Azure Database Migration Service: How to simplify your move to the cloud

Cloud migration and data consolidation are still scary, foreign concepts for many businesses outside of the IT industry. 

Transferring years worth of sensitive data from ageing servers onto a new all-digital solution is nerve-wracking for everyone, let alone working around system intermissions and unforeseen problems. 

Thankfully, it’s 2018 and businesses are positively spoiled when it comes to simplified cloud migration services that optimise IT infrastructure faster and easier - in fact, we’ll officially pass 50% enterprise cloud adoption rate this year, with worldwide spending on hosted cloud solutions to exceed $160 billion.

Microsoft has recently made moving to the cloud simpler with a new unified migration tool called Azure Database Migration Service, which removes the remaining barriers preventing you from moving to the cloud. We explain at how it can help elevate common roadblocks affecting several businesses in Australia.


What is Azure Database Migration Service?

Azure Database Migration Service (Azure DMS) is Microsoft’s new all-in-one solution for database migration newbies, and the closest you can get to using a single tool for beginner-friendly cloud migration to Azure Cloud.

Released in May 2018 after an extensive preview period, it is an Azure-based, fully managed database migration service that enables seamless and streamlined transfers of large, ageing database warehouses to the Azure Cloud data platform with as minimal downtime as possible.

After months of testing, Azure DMS has become Microsoft’s preferred method for SQL Server database migration to Microsoft Azure at scale, so it’s more important than ever you understand how it can be a potential game-changer for your business if you’re preparing to move to the cloud.


How Azure DMS streamlines cloud migration

In the past, cloud migration projects for non-IT organisations have ranged from minor headaches to all-encompassing nightmares, for many reasons.

  • Analysing cost projections
  • Working around inconvenient downtime
  • Multiple migration services

Azure DMS has been optimised to move large numbers of data-heavy servers reliably and at a much faster speed than existing services from Microsoft. It also requires the least amount of user involvement during the migration process, an invaluable advantage which cannot be understated for the tech-challenged.

It removes much of these growing pains surrounding the migration planning process by integrating all of the proven functionality of existing tools such as Data Migration Assistant (DMA) and the SQL Server Migration Assistant (SSMA) into one fully managed service.


Why should I use Azure Data Migration Service?

How Azure Data Migration Service streamlines process


Azure Database Migration Service significantly improves upon these older Microsoft migration tools by automating much of the preparation phase and taking users of all skill levels through every step of the transfer process.

For instance, Azure DMS provides the full functionality of the DMA, which generates helpful assessment reports to guide your business through the changes you need to make before you kick start migration.

Azure DMS then automatically performs all of the recommended steps it lists, based on the best practices and the successful results of countless tests determined by Microsoft itself - for peace of mind.

The major advantage of using Azure DMS is it makes it possible to start a migration project without waiting for excessive downtime to end. You can continue on with regular operations during migration activities, which frees up more time to drive other digital initiatives.

Enabling less downtime is invaluable on its own, and perhaps the only real feature of Azure DMS your company needs to start using it for simplified cloud migration.


Using Azure DMS for non-Microsoft database migrations

The new all-in-one migration service is also optimised to move databases not just from legacy Microsoft data solutions like SQL Server, but even third-party products and other open-source management systems like DB2, MySQL, Oracle and Sybase.

What this means is even if you never licensed and used Microsoft database tools for your on-premises data warehouse in the past, you’re still able to move your business data to the Azure platform and take advantage of its offerings and services like Office 365.


Azure DMS compared to other Microsoft migration tools

Microsoft currently offer a diverse suite of cloud migration solutions and services, and it can be confusing to understand the differences between them. With Azure Database Migration Service now the premier migration tool, we’ve summarised the preexisting options and their features below so you can understand how they compare.


Azure Migrate Service (AMS)

AMS helps businesses migrate their on-premises virtual machines (VMs) to Azure Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) VMs. It provides cost, compatibility and performance assessments similar to Azure DMS, but it cannot assist in handling database migrations for Azure Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) relational cloud databases like Azure SQL Database or SQL Azure.

In short, AMS provides an entirely different migration function for businesses and should be used for transferring localised VMs to Azure VM environments only.


Data Migration Assistant (DMA)

DMA helps businesses upgrade their on-premises instances of SQL Server to later versions (2012, 2014, 2015 and 2017) on Windows and Linux, and to the cloud via Azure SQL Database. It detects compatibility issues that may hinder database functionality when moved to a newer version of SQL Server, and generates a checklist so businesses know what is necessary before they proceed with a migration. It also provides a recommendation report listing performance and reliability improvements for the target environment.

Azure DMS has absorbed all of DMA’s functionality into its program, meaning it’s obsolete for most first-time cloud migration projects.


SQL Server Migration Assistant (SSMA)

SSMA helps businesses migrate from non-Microsoft database products like Access, DB2, Oracle, MySQL, SAP ASE to SQL Server 2008 through to SQL Server 2017, and cloud database environments like Azure SQL Database and Azure SQL Data Warehouse (only Oracle). It converts a database schema to a Microsoft SQL Server schema, where users can upload and migrate on-premises data to a desired SQL Server.

Azure DMS has implemented SSMA’s functionality to migrate non-Microsoft database solutions to Azure, so only use SSMA if your target database is still an on-premises SQL Server and not a cloud-based one.


What you need before using Azure Data Migration Service

Azure Database Migration Tool


Xello’s cloud migration checklist can help you tick off the general requirements for a successful cloud migration - the expertise, people, and technology you need.

But no matter your previous level of expertise, migrating hundreds of information-heavy databases to the cloud environment represents a fundamental paradigm shift in the way you do business.

Planning a migration around a culture shake-up can be daunting for companies that lack internal IT expertise. Employing flashy new technology and using handy tools like Azure Database Migration Service sometimes isn’t enough for a smooth migration, either.

Cloud consultancies are an option for companies not yet confident in their ability to handle the migration process alone. Xello's Azure experts help businesses without advanced IT skills or who require additional aid in their cloud migration journey – or would rather not handle the process at all. Find out more about our SQL Migrations solutions.

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