If your business currently relies on SQL Server 2008, SQL Server 2008 R2 or any other version approaching end of life, you’ll be happy to know there’s no better time to upgrade your data platform then now.
Microsoft have expanded the number of Azure SQL upgrade options this year to help businesses facing EOL, all backed by significant discounts and incentives - making a move to the cloud more cost-effective and easier.
If your organisation is looking to move away from on-premises hardware and towards the cloud to achieve your modern data estate, our guide summaries the best service tiers to help you make an informed business case.
Here is Xello's top 5 data platform modernisation options to help you map out which is best for your needs.
Option #1 - Azure SQL Database Managed Instance
Do you want to lift and shift your SQL databases to the cloud without extensive re-engineering?
Azure SQL Database Managed Instance is an attractive middle-ground option between Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) that makes it even easier for businesses unfamiliar with the cloud to move their outdated SQL Server workloads into the Microsoft Cloud environment faster and easier.
This new service migrates your database environments (on-premises servers, virtual machines) and all of its functionality into Azure with near-complete engine compatibility with all released versions of SQL Server - including 2008 and 2008 R2. If you migrate your databases to Managed Instance, you're effectively extending their support.
Azure Managed Instance Benefits
- No need to re-engineer applications to migrate to Azure
- Eliminates hardware and admin costs
- Fast resource provisioning and service scaling
- Advantages of PaaS without the same level of organisation change required
Managed Instance currently comes in two tiers - General Purpose and Business Critical - with both tiers guaranteeing 99.99% availability and the ability to independently select compute capacity and storage size.
Azure SQL Managed Instance is best if your business needs new applications or existing on-premises apps to leverage the latest SQL Server features available in Azure - especially because you can migrate your workloads to the cloud with minimal change and minimal need to re-engineer anything.
Option #2 - Azure SQL Database (PaaS)
Do you want to move to the cloud and fully leverage its scaling and managed service benefits?
Azure SQL Database is a relational database-as-a-service (DBaaS) and Microsoft's main Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) offering. With this option, your business can use the same features and functionality of SQL Server while leveraging the extensive and powerful capabilities of cloud computing and the wider Azure platform.
The most significant reasons to make the direct move to Azure SQL Database is fully scalable compute and storage, pay-as-you-go pricing model (no more ongoing licensing costs or infrastructure overhead) and the fact that everything - infrastructure, backup, security and scaling - is managed for you by Microsoft.
Benefits of Azure SQL Database
- 99.99% up-time Service Level Agreement (SLA)
- Azure AD authentication and single sign-on support (SSO)
- Automated backups
- Built-in high availability (HA)
- No ongoing SQL licensing costs with pay as you go model
- Point-in-time database restore capability
- Threat detection (alerts)
Azure SQL Database remains the best way to bring your SQL Server databases directly into the cloud, allowing you to take advantage of high-availability, on-demand scalability, in-built backup and disaster recovery and fully managed services for your workloads immediately - if your organisation is prepared for it and has the right cloud strategy and blueprint to match. The tools on offer are all familiar too, with the added benefit of more features and cost-savings.
Option #3 - Azure Virtual Machines
Do you need more time to plan and implement your next move?
Re-hosting your SQL Server 2008 or 2008 R2 database in Azure Virtual Machines (VMs) allows you to move your workloads to the cloud, with zero application code changes required.
The main hook of Azure VMs if you’re looking to move away from your older environment is your business can also take advantage of Microsoft’s new Extended Security Updates (ESU) program, which offers three more years of critical patches after the end-of-support deadline next year. It's also completely free.
Essentially, if you have legacy web applications that heavily rely on SQL Server 2008 or SQL Server 2008 R2, Microsoft will support images of these SQL versions - fully set up in Azure - for an additional three years.
Azure Virtual Machine Benefits
- No need to re-engineer applications to migrate to Azure
- Three extra years of critical patching past EOL for your older workloads
- Pay for what you use billing model
You can also pay for the ESU separately, but when you can move your databases to the cloud and get the extra three years of updates for free, Azure VMs are a more attractive option to begin your data estate modernisation journey.
If your business needs a fast migration to the cloud with minimal organisational change, Azure VM is best. More time to assess the best Azure-hosted service for your future SQL Server needs is invaluable and never a bad thing.
Option #4 - Azure SQL Database Reserved Capacity
Are you searching for the most cost-effective path to the cloud?
Azure SQL Database Reserved Capacity is right up your alley - it’s another new SQL service option from Microsoft designed specifically for organisations who want to start leveraging the cloud’s extensive capabilities while still taking advantage of discounts and special pricing offers.
Azure Reserved Capacity allows you to save up to 33% on your Azure SQL Database migration by making a upfront commitment to pre-purchase your desired amount of SQL Database vCores (compute) for a one or three-year term.
Azure Reserved Capacity Benefits
- Better control and flexibility over your databases’ resource consumption
- Pre-purchased reservations are dynamically applied to any matching databases and elastic pools you have, whether newly deployed or are already running
- Purchased reservations can cover one subscription or multiple subscriptions
- Prepaid pricing model helps you budget and forecast better
On top of the regular discount offer, you can also stack up to 55% in further savings for your SQL Server and Windows Server costs in Azure by combining your Software Assurance and existing licenses to leverage Azure Hybrid Benefit. This makes it the most cost-friendly option if you need to upgrade from older infrastructure now.
If you’re presently running on-premises workloads on SQL Server 2008 or SQL Server 2008 R2, purchasing reserved capacity allows you to make the full move to Azure SQL Database, eliminate expensive end-of-support transition costs via Extended Security Updates, and achieve the the most cost-optimised path to Microsoft Cloud possible.
Option #5 - Azure SQL Database Hyperscale
Do you need the fastest and most scalable service tier of Azure for your large single database deployments?
Azure SQL Database Hyperscale is the newest option of Azure SQL Database, currently in preview and set to release in general availability later this year. Hyperscale is a high performing database with new scaling technology, catering to organisations that need dynamic, rapid storage for very large databases (VLDBs).
Azure SQL Database Hyperscale Benefits
- Auto-scales up to 100TB for single databases
- Provision compute nodes that can serve read-only workloads, and use them as a hot standby in case of failover
- Scale compute and storage resources independently, with no sacrifice in performance
- Near instantaneous database backups, achieved via snapshots of data files taken from page servers at regular intervals to replace traditional streaming backup
Hyperscale fully leverages Microsoft Azure architecture for maximum scale for both compute and storage resources, and goes far beyond what's available in the other tiers.
Modernise your data platform today
The most important thing to do ahead of your data platform modernisation project is begin assessing your current infrastructure state, and educate your organisation on the impact EOL has across not just IT but the organisation. Plan your migration while you still have time - and seek expert assistance if required to get you on the right path.
Our team understands the many capabilities of Azure SQL Database and Microsoft Cloud - and the many benefits it has brought our customers who have made the move to the cloud ahead of the SQL Server 2008 end of life deadline.
- SQL Migrations: Xello's Azure Cloud experts provide detailed discovery of your current platform, and expert advice on best opportunities for data estate modernisation - learn more about our SQL migration solutions.
- Why it's time to prepare for EOL now: Transitioning from SQL Server 2008/SQL Server 2008 R2 to the many cloud-based service tiers of Azure SQL Database requires extensive planning - the time to prepare is now.