Azure SQL Data Warehouse is a secure cloud data solution tuned for fast and flexible complex queries across enterprise workloads. While it has become a critical pain-point to address the issues of discovery, classification, and protection of client sensitive data Microsoft announced the public preview of Data Discovery & Classification for Azure SQL Data Warehouse. This feature introduced natively with Azure SQL Data Warehouse remediates the complexity of management of such sensitive data.

Benefits of the Data Discovery & Classification feature are:

  • Compliance with the industry data privacy standards and regulatory requirements such as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
  • Extra security layer for data warehouses
  • Monitoring and alerting on unauthorized access to sensitive data
  • Data visualization dashboards in the Azure portal

Features of the Data Discovery & Classification for Azure SQL Data Warehouse

  • Auto-discovery and recommendations – data discovery engine scans a data warehouse for potentially sensitive data and provides an easy way to review recommendations and apply appropriate classifications via the Azure portal.
  • Sensitivity level classification & labeling – feature allows tagging sensitivity classification labels that persist in the data warehouse.
  • Reporting capabilities – dashboards in the Azure portal allow a detailed overview of the data classifications. A complete report in Microsoft Excel format can be downloaded as well.
  • Monitoring and audit – the audit feature has been enhanced to log sensitivity classifications and labels returned by the query which provides comprehensive insights on the access statistics.


Screen log


How it works

Data Discovery & Classification has underlying automated classification engines to identify potentially sensitive data. Next, it provides appropriate recommendations to choose from. The data can be persisted as sensitivity metadata directly in the data warehouse. This allows for manual classification and columns labeling. It is also possible to define custom labels and information types in addition to those available by default.


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Using T-SQL to add, remove, and retrieve column classifications across the tables in a data warehouse:

On top of the above features, Azure SQL Data Warehouse engine uses column classifications to determine the sensitivity level of the query results. When combined with Azure SQL Data Warehouse Auditing it allows auditing of the sensitivity level of the data returned by queries.

Data Discovery & Classification for Azure SQL Data Warehouse is available in all Azure regions as part of Advanced Data Security and including Vulnerability Assessment and Threat Detection.

Further reading

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