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Migrating your on-premises database to cloud-native format

In recent years, many organizations have increased their cloud footprint and sought to modernize their IT infrastructure, accelerated by the catalyzing impacts of COVID. But migrating databases from an on-premises deployment to a cloud-native deployment can pose a number of challenges that could prevent organizations from activating such a move. However, the current era of cloud and infrastructure modernization increases the pressure to complete these migrations now more than ever.

If your organization is preparing for such a project, there are many factors to consider and a lot of planning is required.

“Migrating a database is like doing a heart transplant,” said Ramke Ramakrishnan, senior analyst at Gartner, during his presentation at the Gartner Data and Analytics Summit in Orlando this week. Databases are connected to so many applications and chances are you are running the lifeblood of your organization through them every day.

The problem with database migration

To the uninitiated, the database migration project may seem simple. After all, you’re just migrating database objects from one database to another. Providers provide migration tools that allow you to complete the job in just a few clicks.

But when you start doing your due diligence on the project, you’ll see what’s really involved, according to Ramakrishnan. One of the biggest changes will be with the semantics of SQL that are so familiar to users of traditional databases, such as Oracle or SQL. There are complex triggers, packages and procedures.

“When you look at the similar migration in the cloud, a lot of the databases don’t support the robust SQL packages that you might have,” Ramakrishnan said. Instead you may need to use Javascripts or Spark based processes.

“It’s really like a heart transplant because you have to look at every piece,” he said.

Another reason you may not want to follow a “lift and shift” strategy for on-premises database migration to the cloud is because the cloud provides data storage alternatives that you may not have had available in the past. your traditional database.

“It tried to solve everything in a database,” he said. But in the cloud, you can distribute the data across multiple data stores, for example, as an object store or a relational store or a noSQL store or a graph store.

Also, you may not want to migrate everything, Ramakrishnan said, noting that the database migration and modernization process may be an opportunity to apply something like the marie condo ordering method eliminating all objects that do not “arouse joy”. Maybe you don’t need to migrate all your data. Migration can be an opportunity to start over.

Planning is key

The key to navigating all of these potential challenges to your database migration process is to plan for them. The enemies of your migration project are surprises. There are numerous differences between databases, from number conversions to date/time handling, language interfaces, missing constructs, rollback behavior, and many others. Proper planning will consider all technical differences and plan for them.

Database migration projects also require time and effort, according to Ramakrishnan, and if they are rushed, the results will not be what anyone wants. He recommended that project leaders create a one-page cheat sheet to break down the scope and complexity of the migration to help energize the team. It should include the goals of the project, the number of users affected, the reports that will be affected by the change, the number of apps it touches, and more.

Before embarking on the project, organizations should ask themselves the following question: “How much will it cost to recover the investment in the new database migration?”

Organizations need to check that the economics are sound, and that also means looking at the opportunity cost of not completing the migration.

Recommendations for success

Ramakrishnan offered several recommendations to help organizations avoid failure and achieve success with their database migration projects. The first is the business case: Organizations need to understand why they are migrating so that they can meet their goals.

Next, they must realistically assess all technical aspects of the migration project. Third, they need to plan for all aspects of the migration and identify potential obstacles. Ramakrishnan also recommends using a staged approach because it helps you learn from each iteration of the project. IT leaders must not allow themselves to feel pressured into inadequate work due to other factors. Also, they should avoid a “lift and shift” approach, especially if they are moving to a different platform.

“Hope and enthusiasm are not alternatives to planning,” Ramakrishnan said.

What to read next:

CIOs turn to the cloud as tech budgets come under scrutiny

Living in the cloud can be like settling into a new home

Cloud without modernization is an anti-pattern


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