Database Migration: Understanding Concepts and Strategies

February 20, 2024
20 min read

As your business expands and new technologies emerge, it becomes necessary to modernize your data management systems. To address the rising complexities and volumes of data, your data infrastructure needs to be scaled up. This typically involves migrating data from one database to another, which is referred to as database migration.

This article offers valuable insights on different types of database migration and strategies to ensure a smooth and successful migration.

What is Database Migration?

Database migration is transferring data from one database system to another. This could involve moving data between the same or different database management systems (DBMS), such as migrating from MySQL to PostgreSQL. It also includes transferring data from on-premises servers to cloud-based platforms. 

Database migration is typically performed for analytics requirements or to upgrade to newer versions of the software. It consolidates multiple databases into a single repository, improves scalability and performance, and enables advanced analytics. Migration requires careful planning, collecting, testing, and execution to ensure data integrity, minimize downtime, and smooth transition to the new environment.

Benefits of Database Migration

Here are the key benefits of database migration:

Improved Performance: Database migration service allows you to switch to a faster and more efficient database system, improving performance. It optimizes hardware, infrastructure, and database design and utilizes advanced database features. This ultimately results in enhanced productivity and reduced query execution times.

Efficient Scaling: Modern database systems offer advanced scalability features like distributed computing and horizontal scaling. These enable handling larger datasets and increased workloads efficiently.

Cost Savings: By migrating data to the cloud databases, you can save significant upfront investment in infrastructure and maintenance. Instead, you can utilize pay-as-you-go models, which charge only for the resources you consume. Cloud databases also provide cost-effective storage and computing solutions, allowing you to minimize data storage costs.

Data Consolidation: Consolidating data from various systems and databases into a single database allows you to streamline data management. This reduces data redundancy, improves data integrity, and provides better analytics and reporting capabilities.

Greater Security: Migrating to newer database versions often brings updated security features that address vulnerabilities present in older versions. These features may include improved encryption algorithms, more robust access controls, and enhanced authentication mechanisms, all of which contribute to a more secure environment.

Types of Database Migration

Let’s explore the different types of database migration options that you can consider for your business.

Storage Migration

Storage migration occurs when you move data from one storage location to another. This process doesn't alter the content or format of data. One common cause for storage migration is the replacement of outdated storage systems with more advanced and modern storage technology. Various tasks, such as data validation, cloning, and redundancy checks, are performed during this process.

Cloud Migration

Cloud migration involves moving a database from an on-premises environment to a cloud-based platform or from one cloud provider to another. Cloud databases provide on-demand access to computing resources, such as storage, processing power, and memory. This enables you to scale resources as needed, ensuring optimal performance and cost-efficiency. Furthermore, it offers benefits such as flexibility and reduced infrastructure management overhead. 

Application Migration

Application migration refers to the process of moving application data from one environment to another. It could involve transferring the application from an on-premises server to the cloud. This migration usually takes place when upgrading to a newer version of the application or moving to a new environment or hosting provider. Careful preparation and thorough testing are crucial when migrating applications to guarantee a seamless transition and ongoing functionality in the new environment.

Data Migration

Data migration involves moving data from one database to another, either within the same or different DBMS platforms. It either involves transferring data from older, legacy systems to contemporary databases or consolidating multiple databases into a unified repository. ​The primary objective is to facilitate seamless data transfer while ensuring its integrity and accuracy in the new environment.

3 Types of Migration Strategies

Database migration can be carried out using three main strategies, namely big bang data migration, trickle data migration, and zero downtime migration.

Big Bang Database Migration

A big bang migration is a one-time data transfer from one source system to a target database. It is usually performed over the weekend or during a predefined downtime period. This technique has the advantage of being faster and less complex, making it better suited for small enterprises with less data. However, the trade-off is downtime, which makes it inconvenient for businesses that run their systems 24/7.

Trickle Database Migration

Trickle database migration, also known as incremental or phased migration, is a strategy for migrating data from one database system to another gradually over time. Unlike traditional Big Bang migrations, where all data is transferred at once, trickle migration involves moving small portions of data in incremental stages. This approach helps mitigate risks and improves system performance and availability.

Zero-downtime Database Migration

This strategy replicates data from the source database to the target database without downtime. You can continue working on the source database without any interruption while the migration process is in progress. This approach offers many benefits, such as faster migration, minimized impact on business operations, and cost savings.

How to Do Database Migrations?

Database migration is a multi-step process that needs careful planning. It is crucial to have an appropriate migration strategy and the right database migration tool to make the process more efficient. Let's look at the various steps to understand how to perform database migration:

  • Understand the Source Database: The first step in any database migration process is to thoroughly understand the source database. This includes identifying the database size, data types, and schema structure. Gathering comprehensive information about these aspects is essential to plan and execute the migration process accurately.
  • Assessing the Data: Once you clearly understand the source database, the next step is to analyze the data that needs to be migrated. Profile your source database and establish data quality rules to eliminate inconsistencies, duplicates, and errors. Early data profiling during migration can prevent delays and unexpected failures affecting the migration process.
  • Converting Database Schema: After assessing the data, the schema should be assessed and converted whenever required to ensure compatibility with the target database. Heterogeneous migrations involve transferring data between different database systems and are more complicated than homogenous migrations. Converting schemas for such migrations manually can be complex and time-consuming. Utilizing a data migration tool with schema conversion capability can streamline the process and efficiently transfer data to the new database.
  • Testing the Migration Build: Once the database schema has been converted, it's essential to thoroughly test the migration build before proceeding with the actual migration. This includes setting up a test environment and running a series of tests iteratively to validate the migration process. It's essential to test for data accuracy and consistency to ensure the migration will succeed without impacting any business operations.
  • Executing the Migration: Once the migration build has been thoroughly tested and validated, it's time to execute the migration. The duration of this stage relies on the data volumes and the data migration approach chosen. If you choose the trickle approach, it is essential to monitor the process to see if there are any signs of downtime to the old system.

Automate Your Data Migration Using Airbyte

Data migration is a complex process that can result in challenges such as data loss, downtime, and compatibility issues. To address this, it is crucial to use a reliable data migration tool. Airbyte is one such tool that offers pre-built connectors to migrate data from various database sources, including MySQL, Postgres, DuckDB, etc., to a target system seamlessly.

Here are the key features of Airbyte:

  • Extensive Catalog of Connectors: Airbyte supports more than 350+ connectors for various databases. It simplifies the process of migrating data from one database to another without writing a single line of code.
  • Customization: If you don’t find the desired connector in the pre-build list, you can easily build a custom one using the Connector Development Kit (CDK). This gives you the flexibility to build connectors tailored to your specific requirements.
  • User-friendly interface: It offers a seamless experience for users of all levels. Its intuitive interface simplifies the extraction, loading, and transformation processes. This enables you to connect to various data sources and migrate effortlessly. 
  • Change Data Capture: Airbyte utilizes Change Data Capture (CDC) to facilitate database synchronization seamlessly. By leveraging CDC technology, it tracks and captures changes made to the source database and replicates them to the target databases. This enables the platform to efficiently identify and replicate only the modified data rather than transferring the entire dataset repeatedly. 

Wrapping Up

Database migration is a critical task that moves data from one system to another. You can minimize the risks and costs associated with the process by understanding the different types of migration, concepts, and strategies involved. Whether upgrading to a new database platform or transferring data to the cloud, the key is to plan well, test thoroughly, and use the right data migration tools for successful database migration.

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