Rebura: Accelerate SQL Server database modernization with Babelfish for Amazon Aurora PostgreSQL

by Prasad Rao | on

For many organizations, modernization is the message of the moment. They want to get better scalability and save on costs by migrating and modernizing their workloads on cloud. Databases are a key foundational element of modernizing the IT stack, but organizations don’t know where to start. Working with an Amazon Web Services Partner takes both the technical and operational issues out of modernizing a legacy database into a database built for the cloud.

Rebura , an Amazon Web Services Advanced Partner with Amazon Web Services Microsoft Workloads Consulting Competency, was awarded Amazon Web Services Rising Star Partner of the Year in 2020 and Well-Architected Partner of the Year in 2021.

I chatted with Daniel Butler , founder and technical director of Rebura, and Daniel Shone , solution architect at Rebura, to understand how Rebura helps customers modernize their SQL Server on Amazon Web Services, unlocking scalability and saving costs without the extensive technical and administrative effort typically associated with modernization.

Q: What challenges do you hear from your customers who use SQL Server on premises or with any cloud provider?

A: The key challenges we hear from customers running SQL Server on premises are high operational overhead and the spiraling costs of their databases. Often, running SQL Server workload on premises comes with added security and performance issues that end up draining internal resources significantly. We at Rebura have helped several customers migrate their SQL Server to Amazon Web Services to overcome these challenges. Nevertheless, they face the issue of Microsoft SQL Server licensing costs and frequent SQL Server version upgrades. The ongoing questions customers encounter are: 1) Are they using the right licenses? 2) How can they optimize the licensing costs? 3) When is the end of support date for the SQL Server versions they are using?

To break this cycle of ever-increasing licensing costs and version upgrades, customers are looking to modernize. However, many of these customers do not have the in-house expertise or the bandwidth to modernize their databases.

Overall, despite facing clear challenges, customers find the costs involved in undertaking a migration or modernization – both in terms of time and expertise required – are prohibitive for their business.

Q: So what are the options for customers who are currently facing these SQL Server challenges?

A: To solve licensing cost issues and gain a powerful, scalable database solution, customers should look no further than Amazon Aurora .

Amazon Aurora is a relational database built for the cloud. It combines the performance and availability of traditional enterprise databases with the simplicity and cost-effectiveness of open-source databases. For customers who don’t know where to start, Amazon Web Services has introduced Babelfish for Aurora PostgreSQL as a new capability of Amazon Aurora. It’s the perfect way to take that first step.

Before Babelfish for Aurora PostgreSQL, the customer’s only options were either to rearchitect their application to use a different database solution or to upgrade their license to a version of SQL Server that met their scalability and reliability needs. Both these options could be costly, either in terms of effort required or running costs, or both.

Babelfish gives customers easier modernization without requiring large, re-architecture-level changes to their code. It speeds up the SQL Server modernization journey and helps ease the burden of getting onto an open-source database without all the code changes.

Q: You mentioned Babelfish speeds up SQL Server modernization journeys. How does it actually do that?

A: The key benefit of Babelfish is that it enables Amazon Aurora to understand queries from applications written for SQL Server. It allows the customer to use the features of Amazon Aurora PostgreSQL, without the need to make major, intensive application rewrites to use native PostgreSQL.

Babelfish allows the application to continue using T-SQL (Microsoft SQL Server’s proprietary SQL dialect), but, at the same time, it also supports native PostgreSQL connections so the application can be modernized at the same time as the database if the customer wishes to do so.

In this way, Babelfish immensely reduces the technical issues of moving to a different database. Customers gain better scalability and cost savings of migrating to Amazon Aurora, without all the work that traditionally comes with it.

Figure 1: Babelfish for Amazon Aurora PostgreSQL

Figure 1: Babelfish for Amazon Aurora PostgreSQL (source: )

Q: How does Rebura help customers with their SQL Server modernization journey?

A: Rebura’s offering is all about easing the overall modernization process and ensuring the changes that come with transformation don’t impede business.

We use a three-step approach to SQL Server modernization, working closely with the customer to create their individual modernization path. The three steps are: Assessment, Proof of Concept (PoC), and Migration/Modernization.

Figure 2: Rebura’s three-step approach for SQL Modernization

Figure 2: Rebura’s three-step approach for SQL Modernization

  1. First, we conduct an assessment of the customer’s existing database solution in order to establish the business case for modernization.
  2. Then we follow up our initial assessment with an in-depth database assessment using both Amazon Web Services tools and in-house knowledge, allowing us to deliver a working PoC solution for the customer.
  3. Finally, we provide the full migration journey. Our final step is to complete the journey from migration through production.

Q: How about Rebura’s approach with customers who want to evaluate Babelfish as a potential modernization pathway for their SQL Server databases?

A: We adopt the same three-step approach for evaluating Babelfish as a potential modernization pathway.

In the initial Assessment stage, we use Babelfish Compass (a tool to analyze SQL Server-based application code for Babelfish), Amazon Web Services Schema Conversion Tool , and our own in-house expertise with SQL Server to assess and advise on the effort required to modernize the customer’s existing database solution.

We will discuss both the customer’s modernization options and any further Amazon Web Services services the customer could use to support their workloads. If it’s a relevant modernization option, we highlight both the positives and negatives (such as the currently unsupported features) of the Babelfish pathway. We take the customer’s existing Data Definition Language (DDL) and an extract of any dynamically generated SQL queries and perform an in-depth analysis. We then generate a report of unsupported features, highlighting potential workarounds and solutions.

Next, we move to the PoC stage. Once all unsupported features have been resolved, a Rebura Database engineer will then create a PoC Aurora PostgreSQL cluster from the customer’s DDL and populate it with a subset of the customer’s data to test against. We then test the application’s operation and functionality against the new database using existing code, using this as the final sign off on the PoC and the impetus for any final client viability testing. We have created a packaged offering for customers to quickly do a PoC to evaluate Babelfish for their SQL Server workloads.

After a successful PoC, we help the customer modernize their production SQL Server databases to Babelfish for Aurora PostgreSQL. Depending on the complexity of the workloads involved, it will take us between 3–4 months to migrate the customer’s entire database to Amazon Aurora.

Q: Can you provide more details on Rebura’s Babelfish packaged offering you mentioned?

A: Fully funded by Amazon Web Services and Rebura, our packaged offering is a database analysis and Proof of Concept solution, allowing the customer to evaluate Babelfish for Aurora PostgreSQL as a viable modernization pathway. We show customers how they can save up to 60% on their on-premises running costs with a fully funded, no obligation POC. And if the customer decides to continue with full modernization, there is additional funding available from Amazon Web Services to help with this, too!

Figure 3: Rebura’s Babelfish packaged offering

Q: If customers are interested, how can they get in touch with you or find out more?

A: Thanks for asking! We’ve got a brief one-page summary that customers can look in to find out more about our Babelfish PoC offering. They can also check out our website for more information on our full offerings or email to get in touch.

About the Microsoft workloads on Amazon Web Services Partner Spotlight series

Please continue to join us in this blog series as we highlight our Amazon Web Services Partners’ capabilities in migrating and modernizing Microsoft workloads on Amazon Web Services. As you do, we hope you’ll also ask the question: “What’s my organization’s plan for moving off SQL Server or Windows Server or whatever technology is keeping us from modernizing to better care for our customers?” Let Amazon Web Services Partners with their specific niche offerings help you assess how your company can get the most out of cloud.

Amazon Web Services can help you assess how your company can get the most out of cloud. Join the millions of Amazon Web Services 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 Amazon Web Services Contact us  to start your modernization journey today.