Let’s dive in to learn more about database migration, the various migration strategies, database migration tools and what you can do to avoid common challenges when migrating data to a newer database, such as a cloud data lake or data warehouse. It’s important to plan migrations carefully to achieve optimal business outcomes.

See how database migration is used to modernize data & analytics in the cloud.

What Is Database Migration?

Database migration involves moving data from one or more source platforms to another target database. This is no simple task since it can involve transferring data to different data formats and applications. The decision to perform this task in a company or across an enterprise is not made lightly. Database migration is a complex undertaking with multiple phases and teams involved. The process can also be prone to errors if the planning phase is limited and rushed in the desire to meet certain business needs or compliance deadlines.

It takes careful planning to manage the process. Laying down the right groundwork to prepare, extract and transform data to newer databases with updated or new applications and formats is crucial. This initial step takes time but is worth it in the long run to reduce potential errors and experience a seamless process of moving data. You can use change data capture (CDC) technology to help with detecting and managing incremental changes at the data source. With CDC, only the changes in data are passed on to the data user, which can save time, money and resources.

Why Does Database Migration Matter?

Database migration can be time-intensive and challenging, why do companies make the decision to do it? Market pressures and intense competition are driving organizations to adopt new technologies that support optimal storage, management and analysis of data. Data is the new currency of the business world. The companies who manage data wisely can adapt and innovate more quickly. Many businesses are adopting modern technologies and methods to increase the speed at which they can manage their data. Often, these digital modernization initiatives are thrust upon them due to mergers and acquisitions. They’re faced with merging data from several disparate databases and applications. They need solutions that help them navigate the process more easily while optimizing for scalability and reducing costs. Let’s look at some of the reasons for database migration in more detail.

1. Optimize business processes and reduce costs

Older databases can add overhead expenses to the company. There are always new business applications or systems to install. The choice to move these same databases to a cloud platform, however, can help serve their purpose in a more efficient manner. This also helps save on infrastructure costs as well as the manpower and expertise needed to support it on an ongoing basis.

For example, a popular technology company recently decided to modernize its servers and networks. This decision came after years of maintaining its own infrastructure since the company’s inception. The reason for this? Over time, the company observed how their operations became limited. And managing the technology was more time-consuming than they wanted to handle, not to mention difficult to scale and expensive to maintain. They wanted more flexibility and to improve things like application speed, reliability, security and disaster recovery planning. To avoid or minimize the service disruption to their clients, they migrated their on-premises databases to the cloud as efficiently as possible.

2. Increase business agility with upgraded technology

This is a very common reason for database migration. Companies shift from either an outdated or legacy system to one that is designed for the current business environment’s needs. In this era of big data, adopting new and efficient storage techniques is essential to stay relevant and competitive. For example, a company might choose to move from a legacy SQL database to a data lake or any other flexible system. This allows for quicker business insights from quality data to meet consumer expectations, optimize supply chains and more.

3. Gain better insights by reducing data redundancies

Minimizing the redundancy of data is key in maintaining quality data for decision-making. This becomes difficult when companies maintain separate databases with no sync between them. These siloed databases can make it challenging to obtain any useful insights from data that is potentially redundant. To reduce this issue of data redundancy, heterogenous and homogenous databases and systems are all brought together. Sometimes this happens after a merger or acquisition or when siloed systems within an enterprise are combined to gain sharper, more detailed insights to improve the customer experience. And data stored in one place can be made more easily accessible by all divisions of the company.

4. Protect sensitive data

According to a 2021 study involving 27,000 scanned databases,1 it was found that “46% of all on-prem databases globally are vulnerable to cyberattacks.” This is because databases are the easiest to get into through networks. Most organizations fail to upgrade their databases as regularly as they do other systems. This eventually leaves a wide gap for hackers to enter and reveal or steal information. Newer database upgrades now come with security options, which implies that the only way to protect your database is to get it updated on a regular basis to thwart the latest security threats.

If you find any of the above reasons obstructing your overall application performance, then you should consider a modernized database migration. Don’t know where to start? Let’s discuss current approaches to migrating databases and their pros and cons depending on your business needs.

Three Types of Database Migration Strategies

There are three main ways companies migrate their on-premises databases: big bang data migration, trickle data migration and zero downtime migration. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Let’s review all of them to understand what will most benefit your organization’s needs and requirements.

1. Big bang database migration

A big bang migration transfers all data from one source system to a target database in a single operation at a single point in time. This type of migration is performed during a weekend or a scheduled downtime period. The benefit of this strategy is its simplicity, as everything occurs in a time-boxed event. The trade-off is downtime. This can be undesirable for organizations that run their systems 24/7.

2. Trickle database migration

A trickle migration follows an agile-type approach to database migration. It breaks down the migration into small sub-migrations, each having its own scope, deadlines and goals. This makes it easier for the database migration team to confirm the success of each phase. If any step in the process falters, it’s common to only re-work the failed process. As a result, the lessons from the failure can be utilized to improve subsequent runs. That is one of the reasons why it is less prone to unexpected failures.

The downside? Trickle database migration can take more time. And when running two systems simultaneously, trickle migration can also consume more resources and effort.

3. Zero-downtime database migration

A zero-downtime migration replicates data from the source database to the target database. It allows you to access and operate on the source database while the migration is in process. Benefits include less business disruption, faster migration and minimal cost. This is especially useful when the desire is to reduce business impact.

Avoid These Database Migration Challenges

Database migration can be very complex, but with proper planning, these common challenges can be mitigated:

Challenge #1: Finding your siloed databases

If your company has been around for a while, you likely have many disparate databases that exist within various parts of your company. They may be in different departments and different geographies. They may have been brought in through acquisitions. Part of your task in migrating databases is to locate the disparate databases in your company and plan how you will normalize data and convert schemas.

Challenge #2: Data loss or corruption

When migrating databases, it's critical to ensure your data is safely moved without loss or corruption. You'll need to plan how to test for these issues when you move data from one system to another.

Challenge #3: Security

When you move data from one platform to another, you must keep your data secure. Unfortunately, there are many nefarious actors who would love to get their hands on the personal data you have stored away. You might choose to encrypt the data or remove personally identifiable information (PII) as a part of the migration process.

To avoid these and other potential challenges, it is important to assess the capabilities of the tools that you’ll be using to migrate data from various sources to the target database. Read this article on data ingestion for a list of key capabilities.

Examples of Database Migration

See how the University of New Orleans approached database migration, increasing the resiliency of hundreds of gigabytes with data replication to Snowflake.

Creating a Hurricane-Proof Data Management Strategy

Leveraging Informatica® Intelligent Data Management Cloud™ (IDMC) for its cloud mass ingestion services, UNO accelerated their cloud modernization journey. They quickly and efficiently migrated thousands of tables with complex data structures from Oracle to Snowflake. And they accomplished this without any hand-coding. The easy-to-use wizard-based approach helped UNO significantly reduce their manual extract-transform-load (ETL) efforts by 90%. The approach also enabled their developers to build predictive models for advanced analytics. This effort helped improve student recruitment, admission and retention. UNO plans to ingest CDC data into Snowflake so that the latest data from Workday is continuously available in their data warehouse.

Moving 12+ Years of Data to the Cloud in One Weekend

KLA is a leading maker of process controls and yield management systems. Their customers are semiconductor manufacturers. To keep up with their expanding consumer base, they needed improved data analytics. They also needed to perform data replication using CDC methodology in Snowflake. They looked to Informatica and Snowflake to help them with their cloud-first data strategy. They looked to cloud mass ingestion to deliver continuous data replication. Change data was moved into their Snowflake cloud data lake on a continuous basis. Over the course of a single weekend, the company was able to move 1,000 Oracle database tables. This made 12 years of historical enterprise resource planning (ERP) data available for analysis. They also captured and integrated incremental Oracle data changes directly into Snowflake.

Database Migration Resources to Get You Started on Your Journey

Gain more insight into database migration for your organization. Take a look at this compilation of resources to aid you in your efforts for a smooth process overall.

Analyst reports and more:

Informatica data ingestion products and solutions:

Learn more about Informatica’s data ingestion and replication solutions.

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