Microsoft Workloads on AWS

Why AWS is the cloud that modernizes SQL Server workloads best

Modernization matters.

What do we mean by modernization? AWS defines modernization as the process of progressively transforming existing applications and infrastructure to extend into higher-value, cloud-built services that unlock new business capabilities, accelerate innovation, and reduce technical debt. AWS has helped thousands of customers modernize their SQL Server workloads to technologies built for the cloud, allowing them to not only break free from restrictive licensing scenarios, but also unleash their full potential to achieve business agility and accelerate innovation.

Modernizing your SQL Server workloads is a critical piece of your application modernization journey, and for most, this journey begins with migrating your on-premises SQL Server workloads to the cloud, namely the AWS Cloud. A recent blog post shared why customers continue to choose AWS for their SQL Server workloads, focusing on license flexibility, security, and innovation. In this post, we’re going to dive a little deeper and explore some of your migration and modernization options with SQL Server on AWS.

Run SQL Server on AWS, self- or fully-managed

In large-scale legacy migrations, some organizations are looking to move quickly to the cloud to meet their demanding business objectives, like an expiring data center lease. In cases like this, the majority of applications can be migrated to Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), meaning that they can be moved to the cloud with little to no change. Whether it’s a single SQL Server database or a database fleet, this “lift and shift” option is popular with customers because it’s quick and easy to do, and it often saves them a lot of money due to a right-sized cloud environment and reduced licensing costs.

While lifting-and-shifting SQL Server workloads to Amazon EC2 delivers significant advantages, customers are still fully responsible for their own database instances. For those customers looking to get out of the business of managing time-consuming database administration tasks – like provisioning, backups, software patching, monitoring, and hardware scaling – AWS offers Amazon RDS for SQL Server, a fully-managed relational database service (RDS) that makes it easy to set up, operate, and scale your SQL Server deployments in the cloud. In fact, in Gartner’s recent solution scorecard, they found that Amazon RDS satisfied 100 percent of Gartner’s required criteria for an operational database platform as a service.

Moving to a fully-managed database service can save on licensing costs, too. One of our partners, Zen, had an ISV customer who relied heavily on SQL Server for their warehouse management solution, but was experiencing high licensing costs and an unreliable infrastructure. By moving to Amazon RDS for SQL Server, this customer not only leveraged the simplicity and reliability of a managed service, they were also able to reduce their licensing costs by 75 percent by switching from Microsoft SQL Server Enterprise Edition licenses to Amazon RDS for SQL Server Standard Edition licenses.

For customers who want the best of both worlds – a managed database service with access to the underlying operating system and database environment – we offer Amazon RDS Custom for SQL Server. Amazon RDS Custom brings the benefits of Amazon RDS to customers that have historically been unable to move to a fully-managed service due to the customizations that are required for specific third-party applications, like Microsoft SharePoint. You can read more about the advantages of Amazon RDS for SQL Server and Amazon RDS Custom in this DBTA article.

Explore open-source alternatives

Since our inception, customers have asked AWS to help make it easy to deploy and operationalize their preferred open source software in the cloud. AWS strives to make open source accessible to the widest possible audience. Here are some popular options to migrate your SQL Server workloads to open source solutions:

  • SQL Server on Linux. Customers who prefer the Linux operating system and/or are looking to break free from expensive Windows Server licensing can easily install SQL Server on Linux manually, through Infrastructure as a Code, or by using the AWS Launch Wizard.
  • Amazon Aurora. This is AWS’ fully-managed relational database engine built for the cloud with full MySQL and PostgreSQL compatibility. Amazon Aurora gives you the performance and availability of commercial-grade databases at one-tenth the cost.
  • Babelfish for Aurora PostgreSQL. Run your SQL Server applications on PostgreSQL with little to no code change. With Babelfish for Aurora PostgreSQL, the effort required to modify and move applications running on SQL Server to Amazon Aurora is reduced, leading to faster, lower-risk, and more cost-effective migrations. AWS has open sourced the Babelfish for PostgreSQL project.

What’s involved with modernizing an on-premises SQL Server deployment to a cloud-based, open-source alternative? Ask Dow Jones. In this blog post, Luke Sawatsky, a software engineering manager at Dow Jones, says, “Migrating from on-premises SQL Server database to Amazon Aurora MySQL was an easy process that entailed several key stages.” Read the blog post to learn what best practices and tools Dow Jones used to successfully migrate and modernize its database workloads for one of its most critical business systems, the Market Data platform.

Take advantage of database solutions and tools built for the cloud

If you’re using SQL Server for some specialized operations, you may want to look at AWS’ fully-managed, purpose-built cloud databases. Currently, we have 15+ database engines to support a variety of data models, including relational, key-value, in-memory, document, wide column, graph, time series, and ledger. You may decide to migrate your entire SQL Server database to one of these databases or, depending on its usage, you may want to refactor your SQL Server database to a set of purpose-built databases.

If you’re using SQL Server for data warehousing, take a look at Amazon Redshift. It’s our fully-managed data warehousing solution that uses SQL to analyze structured and semi-structured data across operational databases, data lakes, data warehouses, and third-party data sets. You can focus on getting insights from your data in seconds, coupled with easy analytics for everyone.

We also have handy tools to make your SQL Server migration process easier and more manageable. The AWS Schema Conversion Tool (AWS SCT) automatically converts the source database schema and a majority of the database code objects, including views, stored procedures, and functions, to a format compatible with the target database. The AWS SCT is used in conjunction with the AWS Database Migration Service (AWS DMS), which helps you migrate your SQL Server databases to AWS quickly and securely. The source database remains fully operational during the migration, minimizing downtime to applications that rely on the database. In addition, the new AWS DMS Fleet Advisor automates migration planning for large fleets, cutting the planning process down from weeks to hours.

Finally, you may want to take a look at Amazon Database Migration Accelerator. It brings together AWS SCT, AWS DMS, and AWS database experts to help you migrate your SQL Server database to Amazon Aurora or Amazon RDS for PostgreSQL or MySQL at fixed prices. You pay after the migration is complete.


Modernization matters – and it can also be quite rewarding. Ask Expedia.

Expedia wanted to speed up its vendor payment transactions, leveraging a microservices-driven architecture along with more than 20 other services from AWS. They replaced SQL Server with Amazon Aurora PostgreSQL, which resulted in a reduced manual touch rate for processing partner payments from 17 percent to 0.06 percent and a payment speed drop from 1 day to 1 second. “We deliberately designed the new system in a microservices-oriented architecture so that we could easily scale with the functionality that AWS provides,” explained Nirupama Jagarlamudi, senior director of software development at Expedia Group, in this case study.

We’re here to help. AWS has been running SQL Server workloads in the cloud longer than anyone else, giving us the unmatched experience to help you and your organization optimize and become more efficient with SQL Server. If you’d like to learn more, check out this recent blog post: Migration and modernization strategies for your SQL Server workloads on AWS.

Contact us today to discuss your SQL Server migration and modernization initiatives.

AWS can help you assess how your company can get the most out of cloud. Join the millions of AWS customers that trust us to migrate and modernize their most important applications in the cloud. To learn more on modernizing Windows Server or SQL Server, visit Windows on AWSContact us to start your modernization journey today.

Phil Ekins

Phil Ekins

Phil Ekins is a Senior Solutions Architect in Amazon Web Services within the Microsoft technologies area and a SME on SQL Server. With over two decades of DBA experience on SQL Server and extensive experience guiding customers on Cloud Architectures, Migrations, Virtualization and HA/DR Solutions. As an AWS Architect and as a seasoned SQL Server Professional, Phil brings the DBA’s needs to the world of cloud computing.

Alex Zarenin

Alex Zarenin

Alex Zarenin is a Principal Solutions Architect with Amazon Web Services. He works with financial services companies designing and implementing a broad array of technical solutions. With domain expertise in Microsoft technologies, Alex has more than 30 years of technical experience in both the commercial and public sectors. Alex holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from NYU.