Azure Cosmos DB serverless

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The Azure Cosmos DB serverless offering lets you use your Azure Cosmos DB account in a consumption-based fashion. With serverless, you're only charged for the Request Units (RUs) consumed by your database operations and the storage consumed by your data. Serverless containers can serve thousands of requests per second with no minimum charge and no capacity planning required.


Do you have any feedback about serverless? We want to hear it! Feel free to drop a message to the Azure Cosmos DB serverless team:

Every database operation in Azure Cosmos DB has a cost expressed in Request Units (RUs). How you're charged for this cost depends on the type of Azure Cosmos DB account you're using:

  • In provisioned throughput mode, you have to commit to a certain amount of throughput (expressed in Request Units per second or RU/s) that is provisioned on your databases and containers. The cost of your database operations is then deducted from the number of Request Units available every second. At the end of your billing period, you get billed for the amount of throughput you've provisioned.
  • In serverless mode, you don't have to configure provisioned throughput when creating containers in your Azure Cosmos DB account. At the end of your billing period, you get billed for the number of Request Units your database operations consumed.


Azure Cosmos DB serverless best fits scenarios where you expect intermittent and unpredictable traffic with long idle times. Because provisioning capacity in such situations isn't required and may be cost-prohibitive, Azure Cosmos DB serverless should be considered in the following use-cases:

  • Getting started with Azure Cosmos DB
  • Running applications with:
    • Bursty, intermittent traffic that is hard to forecast, or
    • Low (<10%) average-to-peak traffic ratio
  • Developing, testing, prototyping and running in production new applications where the traffic pattern is unknown
  • Integrating with serverless compute services like Azure Functions

For more information, see choosing between provisioned throughput and serverless.

Using serverless resources

Serverless is a new Azure Cosmos DB account type, which means that you have to choose between provisioned throughput and serverless when creating a new account. You must create a new serverless account to get started with serverless. Migrating existing accounts to/from serverless mode isn't currently supported.

Any container that is created in a serverless account is a serverless container. Serverless containers expose the same capabilities as containers created in provisioned throughput mode, so you read, write and query your data the exact same way. However serverless accounts and containers also have specific characteristics:

  • A serverless account can only run in a single Azure region. It isn't possible to add more Azure regions to a serverless account after you create it.
  • Provisioning throughput isn't required on serverless containers, so the following statements are applicable:
    • You can't pass any throughput when creating a serverless container and doing so returns an error.
    • You can't read or update the throughput on a serverless container and doing so returns an error.
    • You can't create a shared throughput database in a serverless account and doing so returns an error.
  • Serverless container can store a maximum of 1 TB of data and indexes.
  • Serverless container offers a maximum throughput ranging from 5000 RU/s to 20,000 RU/s, depending on the number of available partitions. In the ideal scenario, a 1 TB data set would require 20,000 RU/s, but the available throughput can exceed this. For further details, please refer to the documentation on Serverless Performance.

Monitoring your consumption

If you have used Azure Cosmos DB in provisioned throughput mode before, you find serverless is more cost-effective when your traffic doesn't justify provisioned capacity. The trade-off is that your costs become less predictable because you're billed based on the number of requests your database has processed. Because of the lack of predictability, it's important to keep an eye on your current consumption.

When browsing the Metrics pane of your account, you find a chart named Request Units consumed under the Overview tab. This chart shows how many Request Units your account has consumed:

Chart showing the consumed Request Units.

You can find the same chart when using Azure Monitor, as described here. Azure Monitor enables the ability to configure alerts, which can be used to notify you when your Request Unit consumption has passed a certain threshold.

Next steps

Get started with serverless with the following articles: