A contained database is a database that is isolated from other databases and from the instance of SQL Server that hosts the database. Basically it includes all database settings and the metadata within itself thereby resulting in no configuration dependencies on the instance of the SQL Server Database Engine where the database is actually installed.

This feature is available from SQL Server 2012 and it is available on Azure SQL Database. This feature is not available on Azure SQL Data Warehouse or Parallel Data Warehouse.

One of the benefits of contained databases is that you will no longer struggle with orphaned users when moving databases or working with high availability. From SQL Server 2012 it introduces the notion of boundaries which are borders that define where a database and its metadata and settings end and where server-level features, metadata, and dependencies begin. In addition to implicitly allowing increased portability, boundaries are also used to help explicitly isolate data, settings, features, and capabilities.

There are 3 types of containment levels:

  • NONE. This default containment mode is what exists prior to SQL Server 2012. There are no boundaries defined or visible.
  • PARTIAL. With partially contained databases, you have the ability to define clearer boundaries between databases and the server, making it easier for metadata to be hosted within the databases. This, in turn, makes SQL Server databases more portable and less dependent on underlying hosts.
  • FULL. Full containment will enable greater database portability and allow for strict enforcement of containment boundaries as a means of fully isolating databases from each other and from the underlying host.

In SQL Server 2016 there are 4 ways in which SQL Server helps users to isolate the database from the instance.

  • The metadata that describes the database is maintained in the database and not in the master database.
  • All metadata are defined using the same collation
  • User authentication can be performed by the database, reducing the databases dependency on the logins of the instance of SQL Server
  • The SQL Server environment (DMV’s, XEvents, etc.) reports and can act upon containment information.

There are two types of users for contained databases:

  • Contained database user with password. These are authenticated by the database.
  • Windows principals. Authorized windows users and members of authorized Windows groups can connect directly to the database and do not need logins in the master database. The database trusts the authentication by Windows.

Benefits of using Partially Contained Databases
Database Movement
When moving a database, problems occur with some important information being unavailable after moving to another instance. Login information is stored within an instance and not within a database, therefore when moving the database to another instance will lose this information. The partially contained database can store important information in the database so the database still has the information after it is moved.

Benefit of Contained Database Users with Always On
By reducing the ties to the instance of SQL Server, partially contained databases can be useful during failover when you use Always On Availability Groups. The contained users is a very significant feature in an Always On solution. If the users are contained users, in the event of a failover, people would be able to connect to the failover node without creating logins on the instance hosting the failover node.

Initial Database Development
When creating a database, the developer may not always know where the database will be deployed and all the environmental variables that could impact the database. With a non-contained model, the developer would need to consider all the environmental variables and the impacts it could have on the database and develop accordingly. With using partially contained databases, the developer can identify instance-level impacts on the database.

Database Administration
Database administration becomes easier with maintaining database settings, instead of having the settings in the master database you can now maintain them in the database. This allows each database owner to have more control over their database without giving the database owner sysadmin permission.

Limitations with Partially Contained Databases
With almost any feature it comes with certain limitations. The following are limitations of a Partially Contained Database where the below features are not allowed:

  • Cannot use replication, change data capture, or change tracking.
  • Numbered procedures
  • Schema-bound objects that depend on built-in functions with collation changes
  • Binding change resulting from collation changes, including references to objects, columns, symbols, or types.

Identifying Database Containment
There are two tools to identify the containment status of a database, sys.dm_db_uncontained_entities and database_uncontained_usage event. sys.dm_db_uncontained_entities is a view that shows all potentially uncontained entities in the database. However if any entities are using dynamic SQL, it cannot be determined until runtime whether the entity is contained or not. Database_uncontained_usage Xevent occur whenever an uncontained entity is identified at run time. Therefore, any uncontained user entities you have not run will not be identified by this XEvent.

This could be an awesome feature to use for database developers from SQL Server 2012, hope this post was helpful for you!

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