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Azure Migration

5 Azure Data Migration Tools You Should Be Using

As more organizations are migrating critical workloads to the cloud than ever, identifying the right data migration tools is one of the most critical steps in the process. There are different scenarios and use cases for data migration—Lift and shift data of your VMs, redeploy your workloads and migrate data, database migration, migration of backup and archival data to name a few. If you’re planning an Azure migration, each of these scenarios demands a tool custom built to deliver outcomes with minimal overhead.

In this blog we will explore the five main Azure data migration tools available for customers to migrate data to Azure for common cloud adoption scenarios. We will also explore how Cloud Volumes ONTAP can ease up most of the challenges associated with enterprise data migration to cloud.

Read more below as we cover:

The Migration Scenarios

Migrating on-premises data to the cloud is an important step in the digital transformation journey of any organization. The exact business cases for migration to Azure vary from case to case.

For example, with legacy and complex systems, performing a lift and shift of the application and data would make more sense than spending time and effort in refactoring the entire application stack. In another case, you might want to modernize your workloads to make use of a new OS (in IaaS model) or PaaS service available in Azure. Whatever the use case, the question remains: how are you going to get your data to Azure?

What Is an Azure Data Migration Tool?

Azure provides a range of tools and services that can be leveraged to migrate data from on-premises to cloud. The tools to be used depend on the business case for migration. Let’s look into five such tools for data migration and the use cases for which you might want to consider them for.

In some cases, such as databases, there are targeted migration tools that can come in handy.

How Do I Migrate an Azure Database?

Database migration to Azure can be done using the traditional approach of backup and restore, or using tools specialized to do online and offline migration. Azure Data Migration Service (DMS), which we’ll discuss in more detail below, can be used for online/offline migration of databases from on-premises or other cloud environments to Azure. You can also migrate databases by doing a lift and shift of disks hosting the databases to Azure.

Another common use case of data migration to Azure is for backup and archival data. As cloud storage is a less-expensive alternative to on-premises storage devices, organizations are increasingly leveraging them for long-term retention of rarely used backup/archival data in a cost-effective manner.

Now let’s take a look at five of the most popular Azure migration tools and the use cases where you might want to consider them.

1. Azure Migrate

Lift and shift is the easiest and most risk-free option for moving applications and data to the cloud. That makes it the preferred migration strategy by customers starting their cloud migration journeys. For lift and shift migrations, the most useful Azure migration resource is Azure Migrate.

What is Azure Migrate?

Azure Migrate is a unified hub for the assessment and migration of workloads from on-premises and other cloud environments to Azure. It consists of a suite of services that can be leveraged by customers based on their use case.

There are two main services offered by Azure Migrate for migrating servers: Azure Migrate: Discovery & Assessment and Azure Migrate: Server Migration. Azure migrate can be used for migrating Windows, Linux and SQL servers hosted by on-premises physical servers, other clouds, or virtualization platforms (such as VMware/Hyper-V) to Azure.

Azure Migrate has a special feature for migrating on-premises web applications to the Azure App Service. In addition to servers, Azure Migrate can also be used for migrating virtual desktops from on-premises to Azure and associated data. Azure Migrate can help with migrating on-premises databases to Azure SQL databases or Azure SQL managed Instances through Data Migration Service (covered in the next section).

The Azure Migrate hub also helps facilitate large scale offline data migrations by providing helpful insights into using Azure Data Box devices.

2. Azure Data Migration Services

Azure has multiple PaaS and IaaS options available to host your databases. Azure Data Migration Assistant (DMA) and Azure Database Migration Service (DMS) help in this process through assessment of existing databases, recommending remediations if required and enabling the migration. The remediations should be taken up as a prerequisite for any subsequent Azure migration steps before moving databases to target Azure Data Services.

What Is Azure Data Migration Assistant (DMA)?

DMA helps with the migration process by doing a detailed analysis of on-premises SQL instances and their compatibility with a new version of SQL Server in Azure or with Azure SQL Database service or Azure SQL Managed Instances. The migration assessment DMA performs identifies any possible blockers for the migration, as well as features that are partially supported or unsupported which could impact the migration plan.

If you are planning to migrate data to an upgraded version of SQL Server in Azure, the tool also provides information on compatibility issues that you should address before the migration takes place. Similar insights are also available for SSIS packages being migrated to Azure SQL Database or Azure SQL Managed Instance.

What Is Azure Database Migration Service (DMS)?

Once the assessment is done by DMA, customers can use DMS for migrating workloads from different database source environments to Azure Data platform target services.

The migration can either be offline or online. Offline migration involves an application downtime during the migration process. Online, the downtime is minimized to the cutover window to the new environment. Online migration is recommended thanks to this minimal downtime. Online migration using DMS supports SQL, RDS MySQL, PostgreSQL, Oracle, MySQL, RDS PostgreSQL, and other sources that can be migrated to Azure SQL DB, Azure SQL VM, Azure SQL DB Managed Instance, Azure Cosmos DB, MySQL, PostgreSQL, etc.

In addition to migrating databases from on-premises and other clouds, DMS also supports online migration of Azure DB for PostgreSQL Single Server Instances to a different version of the service. The target environment can either be a Azure DB for PostgreSQL Single Server Instance or Flexible Server.

3. SQL Server Migration Assistant (SSMA)

SQL Server Migration Assistant (SSMA) can be used by customers using different database platforms to migrate their data to SQL server or Azure Synapse Analytics. The supported source platforms include Microsoft Access, MySQL, Oracle, SAP ASE, and DB2 databases.

SSMA supports SQL Server IaaS installations with versions starting from 2012 to later versions up to SQL server 2019 (on Windows and Linux) or Azure SQL Database /Managed Instance. Azure Synapse Analytics is supported as a target environment only by the SSMA tool for Oracle.

4. Azure Synapse Pathway

Translating existing SQL code to suit a target platform is often one of the major blockers in data warehouse modernization. A database can include thousands of lines of code written over the course of many years, requiring significant time and cost investments to translate. Azure Synapse Pathway helps address this challenge through automated code translation to enable migrating existing data warehouses to Azure Synapse Analytics.

Data Definition Language (DDL) and Data Manipulation Language (DML) statements can be automatically translated by Azure Synapse Pathway to T-SQL compliant language, thus making it compatible with Azure Synapse SQL as a target for migration. The service is in preview now and currently supports the following source environments: IBM Netezza, Microsoft SQL Server, and Snowflake. Support for additional source environments like Teradata, RedShift,BigQuery, Hive based Hadoop solutions, and more are in the future roadmap.

5. Azure Backup and Site Recovery

Azure Backup is the cloud-based backup solution that can be used for taking backup of data from different sources like on-premises servers, Azure VMs, managed disks, Azure file shares, and more. You could use the service for data migration purposes by restoring the backup data to the target environment in Azure. Azure Backup has built-in application consistency for enterprise applications such as SQL server, Exchange and Sharepoint. This consistency ensures that the restored data can be easily used to deploy a working environment without additional overhead.

Azure Site Recovery is a cloud-based DR solution that can be used for replicating data from on-premises or other cloud environments to Azure. Though the primary objective of the service is to enable Azure as the DR site for your workloads, it can also be used for migration of workloads by replication and one time failover of the environments to Azure. The service also uses the application-consistent snapshot-based replication process that ensures integrity of applications after failover.

Another Azure Migration Option: Cloud Volumes ONTAP

Cloud Volumes ONTAP is the enterprise-class data management solution from NetApp that brings the trusted NetApp data management capabilities not only to Azure but to AWS and GCP as well. The service uses the native storage layer in respective cloud platforms and delivers enhanced storage efficiency, flexibility and security through proprietary NetApp technologies.

How can Cloud Volumes ONTAP benefit your Azure migration?

      • The SnapMirror® data replication feature can lift and shift data from on-premises ONTAP systems seamlessly to Azure. You can use the service for easy replication of data volumes hosting DBs to target Azure environments.
      • Cloud Manager provides a unified management interface for your data estate that can be used to initiate data migration between on-premises to cloud and between different cloud platforms.
      • NetApp Snapshot™ technology in Cloud Volumes ONTAP can be used for application-consistent backup and restore of enterprise applications like SQL, Oracle, Exchange, SAP, and more to multiple target Azure environments integrated with Cloud Manager.
      • Storage efficiencies such as data deduplication, compression, and compaction can reduce the overall amount of data that needs to be transferred and maintained in the cloud, lowering costs by 70% or more. 

Microsoft Azure migration strategy of every organization would inevitably include multiple Azure data migration tools depending on business needs. The out of the box Azure migration services we discussed in this blog along with Cloud Volumes ONTAP can help address most of these requirements.

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Yifat Perry, Technical Content Manager

Technical Content Manager