Selecting the Best Cloud Environment for Your SQL Servers

The decision to move your SQL Servers to the cloud is not something that is usually done impulsively. There should be extensive planning that goes into the choice of which cloud provider to use and the method in which the environment will be implemented. In this post, we will discuss the important choices that need to be made before hosting your systems in the cloud. We will also look at the options available from the large public cloud providers for relocating your SQL Server environment.

One Big Question

Before investigating the various options that cloud providers offer for SQL Server, your organization needs to answer a fundamental question. They need to determine if they want to host the SQL Server environment on cloud virtual machines or make use of the provider’s managed databases. Some potential advantages and problems may accompany either choice so several factors need to be considered when making this decision. Here’s how the choices break down.

Hosting SQL Servers on cloud virtual machines

Pros:

  • Customers retain more control over the environment.
  • Similar administration as with on-premises instances.
  • Streamlined lift and shift of existing systems.

Cons:

  • Customer expertise is required to administer the environment.
  • The systems are outside the organization’s firewall.

Using a provider’s managed cloud databases

Pros:

  • Less administration is required by the customer.
  • It’s easier to set up new databases.

Cons:

  • Customers have less control over configuration decisions.
  • It can be difficult to migrate to a different cloud provider.

Based on how the organization plans to use the systems and the personnel resources available, one of these options may make more sense than the other. Generally, more control and flexibility is provided by hosting your systems on cloud virtual machines. Less administration and faster implementation of new systems can usually be achieved with managed cloud databases.

Cloud Provider Offerings

Microsoft and Amazon are two large public cloud providers with multiple solutions that enable an enterprise to move its SQL Servers to the cloud. There is an informative IDERA whitepaper that looks at the options that these two companies offer their customers. It is recommended that you read this paper before choosing a migration strategy. These are some highlights of that investigation.

Microsoft developed SQL Server so it makes sense that they would have several robust offerings to host the systems in the cloud. Azure VMs are the equivalent of on-premises servers with the exception of being located in the cloud. They require your team to install and administer the systems which can be accessed by any Remote Desktop (RDP) session. Azure VMs are designed to integrate more fully with Microsoft products such as SQL Server than offerings by competing providers.

Microsoft also offers a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) solution called Azure SQL Database. It is restricted to databases with a maximum size of 1TB and is easier to administer while providing less control over configuration when compared to the Azure VM solution.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) also has some options for hosting SQL Servers in its portfolio of offerings. Their cloud VM solution is called the Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) which allows customers to configure VMs that come with various versions of SQL Server preinstalled. It is a highly scalable solution that enables the creation of a database instance for each AWS account.

Amazon’s Relational Database Service (RDS) is a Database-as-a-Service (DaaS) offering that can run instances of SQL Server. Users of RDS do not have access to the SQL Server’s operating system which can impact teams when migrating databases. You are required to use Amazon S3 rather than native backups when restoring to an RDS instance.

Use the Same Management Tool for Either Solution

Many enterprises take a staggered approach to migrating their SQL Servers to the cloud. They may not take the plunge and move everything at once, instead opting to migrate a subset of the environment to verify functionality. The ability to use the same management tool wherever the SQL Servers are located gives a database team a big advantage when migrating to a new platform.

IDERA’s SQL Diagnostic Manager for SQL Server gives database items the same functionality regarding their SQL Server environment whether it is located down the hall or in the cloud. The application enhances the performance of your SQL Servers with extensive monitoring and alerting capabilities that allow issues to be addressed before they rise to the level of customer-impacting problems. Quickly locate system bottlenecks and get expert advice on how to resolve them.

SQL Diagnostic Manager runs on the cloud virtual machines of Amazon and Microsoft using the Windows OS. The tool supports SQL Server instances on the cloud virtual machines and managed cloud databases offered by both cloud providers. It’s a comprehensive SQL Server management solution that improves database team productivity by allowing them to use the same tool on all of their systems wherever they live.

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