SQL Server Migration to Azure

There are a number of ways to migrate an on-premises SQL Server user database to SQL Server in an Azure virtual machine (VM). This page will briefly discuss various methods and recommend the best method for various scenarios.

Migration process overview

Choosing IaaS or PaaS

SQL Server on Azure VMs: A SQL Server instance installed and hosted on a Windows Virtual Machine running in Azure, also known as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).

Azure SQL Database: A fully managed SQL database Azure service, also known as Platform as a Service (PaaS).

Choose SQL Server in Azure VMs if:

  • You are looking to ``lift and shift`` your database and applications with minimal to no changes.
  • You prefer having full control over your database server and the VM it runs on.
  • You already have SQL Server and Windows Server licenses that you intend to use.

Choose Azure SQL Database if:

  • You are looking to modernize your applications and are migrating to use other PaaS services in Azure.
  • You do not wish to manage your database server and the VM it runs on.
  • You do not have SQL Server or Windows Server licenses or you intend to let licenses you have expire.

Differences between each service based on a set of scenarios:

Scenario SQL Server in Azure VMs Azure SQL Database
Migration Requires minimal changes to your database. May require changes to your database if you use features unavailable in Azure SQL, as determined by the Data Migration Assistant, or if you have other dependencies such as locally installed executables.
Managing availability, recovery, and upgrades Availability and recovery are configured manually. Upgrades can be automated with VM Scale Sets. Automatically managed for you.
Underlying OS configuration Manual configuration. Automatically managed for you.
Managing database size Supports up to 256 TB of storage per SQL Server instance. Supports 8 TB of storage before needing a horizontal partition.
Managing costs You must manage SQL Server license costs, Windows Server license costs, and VM costs (based on cores, RAM, and storage). You must manage service costs (based on eDTUs or DTUs, storage, and number of databases if using an elastic pool). You must also manage the cost of any SLA.

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