AWS SQL Server mirroring takes aim at Azure

Enterprises that look to deploy production workloads in AWS have a new resiliency option for a popular database, offered as a service.

Amazon Web Services now offers production-grade infrastructure for Microsoft SQL Server as part of its Relational Database Service, in the latest of a series of appeals to enterprises that run traditional applications.

SQL Server mirroring has been available as part of the on-premises Microsoft application since SQL Server 2005 and manual setup of SQL Server mirroring was available inside Amazon Web Services (AWS). But this week the feature is available within the Relational Database Service (RDS) in an abstracted way.

Before, it could have taken dozens of steps to set up SQL Server mirroring in the AWS Elastic Compute Cloud, and in Windows Azure, for that matter. Now, RDS offers a one-click option that provides multiple availability-zone failover for disaster recovery within certain AWS regions. It also attaches the SQL Server instance to an Elastic Block Store with provisioned IOPS for better performance than standard storage.

Clearly it is a high priority for AWS to make its platform more appealing to large enterprises and part of that is supporting more traditional enterprise workloads.

James Staten,
analyst, Forrester Research

This boosts the confidence of enterprise customers who have been on the fence about migrating mission-critical database workloads to AWS in the RDS offering.

"This makes it much more likely that we will seriously consider RDS as an option for planned SQL Server application stack migrations in the coming months," said Dan Griffith, an IT architect with a major retailer headquartered in the Southeast.

Other IT pros also see the new resiliency features in RDS as a boon for developers who don't want to get into the nitty-gritty of setting up mirrored databases or managing failover.

"[If] they can make database operations about database design and coding versus maintenance and operations … [it] is a good move," said Jim O'Neill, CIO for hosted marketing software company HubSpot Inc., based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

RDS looks to eat Azure's lunch

AWS' competition with Microsoft's Azure cloud has motivated this move, O'Neill said, as it gives AWS more of a toehold in hosting a popular Microsoft application.

The move is indeed a shot across the bow of Microsoft Azure. Microsoft officials posted a tutorial in February on how to span data centers within Azure using SQL Server mirroring, which, until this document, was limited to failover within a single data center because Active Directory controllers can't span data center boundaries.

Given the fact Amazon just launched SQL Server RDS in 2012, AWS has caught up with the workaround technique relatively quickly.

AWS has also offered database mirroring for other databases such as MySQL and Postgres under RDS, but SQL Server is one of the most popular databases on the market for both new and legacy applications, analysts say.

"Clearly it is a high priority for AWS to make its platform more appealing to large enterprises and part of that is supporting more traditional enterprise workloads," said James Staten, analyst with Forrester Research, Inc., based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

There is a cautionary note that some veteran AWS pros say RDS failover for other databases, specifically MySQL, hasn't always worked properly. Customers with large-scale database deployments in AWS also tend to prefer to customize an EC2 deployment to fit their database's specifications.

Another caveat: Microsoft will deprecate SQL Server Mirroring in its next release, SQL Server 2016. Amazon's RDS high availability for SQL Server currently supports 2008 R2 and 2012 versions of the application.

SQL Server mirroring for RDS is available in the U.S.-West (Oregon) and EU (Ireland) AWS regions, with U.S. East (Northern Virginia) availability coming soon, according to RDS documentation.

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for SearchAWS. Write to her at bpariseau@techtarget.com or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

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