techniques and the SQL query dialect of Azure Cosmos DB. For information about using SQL grammar, see the [SQL Query][query] article.

Does the API for NoSQL support SQL aggregation functions?

The API for NoSQL supports low-latency aggregation at any scale via aggregate functions COUNT, MIN, MAX, AVG, and SUM via the SQL grammar.

How does the API for NoSQL provide concurrency?

The API for NoSQL supports optimistic concurrency control (OCC) through HTTP entity tags, or ETags. Every API for NoSQL resource has an ETag, and the ETag is set on the server every time a document is updated. The ETag header and the current value are included in all response messages. ETags can be used with the If-Match header to allow the server to decide whether a resource should be updated. The If-Match value is the ETag value to be checked against. If the ETag value matches the server ETag value, the resource is updated. If the ETag is no longer current, the server rejects the operation with an "HTTP 412 Precondition failure" response code. The client then refetches the resource to acquire the current ETag value for the resource. In addition, ETags can be used with the If-None-Match header to determine whether a refetch of a resource is needed.

To use optimistic concurrency in .NET, use the AccessCondition class. For a .NET sample, see Program.cs in the DocumentManagement sample on GitHub.

How do I perform transactions in the API for NoSQL?

The API for NoSQL supports language-integrated transactions via JavaScript-stored procedures and triggers. All database operations inside scripts are executed under snapshot isolation. If it's a single-partition container, the execution is scoped to the container. If the container is partitioned, the execution is scoped to documents with the same partition-key value within the container. A snapshot of the document versions (ETags) is taken at the start of the transaction and committed only if the script succeeds. If the JavaScript throws an error, the transaction is rolled back. For more information, see Server-side JavaScript programming for Azure Cosmos DB.

How can I bulk-insert documents into Azure Cosmos DB?

You can bulk-insert documents into Azure Cosmos DB in one of the following ways:

Yes, because Azure Cosmos DB is a RESTful service, resource links are immutable and can be cached. API for NoSQL clients can specify an "If-None-Match" header for reads against any resource-like document or container and then update their local copies after the server version has changed.

Is a local instance of API for NoSQL available?

Yes. The Azure Cosmos DB Emulator provides a high-fidelity emulation of the Azure Cosmos DB service. It supports functionality that's identical to Azure Cosmos DB, including support for creating and querying JSON documents, provisioning and scaling collections, and executing stored procedures and triggers. You can develop and test applications by using the Azure Cosmos DB Emulator, and deploy them to Azure at a global scale by making a single configuration change to the connection endpoint for Azure Cosmos DB.

Why are long floating-point values in a document rounded when viewed from data explorer in the portal.

This is limitation of JavaScript. JavaScript uses double-precision floating-point format numbers as specified in IEEE 754 and it can safely hold numbers between -(253 - 1) and 253-1 (i.e., 9007199254740991) only.

Where are permissions allowed in the object hierarchy?

Creating permissions by using ResourceTokens is allowed at the container level and its descendants (such as documents, attachments). This implies that trying to create a permission at the database or an account level isn't currently allowed.

Next steps

To learn about frequently asked questions in other APIs, see: