Consulting Services
The Benefits of Migrating from
Sybase to SQL Server Running
on Windows Server 2003
October 2004
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Executive Summary
Over time, for various technical and business reasons, Sybase has dropped out of
the top tier of enterprise database vendors. The company has responded by
broadening its appeal into mobile computing, the web, and consumers, etc.
However, many Sybase database customers question Sybase’s ability to make the
investments needed to keep Sybase competitive with other database platforms.
Sybase has made much of its TCO advantages over Oracle and IBM, but there are
clearly opportunities for Microsoft to present a strong value proposition to Sybase
customers that will persuade them that there is minimal risk and effort and
maximum reward in a migration to SQL Server.
This report presents the results and analysis of a number of interviews conducted
with both end users and Microsoft consultants (both within Microsoft as well as
independent consultants) who migrated solutions from a Sybase environment
running on UNIX platforms to Microsoft SQL Server running in a Windows
environment. The interviews focused on several areas: costs (including costs for
hardware, operating systems, DBMS products, and personnel resources), migration
processes and tools, and migration challenges.
Our findings include the following:
Sybase’s two major advantages as seen by those to whom we spoke –
performance (particularly for transaction-intensive financial applications) and
cost – have come under intense scrutiny of late. Throughout this report we
illustrate how the cost savings associated with moving to an SQL Server
environment on lower-cost Windows-based platforms can be significant,
particularly at the hardware level, which exhibited the bulk of these savings in
the user environments we studied. It is clear that the cost advantage enjoyed
by Sybase at one time over other UNIX competitors such as Oracle is largely
irrelevant in this context, and that Sybase is now perceived as the higher-cost
alternative when compared with Microsoft and its SQL Server offering.
Despite a high level of interest in Linux and other open source solutions,
Windows offers an attractive and viable operating system for the lower cost
hardware platforms that are increasingly being employed as an alternative to
UNIX servers. The users we interviewed who migrated Sybase databases and
applications from UNIX to Linux indicated that, while cost was a major
motivator in their migration decision, it was not clear to them if much savings
Executive Summary ...................................... 1
Sybase to SQL Server Migration:
Report Methodology ..................................... 3
Introduction: The State of the Industry........ 3
Cost-Cutting and Business Effectiveness
Influence IT Decision-Making
Standards Become the Norm
The Costs of Migration
Migrating Sybase Solutions on
UNIX to SQL Server on Windows:
Rationale and Experiences........................... 7
The Context – Making Database Applications
More Efficient and Effective
Lower Cost Platforms –
Windows (and Linux) versus UNIX
Migration Experiences –
Costs and Cost Savings
Moving Away from Sybase –
Performance, Cost, and
Technical Considerations
Sybase’s Viability Moving Forward
An Overview of Technology-Based
Benefits of Migrating to SQL Server
Sybase to SQL Server Migration Challenges 18
Summary and Conclusions ........................ 21
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resulted from changing operating systems. In addition, some of those
interviewed who had started their Linux work on “freeware” versions from
vendors such as Red Hat were growing increasingly concerned over changing
licensing and maintenance policies from Linux suppliers.
From the product perspective, cost savings span all elements. However, most
users found that the greatest savings were tied to replacing relatively
expensive UNIX systems with servers that utilize processors from companies
such as Intel and AMD. Savings were realized both in the form of purchase
costs, and the costs associated with maintaining the systems. It is highly likely
that along with a lower cost structure, additional capacity and performance can
be derived from these new implementations.
Cost was a major motivator for those users who considered migrating their
Sybase solutions to SQL Server on Windows. Other important considerations
included the perception of Sybase’s continued viability as a DBMS vendor and
the promise of achieving greater operational efficiencies from the DBMS
The benefits of a Sybase to SQL Server migration are numerous. While cost
played a significant (and in some cases, overriding) role in many user
decisions, the ability to leverage the .NET platform, coupled with a high level of
task automation, improved performance and scalability (particularly when
performing database consistency checks), robust system resource
management (primarily as a result of the tight integration between SQL Server
and Windows), and better business intelligence capabilities, were seen as real
benefits by users.
There are a number of challenges associated with this type of migration. Some
stem from technical differences between the two products, accentuated by their
recent divergence from a common code base. Others are perceptual and act as
a hurdle for Microsoft as a vendor to overcome. Microsoft with its SQL Server
Migration Workshop Framework has addressed many of these challenges.
Ideas International (IDEAS) believes these types of migrations will increase over
time as the enterprise’s desire to lower costs and simplify IT environments
intensifies. To this end, Microsoft appears to have addressed many of the issues
inherent in migrating one of the most fundamental and supportive elements of the
IT solution (the DBMS). Recognizing that technical, organizational, and business
issues can make the migration from Sybase to SQL Server challenging, Microsoft
has built a comprehensive framework, including both process specifications and
tools that can help facilitate the transition. The framework helps automate and ease
many of the tasks associated with a migration effort (including data transformation,
leveraging existing UNIX-based scripts, and porting applications).
Perhaps of equal importance, the framework provides a testing and quality
assurance (QA) environment that enables Microsoft to demonstrate SQL Server’s
ability to perform and scale to a particular enterprise’s current and future needs.
Even today, overcoming a perceived lack of “enterprise readiness” is not a trivial
issue for Microsoft, and its consultants (both internal and third party) spend
significant effort on using Microsoft’s (and others) tools and processes to convince
prospects that their needs can be met. Our conversations with end users and
consultants supported Microsoft’s contention that SQL Server offers great
performance and is a highly scalable option for many current Sybase users.
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We find Microsoft’s approach to this particular migration scenario both well
conceived and well implemented. It would not surprise us – once Microsoft gains
more experience in this area – if the company initiated similarly aggressive efforts
to apply its migration framework to other competitive database products. We
believe the interest on the part of enterprises to persist along a path of moving to
lower cost infrastructures, databases, and applications will continue with Microsoft
well positioned to exploit this interest in a big way.
Sybase to SQL Server Migration: Report Methodology
In this report, IDEAS analyzed the issues, factors, and cost considerations for end
users who migrated from Sybase implementations (and in some cases the
applications that use them) running on Windows platforms, to Microsoft’s SQL
Server running in a Windows environment. Both products are examples of database
management systems (DBMSs), which are generally used as the repository and
management infrastructures for the data and information required to conduct
operations, support business transactions, and give management and employees
the information they need to do their jobs.
In order to gain an understanding of the type and magnitude of cost savings and
technology-based advantages achievable via this type of migration, we conducted
interviews with:
customers who had made the migration from Sybase on UNIX to Sybase on
customers who had made the migration from Sybase on UNIX to SQL Server on
Windows; and
consultants who had taken part in engagements involving Sybase to SQL
Server migrations.
After these interviews were completed, IDEAS analyzed and evaluated the cost
elements, organizational impact, and technology and business risk implications
associated with migrating to SQL Server. The feedback obtained from these
interviews was then used to develop insights into the motivations for embarking on
such migration efforts, the challenges that may be encountered, and the eventual
benefits that can be achieved.
Introduction: The State of the Industry
Cost-Cutting and Business Effectiveness Influence IT Decision-Making
There is little doubt that from a variety of perspectives the environment in which IT
professionals work has undergone some significant changes in recent years –
changes that persist today and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
These changes, which stem primarily from an increasing dependence on achieving
competitive advantage through IT skill and resources, are generally focused in
three overlapping areas:
Increasing Business Efficiency
– IT organizations have always been called
on to reduce the time and resources they use to build and maintain their
solutions, but the drive to lower IT costs (and all costs for that matter) has
gained even greater emphasis of late. As the importance of IT assets and their
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effective application toward solving business problems grows, so will the ability
to establish a direct relationship between IT costs and an enterprise’s “bottom
line.” This forces a higher level of accountability in terms of what is spent,
where that spending is applied, and how the return on the investments is both
defined and measured.
Growing the “Effectiveness” of Business Activities
– Beyond striving to
apply resources in the most efficient way possible, organizations have been
placing greater emphasis on making their systems more effective in terms of
delivering greater business value. Choosing best practices, effective
methodologies, and highly productive tools can certainly allow for a more cost-
effective application of IT resources (human and otherwise) for the purpose of
building, deploying, maintaining, and managing infrastructures and
applications. But perhaps a more important consideration is, How are those
resources being used? What applications will be built (and in what priority),
given the limited resources and the direction the enterprise wishes to take the
business? How will systems and networks be deployed to most effectively
support business goals?
The Changing Role of the IT Manager
– Literally thousands of articles and
papers have been generated in recent years that describe at great length how
the role of the IT Manager is becoming more “business focused.” The CIO gets
most of the attention here, but in fact all IT professionals, and in particular their
managers, are finding that they are required to do their jobs with a keener eye
on business goals and considerations. IT priorities can no longer be set by a
group of developers and their supervisors, but rather must involve a line of
business managers, marketing professionals, and in some cases, executives.
The net result of these changes is the evolution of a new model for determining
investments and measuring their effectiveness. As IT and “the business” become
equal partners, both operational efficiency and business effectiveness become
extremely important, not only in deciding which projects are initiated and how
resources are used, but in determining the ROI associated with IT investments.
However, once decisions are made as to how to best leverage IT resources to
accomplish the goals of the business, the delivery of capabilities consistent with
the application of those resources must be done in the most effective way possible.
We have made the case here that cost-cutting is not the only (and maybe not even
the most important) driver of IT activities, but it is still one with high relevance that
garners a great deal of attention.
There are, of course, many ways to cut IT costs. For instance, the right choice of
tools for software development, project management, and for the management of
applications, systems, and networks can have a significant impact on the efficiency
of IT workers. This can translate into being able to maintain existing activity levels
with fewer personnel, or into enabling existing personnel to spend their energies on
new application and systems development focused on growing the business (for a
healthy, growth-oriented business, the latter is the likely scenario).
There is also the opportunity to lower costs through a more efficient use of
hardware platforms, networks, and software solutions. One way to accomplish this
type of savings is through server consolidation, which typically involves migrating
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applications from a number of relatively expensive midrange platforms running
UNIX or a more “proprietary” operating system, to less expensive, higher capacity
servers (which can also be UNIX-based but are increasingly including Windows-
and Linux-based systems). Another way is through a straight migration from a more
expensive platform to one that is less expensive to both purchase and operate – an
activity that may or may not involve consolidation. There is even a school of
thought, promoted by more than one major software vendor, that all IT activities
should be supported on inexpensive, “commodity” platforms that cost a few
thousand dollars apiece, whereby additional systems are added incrementally as
needed. All of these approaches have as their ultimate goal a reduction in the total
cost of ownership (TCO) of the hardware and systems (including the operating
systems) infrastructure within an organization.
The opportunity also exists to reduce the TCO of other software elements, including
the applications that support business functions, software development and
business process related tools, and databases. In some cases, the cost of
purchasing/licensing (and the cost of maintaining) these software products can be
reduced through the selection of alternative vendors and products.
Standards Become the Norm
The basis for the industry’s changing view of how IT investments should be
determined and measured – with a more pronounced focus on increasing business
(revenue and profit) opportunity – is founded in the ability to leverage new means
of interoperability. The purpose here is to bring IT assets to bear on relationships
between enterprises and the communities with which they must interact (customers,
business partners/suppliers, and others) via the web and other network types in a
more effective manner. What makes this enhanced degree of interoperability
possible is the creation and application of technology-based standards.
Most of the important standards activities today center around the interoperability
afforded through distributed, network-based implementations. The most visible and
popular manifestation of these is via web services, and even here, despite the
extreme need for convergence on standards, there have been a number of
organizations formed that focus on web services standards development that have
on occasion been in conflict with each other. However, what has been a common
thread, virtually by definition, is the use of XML as the basis for web services
interoperability. In fact, XML-based standards provide the underlying means of
messaging among web services, defining the services themselves, establishing a
secure environment based on identity and access management, and specifying
data and information.
For transaction-based or data warehousing applications, support for XML in the
DBMS has become an important requirement as enterprises continue to work to
gain greater leverage from the web and web services, as well as the XML-based
messaging and transport technologies on which they are built. The more important
takeaway, however, is that XML is a particularly relevant example of the degree to
which standards foster interoperability and integration on a variety of levels today.
A DBMS migration decision of the type described in this paper must take into
account current and future requirements as they relate to standards, and in
particular, XML-based standards. Customers should only consider a database from
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a vendor that currently demonstrates an adequate level of support and is committed
to enhancing that support as standards evolve. Microsoft has incorporated both
client- and server-side support into SQL Server 2000 and will be expanding this
support with additional features in SQL Server 2005. SQL Server’s viability as a
target migration database is therefore, in our opinion, clearly established from the
standpoint of XML support.
Another interesting, but very different approach to the subject of standards, is one
that examines the efforts within an organization to standardize on specific
technologies (platforms, operating systems, applications, etc.) in order to create
economies of scale in relation to TCO. It makes sense that the costs associated
with developing, maintaining, and managing applications and the infrastructural
elements on which they run will be lower if there are fewer “variants” with which
those involved in these activities must be proficient. An approach that allows an
enterprise to leverage common models for programming, security, and data, as well
as a highly integrated set of services, can permit an enterprise to reach its cost-
savings goals through a consolidation of skills and resources. Microsoft’s focus on
delivering a single platform (the Windows Server System) that can interoperate with
others puts it in a good position to exploit this cost-focused model.
The Costs of Migration
As we noted earlier, lowering IT costs could potentially involve changing a variety
of elements that make up an organization’s IT infrastructure. We also noted that the
motivation for doing so is to create a ROI scenario in which the combination of
efficiency (cost savings) and effectiveness (increased business opportunity) make
the effort worthwhile.
While migrating a database, and the platforms on which it runs, can result in gains
in both efficiency (cost savings) and effectiveness (increased business
opportunity), the path to migration is not free. Most organizations that have been
around long enough to have established business patterns and practices that are
supported by their IT resources will have to take steps that are potentially
expensive and disruptive. For instance, new systems and software will need to be
purchased; although in the case of systems, organizations have the opportunity to
sell or redeploy the systems being replaced. The actual migration activity also
results in personnel costs, both direct and indirect (e.g., the opportunity costs
associated with a developer being diverted from bringing a new function online and
the resulting loss of cost reduction or revenue that results from the delay).
In many cases, however, there is a positive spin: New servers may involve an initial
purchase, but their costs may be at least partially recoverable through the sale or
repurposing of existing systems. Gains should also be achieved because these
systems will be cheaper to administer and maintain, and their performance should
exceed their cost profile relative to the servers they are replacing. The enterprise
should be able to note similar improvements in the operation of the software
products involved. Most importantly, the performance and availability improvements
achieved should allow the enterprise to greatly enhance its ability to grow revenue
and profits through greater access and value to the communities with which it must
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Migrating Sybase Solutions on UNIX to SQL Server on Windows:
Rationale and Experiences
The Context – Making Database Applications More Efficient and Effective
The business drivers discussed above apply to virtually any solution type. Whether
they concern infrastructure (middleware, integration platforms, application servers,
and, of course, hardware platforms) or software applications, solutions and the
elements they are composed of must be chosen to optimize ROI, lower TCO, and in
general, make a direct impact on the company’s bottom line.
A major component of many solutions, of course, is the database, which augments
applications through its ability to store, access, and organize data and information.
The applications enterprises use to conduct business support transactions that
require access to information stored in these databases. These databases also
support data warehousing, making possible the access of the data required to
support business decisions, and to give management and other internal functions
the information they need, in a form useful to them and in a timely manner.
Databases are therefore considered one of the most important elements of an
application infrastructure for the enterprise.
The market for database management systems (DBMSs) is a mature one. As such,
it is dominated by a limited number of large vendors who offer general-purpose
products. Other vendors avoid competing directly with these dominant players by
providing specialized products tailored to specific application needs. The DBMS
decision is one that most enterprises have already made. Some have standardized
on a single vendor and product; still others may employ a few, with usage
segmented by division or department. DBMS products are well entrenched in
enterprise IT infrastructures and generally have a great deal of investment
(applications, support knowledge, and experience) associated with them.
A migration from one DBMS to another is therefore an important and significant
undertaking. The decision to migrate may result from a variety of considerations,
many of which we have touched on earlier in this report. The point here is that the
reasons for migrating must be strong in order to justify unseating an incumbent
product and all that goes with it.
In the remaining sections of this report, we explore those reasons, and the results
of several Sybase to Microsoft SQL Server migration efforts. The following sections
include examples of companies that have made the transition as well as insight
derived from Microsoft consultants who have assisted customers with their
migration efforts.
Lower Cost Platforms – Windows (and Linux) versus UNIX
The attention being paid to open source solutions today is high, driven in great part
by the promises of both lower costs and higher product quality (the latter, a
potential result of the contributions by members of a broad and enthusiastic
developer community). It is fair to say that much of the success of open source has
stemmed from the increasing proliferation of Linux.
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Today, many enterprises leverage a variety of platforms. Many are single vendor
options (AS400 systems are a good example), or are UNIX based. It is generally
recognized that these platforms offer both robust performance and reliability, as
well as strong levels of security and vendor support. However, these “enterprise”
characteristics and their suitability for what users see as their mission-critical
applications, come at what is generally seen to be higher cost relative to less
expensive options. For this reason, IT managers are increasingly looking to other
options to lower costs yet still retain the features and performance they need.
One of these options is to move to the Linux operating system, either on existing
UNIX servers, or on Intel-based machines. The attraction to this option is two-fold.
First, there is a perception that Linux is a less expensive operating system to
employ with regard to licensing and other costs. Second, despite early promises of
“openness,” UNIX vendors have made the technology their own, resulting in a level
of “lock in” that customers see as a negative.
Reality, however, tells a different story. The several users we interviewed who
migrated Sybase databases and applications from UNIX to Linux indicated that,
while cost was a major motivator in their migration decision, it was not clear to
them if much savings resulted from changing operating systems. Traditional
licensing models often package operating systems with the hardware, and while
there are maintenance costs associated with the overall platform, users were hard
pressed to articulate costs associated specifically with the operating system that
could be recovered by switching from UNIX to Linux (in all of these cases, the
migration involved new hardware platforms). In addition, some of those interviewed
who had started their Linux work on “freeware” versions from vendors such as Red
Hat were growing increasingly concerned over changing licensing and maintenance
policies from Linux suppliers. Finally, in some cases, Linux introduced training and
staffing costs (associated with development, performing the migration, and ongoing
administration), although given the similarities between Linux and UNIX these did
not tend to be extreme.
Enterprises require products that they can count on – as Linux establishes itself as
a viable enterprise operating system, users will look for the levels of predictability,
reliability, and support they have come to know in more traditional products. This
too comes at a cost, and while licensing and maintenance cost structures are in a
state of change at the present time, the industry will likely converge on a model
that suits both traditional, vendor-centric products and open source offerings.
Since hardware appears to represent the greatest portion of the savings associated
with migration activities, the most likely operating system choices are Linux and
Microsoft Windows. Because of similarities between the Linux and UNIX operating
systems, many see Linux as the logical migration platform when making this type of
change. In reality, the choice between Linux and Microsoft Windows depends on a
variety of factors. Cost is one, but as we have just pointed out, users are becoming
wary of claims of Linux cost savings. Security is another consideration, and while
some view Linux as more secure than Windows, it is questionable as to how much
of this view is based on perceptions set over recent Windows breaches. In fact,
perceptions of Microsoft’s security capabilities stem from problems with Windows
XP, whereas enterprise database applications would likely be deployed on
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Windows Server System. At this point in time, we do not see a strong reason to opt
for Linux for security reasons.
Another factor is simplicity. Linux/UNIX commonality notwithstanding, a Linux
approach requires bringing together the operating system, development tools,
database tools, and of course the database itself into a comprehensive solution.
This task is always more difficult than going to one vendor for all of the elements of
a solution – especially when the elements were designed to work together and
within the context of a common development and deployment framework. For
Microsoft, that common development and deployment framework is .NET – a
component of the Windows Server System specific to Web Services Development.
As we will discuss later in this report, users who migrated from Sybase on UNIX to
SQL Server on Windows found this solutions-based approach very attractive.
Migration Experiences – Costs and Cost Savings
As we discussed earlier in this report, the actual cost of performing a migration may
be an issue for some organizations. An examination of the existing environment
may uncover some issues that could have a significant impact on migration cost.
However, there are some “core” costs that enterprises will need to consider and
understand before beginning a migration project (in addition to the hardware and
software licensing costs discussed previously in this paper). Below, we examine
these costs using Manulife’s pension administration system migration as an
example. This particular project ran over a period of about nine months:
Personnel Costs
– Both DBAs and, in some cases, developers (especially in
cases where applications themselves will be migrated) will be involved in the
various tasks associated with a migration project. Manulife employed two DBAs
for its systems – one focused on query-related issues, the other on data
migration. Manulife needed to build an auditable process that allowed it to
verify that it had made an exact replica of its data (it used the data
transformation services provided with Microsoft’s framework to accomplish
this). Despite the involvement of these DBAs in other projects and tasks within
Manulife, they spent up to about 50% to 60% of their time during the project
period on the migration. In addition, one full time designer was kept busy
modifying applications built in PowerBuilder (and on issues involving readying
testing resources). Two people with expertise in testing were employed to
ensure that the data was moved correctly, and that applications and reports
were running as an exact match. A full time project manager oversaw the
activities of all involved. As we can see from Manulife’s experience, the costs
associated directly with the time spent by personnel – salaries, benefits, and
so on – can be a significant component of the overall cost of a migration. It
may be possible to estimate this cost component only after the project is fully
scoped (including, if applicable, the migration to a different hardware platform).
Training Costs
– Because a migration effort may involve skills that do not
currently exist within the IT organization, training may be required. This was
not a major expense for Manulife, since its personnel was highly experienced
(particularly with Sybase), and, as we noted earlier, similarities between
Sybase and SQL Server allowed for greater leverage of that experience. Still,
both DBAs needed to attend a five-day SQL Server course for a total cost of
about $5,000. Another $5,000 was spent on small desktop servers to support
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their work. Ultimately, this cost will depend on the level of experience with
current and future technologies within the enterprise.
Business Opportunity Costs
– These costs can be quite substantial, but
much more difficult to quantify. Still, enterprises should look carefully at what
they may lose as a result of diverting resources to a migration project. For
instance, the time DBAs, developers, and administrative and support personnel
spend migrating the database, applications, hardware, and operating systems
could be spent bringing new applications online that are intended to increase
business opportunity. Measuring how much business, if any, is lost during the
project period can be difficult to assess, but should be examined nonetheless.
A related cost, although one which the end users and Microsoft consultants we
spoke to felt was relatively easy to avoid, is the opportunity cost associated
with the downtime that results from transitioning from the old implementation to
the new. Depending on the circumstances, with proper planning (such as
performing the transition over a weekend, or running systems in parallel), this
cost can be greatly reduced, or even eliminated.
Our interviews revealed a number of areas where migration led to cost savings,
which we present below with examples:
Hardware Costs.
What is clear from our analysis is that it is difficult to separate
the individual costs associated with a Sybase on UNIX to SQL Server on Windows
migration from each other. As we have already seen, even if a migration does not
include a database change (in cases where Sybase is migrated from UNIX to Linux)
it is very difficult to separate the costs associated with the operating system from
those of the hardware. Changing the DBMS adds an additional variable, which
makes the analysis even more complex.
It is important, therefore, to examine carefully why users considered this type of
migration in the first place. The following examples provide insight into some of the
motivations behind these migration decisions.
Manulife Financial is a group of financial services companies based in Canada.
Operating worldwide, it offers a range of products focused on a variety of areas,
including wealth management. Manulife employs a pension administration system
that was developed originally by a company it acquired in the early 1990s. The
current product has been in full use since 1998, after about two years of
development. Manulife’s customer service representatives and plan administrators
use the system to manage the pension plans of the company’s clients; Manulife
also makes the system available to individual customers through web access for
the purposes of setting up investment profiles, checking account balances, making
address changes, and so on. Over time, the asset base the system was being used
to manage grew considerably – in fact, during the period beginning just before the
migration to today, the assets managed went from about $4 billion to about $7
billion (representing about 300,000 pension members). Therefore, one major
motivator for Manulife was to add capacity that would help it scale its solution over
time. This was viewed by Manulife as a deferred cost, i.e., by migrating its solution,
it could put off the investment it would need for additional systems over and above
the ones employed in the new implementation.
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Of course, another major motivator was the cost of purchasing and administering
the hardware and software associated with Manulife’s pension administration
system. A major metric for Manulife is the cost of offering administration services,
and at the time of the migration, Manulife’s costs were noticeably higher than those
of its major competitors. Cost reduction was seen as taking the form of the direct
costs associated with the systems and software themselves, as well as
administration costs.
Manulife’s systems resided in IBM Global Services’ datacenter in Toronto, with IBM
providing a pool of support personnel. From the standpoint of hardware and
operating systems, the application was on a “three-year refresh cycle,” where costs
were amortized on a monthly basis over the three-year period. The application
originally ran on two database servers (HP V-Class 9600 machines, each with eight
processors) – one for primary use, and the other for disaster recovery (this latter
server was also used for development). The hardware migration was to a similar
complement of servers – two IBM X400 SMP machines (incorporating Intel Xeon
technology), each with eight processors as well. The upfront cost of each HP
system was about $1 million; conversely, each of the IBM systems cost on the
order of $150,000 to $200,000.
While one can presume that higher capacity UNIX systems would be available for
purchase at the time of the migration versus the three years prior (or the same
capacity could be purchased for a lower cost), there would still be a significant
difference in the upfront cost of these alternatives. It should be emphasized,
however, that in some of the cases we studied, Sybase implementations were
deployed on large UNIX boxes that were “over speced” and “underutilized” for the
task. In such cases, the hardware migration takes on the nuance of server
consolidation, i.e., not only moving to a lower cost platform, but intelligently doing
so in a way that allows a reduction in the total number of systems (or processors)
Along these lines, some of the organizations we spoke with that migrated Sybase to
SQL Server with an accompanying hardware migration found alternative uses for
their UNIX systems. Others attempted to recover value by selling those systems.
Unfortunately, the latter scenario was not seen as a successful exercise for those
who had tried it. Residual values are low, and there are increasing numbers of used
UNIX servers on the market. Those considering similar changes should therefore
not count on justifying the associated ROI through the inclusion of an aggressive
recovery from the sale of their UNIX servers.
Another example where hardware costs drove, at least in part, this type of
migration is Merrill-Lynch. Merrill’s Private Client Group sought to consolidate
about 400 UNIX-based servers running Sybase. While this activity is currently
ongoing, this group has made some significant reductions not only in the cost of the
systems it uses (which are Windows-based), but also in their numbers. Another
financial services firm – Bank of America – also performed a Sybase to SQL Server
migration, in this case involving several hundred servers that included satellite
servers (organized in “replication tiers” that rolled up data into what were called
“core servers.”) While this environment presented complexities in terms of the
database and related applications (while the core servers were dedicated to
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Sybase, in many cases the satellite servers were not), the migration still achieved a
high level of consolidation with significant cost savings.
Finally, the Georgia System Operators Council (GSOC), an electric power
organization, implemented a Sybase-based OLTP environment as part of a decision
support system. The GSOC used approximately ten Sun servers incorporating up to
twelve processors each in this application. The capacity of the implementation –
both in terms of the data it was required to handle, and its usage – was on the edge
of being exceeded when the organization initiated the migration. In this case, the
Sun boxes were replaced by ten Intel-based systems with eight processors each.
While the number of systems remained the same, the GSOC was able to move to a
much less costly environment, while at the same time adding some of the
processing capacity required for future growth.
Achieving Greater Operational Efficiency.
In some of the cases we studied, the
primary motivator for a Sybase to SQL Server migration was found in the operation
of the systems and software themselves, and not in their direct costs. A good
example of this is another application employed by Merrill-Lynch – in this case, a
transaction processing system that is used to handle all non-U.S. dollars in trade
with the company. The specific operational issue facing Merrill was its inability to
successfully perform a database consistency check within a reasonable period of
time on a Sybase database that had grown to about 450 GB. In order to avoid
downtime that would significantly impact application effectiveness, the company
faced having to do its consistency checks and database backups over a weekend,
which was no longer possible due to the size of the database. With SQL Server
2000, indexing was accelerated due to improvements in the architecture of the
storage engine, and the ability to shrink that database to a reasonable size for the
purposes of consistency checking and backup was enhanced as well.
In the case of Manulife, operational costs were manifested in the rates IBM charged
for keeping its systems up and running. These rates were lower for the Windows
platforms than for the UNIX platforms. This represented an additional cost savings
for Manulife.
Another area where cost savings can be achieved is administration. Our
conversations with both IT managers and Microsoft consultants gave an indication
that, at least in some cases, the number and type of support staff personnel can
change with a transition to SQL Server. Consultants indicated that in many cases,
Sybase implementations are supported by DBAs who are actually contractors. These
highly skilled personnel are generally quite expensive, but may be the only viable
option if the required skills are not available internally. Their view was that SQL
Server implementations are easier to support from the standpoint of the tasks a DBA
performs, and if some Microsoft and .NET expertise already exists within the
organization, savings can be substantial, and the costs associated with training quite
manageable. Merrill Lynch’s Private Client Group was able to reap the benefits
associated with such savings. It was able to reduce its overall DBA headcount (which
did include outside consultants) from twenty to less than a dozen people.
Reducing Database Licensing Costs.
It is generally recognized that Microsoft
offers a less expensive alternative to Sybase’s product with SQL Server. While user
and consultant assessments varied in terms of the degree of savings achievable, it
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is clear that the perception that such savings can be both real and substantial is an
important migration motivator.
Earlier in this report, we discussed the option of migrating Sybase implementations
from UNIX platforms to Linux as a possible way of lowering costs. We found in
some of these cases that Sybase licensing was either a small factor in the cost
assessment, or not a factor at all (because Sybase allowed the transfer of licenses
from one platform to the other). When the migration involves a change in the DBMS
vendor and product, the situation is obviously more complex. There are differences
between the vendors in terms of how they license their products. In some cases,
we were told that while Sybase charged more in up front licensing fees, they were
balanced by higher maintenance costs from Microsoft. Some consultants indicated
that Microsoft had a clear advantage overall, and for some of their customers,
lowering their DBMS licensing costs held a high priority in the decision to migrate.
Manulife did not cite any clear savings overall in terms of going from Sybase to
SQL Server, however, indicating that overall licensing costs were high in either
case. The common thread among all of those we interviewed was that, while lower
licensing costs were indeed a motivator, they clearly took a backseat to both the
cost advantages of moving to a new hardware platform, and the performance,
scalability, and simplicity benefits the users felt they could reap using SQL Server
(these benefits will be discussed in more detail later in this report).
Moving Away from Sybase – Performance, Cost, and Technical Considerations
For some of the users we studied, finding an alternative to Sybase as a DBMS
provider was an important (albeit secondary) migration motivator. It is interesting to
first explore the reasons why Sybase was initially chosen. Our discussions with
these end users and Microsoft consultants revealed some logical reasons for the
For companies focused on financial services, Sybase was virtually an automatic
selection for their short lists. Sybase has enjoyed an excellent reputation as a
vendor of database technology to the financial community, and this is the reason
why Merrill Lynch, Bank of America, and Manulife, initially chose it. Manulife also
cited two other reasons why it chose Sybase for its pension administration system.
The first was performance, particularly for the transaction-based environments of
interest to the company. Sybase had incorporated triggers into its database product
early on, as well as record-locking mechanisms that Manulife saw as attractive. The
second was price. Manulife in particular saw Oracle as a comparable product for its
applications, but at a much higher price. This situation appeared to be similar to the
one at GSOC, where, as one Microsoft consultant put it, Sybase was a viable
“alternative to Oracle.” This cost issue has to be viewed in the context of the
platform environment at the time, when most of these implementations were being
deployed on UNIX platforms.
Sybase’s two major advantages as seen by those to whom we spoke – performance
and cost – have come under intense scrutiny of late. Throughout this report we
have seen that the cost savings associated with moving to an SQL Server
environment on lower cost Windows-based platforms can be significant, although,
as we have clearly noted, the bulk of those savings are exhibited at the hardware
level. What is clear, however, is that the cost advantage enjoyed by Sybase at one
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time over other UNIX competitors such as Oracle is largely irrelevant in this
context, and that Sybase is now perceived as the higher cost alternative when
compared with Microsoft and its SQL Server offering.
Performance is another story. Some Microsoft consultants have indicated that the
lower cost of SQL Server relative to Sybase, coupled with a perception that
Microsoft does not excel either at performance or scalability, has presented a
credibility hurdle in some situations. We will say more about this issue later.
However, as our earlier example of how Merrill-Lynch used SQL Server to scale its
operations as its database grew in size indicates, this perception may not be
From a technology standpoint, SQL Server possesses a number of key
differentiators compared to Sybase. One is its use of an integrated tool set. The
SQL Server tools are definitely better than the Sybase tools. Sybase offers fewer
tools and they are not integrated the way Microsoft’s tool set is. To use Sybase, an
organization needs people who are experts in UNIX, experts in Sybase, experts in
each and every element that comes into contact with Sybase.
We also believe SQL Server has a definite advantage when it comes to the
integration of languages. SQL Server languages all have stubs that connect to the
databases, which makes designing an entire environment much easier. With
Sybase, users must be experts in the operating system, the database, and
everything else needed to design the environment and integrate the languages.
As mentioned earlier XML has become the basis for providing web services
interoperability. Both Sybase and SQL Server emphasize web awareness and XML
capabilities. However, when users spoke about SQL Server’s better-integrated
toolset, they included the various XML capabilities and their easy integration with
the database.
In terms of critical issues like backing up data, Sybase has no real integrated
backup tools and uses VERITAS’s Net Backup utility. SQL Server also runs
VERITAS’s Net Backup and is database aware providing an integrated backup
Additionally, the following functions of SQL Server provide real differentiation over
Notification Services
– More and more people want access to the information
they need regardless of their location, which has lead to a large number of
companies with commercial websites (and customer-facing applications) to
develop notification applications that provide data subscription and delivery
services. These services enable organizations to provide their customers and
employees with the information they require when they need it. Microsoft SQL
Server 2000 Notification Services enables companies to build scalable
notification applications that generate messages customized to users’ specific
information requirements. The information updates users receive can originate
from a variety of external sources, such as external data feeds and internal
business systems, and can be delivered to various mobile devices, including
cellular phones and Pocket PCs.
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SQL Accelerator for Business Intelligence
– Reducing the time to market is
a key competitive advantage for any company in today’s rapid-moving,
information-driven economy. Companies must be able to quickly and easily
access the information they need to make decisions about their customers,
revenue growth opportunities, or business operations. Today however, most
companies do not have the systems in place to effectively manage their
businesses. Many organizations have deployed enterprise applications to
improve operational processes, but the applications fail to supply knowledge
workers with the insight needed to make informed business decisions. SQL
Accelerator for Business Intelligence provides rapid development tools and
preloaded data models to enable companies to quickly customize their
business intelligence solutions and make information available to those who
need it, when they need it.
Sybase’s Viability Moving Forward
One important issue cited as an additional migration motivator was Sybase’s
viability as a vendor down the road. Some perceived that Sybase was putting
increasing resources into non-DBMS product areas – most notably, mobile
solutions, portals, the “middle tier” (with application servers), and industry-specific
applications – which in their eyes took the focus away from its core business.
Others cited problems with Sybase support, although they did not indicate that this
was a primary motivator for their migration. In Manulife’s case in particular, it saw
Microsoft’s support as superior once its application was moved to SQL Server,
even though this “hindsight” observation did not play a role in the early decision-
making regarding the change in DBMS.
When customers first began exploring using SQL Server in place of Sybase, they
were able to leverage the fact that both products came from the same code base.
As the products began to diverge over time (beginning with SQL Server 6.5), it
became more difficult to perform proof of concept migrations as a precursor to
moving over entire applications. Some customers viewed this as a problem, and in
some cases, it encouraged them to move forward more quickly. While many of the
changes and enhancements that caused this “parting of the ways” were made by
Microsoft, our discussions convinced us that the benefits of Microsoft’s work not
only contributed to the migration justification for many users, but also contributed to
their viewing Sybase as a vendor who has not kept up. Later in this report we will
look at some of the challenges associated with migrating from Sybase to SQL
An Overview of Technology-Based Benefits of Migrating to SQL Server
Based upon the analysis presented in this report thus far, the argument that
significant cost benefits can be achieved via a comprehensive migration approach
involving hardware, operating system, and the DBMS is a valid one. Much of this
cost saving, however, does not relate directly to the choice of DBMS – one could,
for instance, implement a solution using Sybase Adaptive Server Enterprise (ASE)
on Intel platforms running Window or Linux and achieve a good portion of the cost
savings associated with the platform change. We are led to believe, therefore, that
users see advantages to employing SQL Server versus Sybase that are founded in
the DBMS product itself. Our interviews confirmed that these advantages do in fact
exist, and they take a variety of forms.
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Perhaps the most oft-cited benefit of SQL Server is its existence as part of the
Windows Server System. Many legacy applications that leverage the Sybase DBMS
were built using PowerBuilder, the 4GL-based development and deployment
environment that Sybase obtained as a result of its PowerSoft acquisition. Many of
these customers, according to the Microsoft consultants we talked to, are keenly
interested in exploiting the .NET environment today and in the future. They see it
as a “modern framework” that can form the basis of a platform for implementing
web services in a straightforward and efficient way, with modern programming
languages that can optimally leverage the framework. One consultant was able to
cite an interesting statistic regarding how his clients view .NET and their
PowerBuilder legacy: About 70% of those looking at migrating to SQL Server will
likely take a comprehensive view of the task that includes both the DBMS change
and the conversion of PowerBuilder applications to .NET (only about 20% of these
will move the DBMS first before attempting an application migration). Manulife is an
example of a company that is planning on moving all of its PowerBuilder
applications over to the .NET environment.
To be fair, .NET is only one of two viable choices. Manulife examined Java (on IBM
WebSphere) as an alternative to .NET, but did not draw any conclusions as to
which option would provide better performance or scalability for its applications.
However, it did recognize the comprehensiveness and high level of integration
provided by the .NET solution (particularly in terms of the integration between the
.NET framework and SQL Server), which strongly influenced its decision.
Microsoft offered Manulife some advantages from the standpoint of development as
well. First, SQL Server includes a number of tools, such as Query Analyzer,
SQLProfiler, and Enterprise Manager that replace tools that have to be purchased
separately with the Sybase environment. Second, Microsoft allowed Manulife to use
the SQL Server 2000 product on developer desktops without additional licensing
costs. Manulife indicated that significant licensing cost savings resulted.
Performance is always a difficult area to examine, for three major reasons. First,
performance must be looked at in the context of a variety of factors, the most
important of which involves the applications themselves. In the case of DBMSs, the
focus of the application (is it transaction-based, or is it part of a data warehouse?),
the amount and type of data involved, and the means of integration with other
resources are examples of factors that can affect performance. Second, and related
to the first, is the emphasis on benchmarks to establish a common framework for
comparing performance. Vendors take two approaches to benchmarking their
products: They generate their own benchmarks (bringing into question their slant in
terms of benchmark conditions and parameters), or they rely on independent
analyst firms or test laboratories (a more objective approach, but one that can
generate more confusion than clarity as vendors often rebuke results if they do not
land in their favor). The third is the issue of overall vendor bias, which can translate
into the presentation of limited benchmark results that put the vendor’s products in
a competitive light, but limit the scope of circumstances to which the results can be
We therefore steer clear of benchmarks here. However, there are a few ways in
which Microsoft has improved SQL Server that affect performance in a positive
way. The way in which the SQL Server engine processes queries has been
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improved in recent versions, making it possible to execute queries in a shorter
period of time. Also, as we mentioned earlier in this paper, in some of their
engagements, consultants have seen SQL Server perform much more efficient
database consistency checks than Sybase, a particular advantage when database
sizes are large. Both examples, in our view, point to what results when an
aggressive vendor focuses on the specific issues with which it must deal in order to
convince customers to make a major change in their IT infrastructure. For
Microsoft, dealing with the performance issue has an additional facet to it over and
above creating a superior product. As one consultant put it, Microsoft has been
fighting a religious battle based on the perception that Sybase running on a UNIX
platform will always perform better than SQL Server on Windows. His assertion,
supported by other Microsoft consultants, is that this assumption is no longer valid.
We will discuss Microsoft’s approaches to overcoming this perception issue in the
next section of this report. We do find it credible that real evidence exists to
support the notion of a SQL Server solution outperforming a Sybase
implementation, particularly when overall cost is figured into the equation.
Another area where Microsoft consultants indicated they found SQL Server to have
an advantage over Sybase is task automation. Two specific examples accentuate
the degree to which Microsoft has built high levels of automation into its product: 1)
security, and 2) data transformation and extrapolation. Security functionality has to
be developed as scripts in a Sybase environment, whereas in SQL Server it is more
easily configurable from a user interface, with the results stored as metadata that
can be easily queried. Microsoft also provides a Data Transformation Service
(DTS), which eases the task for DBAs of developing scripts for extrapolating from
one data source to another. DTS provides a graphical user interface (GUI) that
helps to automate the creation of the routines required to accomplish this task. The
GUI allows DBAs to see the two data sources and “push” data from one source to
another, at which point the data transformation takes place automatically. The
tasks themselves are automatically generated, thus eliminating the need for DBAs
to script them.
One Microsoft consultant mentioned the management of system resources as an
area where SQL Server also provides advantages. These advantages result from
specific operating system features (particularly in more recent versions of
Windows) that deal with memory management, and the previously recognized tight
integration between elements of the Microsoft solution. The combination enables
the operating system to be more responsive to SQL Server demands for additional
CPU cycles and memory, and the operating system works closely with the DBMS to
make this happen in an efficient manner, taking into account other tasks requiring
system resources. The likely result is improved performance, not only for database
tasks, but for all tasks being managed on a particular server. This type of
coordination, according to the consultant, does not exist with Sybase running on a
UNIX platform.
Finally, Microsoft offers what it calls its Data Warehousing Framework, which it bills
as an architecture for building, deploying, and maintaining business intelligence
solutions more easily and cost effectively. DTS, described earlier, is heavily
leveraged here as the means of extracting heterogeneous data from OLEDB- and
ODBC-compliant data sources. Consultants view this as the business intelligence
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analog of the .NET framework, giving users similar advantages in terms of
simplicity, ease of use, and excellent integration across the environment.
While there are no doubt other advantages that users and consultants can
articulate that SQL Server exhibits versus Sybase, these stood out most
prominently in terms of the specific benefits that could be achieved and were
directly attributable to the DBMS and related products. They provide evidence that,
while the DBMS may not represent the major reason why organizations can save
money, it does give them reason to migrate based on actual product features.
Sybase to SQL Server Migration Challenges
The ability to achieve significant benefits, in terms of both cost savings and product
features that help organizations have a positive impact on business effectiveness
(by migrating from a Sybase environment on UNIX to a SQL Server environment on
Windows), have been clearly demonstrated and supported by the experiences of
users and the consultants that helped them make the transition. Not surprisingly, of
course, these types of migrations are not accomplished without difficulty and cost.
DBMSs are part of the core of an infrastructure that supports a wide range of
business applications used extensively both within, and external to, an enterprise.
Changing a DBMS is not a trivial task. Many of the challenges associated with a
Sybase to SQL Server migration result from the architectural differences between
the two products. These differences have been extensively documented by
Microsoft, which offers a variety of white papers and other resources through its
website that explain in detail what these differences are. In this section of the
report, we highlight some of these challenges and costs.
One of the difficulties stems from what at one time would have been a
characteristic that would have made the transition easier. The original SQL Server
product was based on Sybase code, an outcome of a partnership between Sybase
and Microsoft. As we noted earlier, some users leveraged the similarities between
the two products to execute pilot projects aimed at testing the possibility of
migrating from one product to another. The partnership was in force through
version 6.0 of SQL Server. With version 6.5, Microsoft began to break away, and
with 7.0 Microsoft began adding its own user interface to the product. SQL Server
2000 marked the point where Microsoft stepped away completely from being
dependent on Sybase code.
The effects of this evolution of the relationship between the two companies and
products can best be described with an example. One Microsoft consultant
described a scenario in which an application leveraged a feature of Sybase called
DBLibrary to provide the front-end connectivity to the database server (a fairly
standard procedure). The protocol used for this connectivity was called Tabular
Data Streams (TDS). Prior to the divergence of product paths, TDS 4.2 was the
version available, and when Sybase and Microsoft broke off the partnership, they
both agreed to support it. Sybase owned TDS 4.2, and Microsoft licensed it in order
to help its customers connect a UNIX client to SQL Server, or to allow them to
migrate to Microsoft’s version of the library. After some time, however, Sybase
realized that in order to protect the value of its database product, it would need to
create a new version of TDS (5.0) with an enhanced set of features that would not
only allow it to offer additional value to its customers, but also make it more difficult
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for them to accomplish either the UNIX client connectivity, or a wholesale
migration. The new version of Sybase’s library – called CTLibrary – was introduced
with Sybase 10.
What is important about the above example is that, depending on the applications
involved, the cost profile associated with a migration effort can change
substantially based on whether DBLibrary or CTLibrary is employed. One Microsoft
consultant went so far as to say that, at least in one case, the decision to migrate
might not have been made had the easier port from DBLibrary not have been the
A related issue that results from variations among Sybase versions is the degree of
support for ANSI standards as they relate to data types and object definitions. Prior
to its version 10, Sybase adhered only loosely to ANSI-standard SQL. Microsoft
has for a longer period of time aligned with ANSI standards in SQL Server, so the
chore of migrating from an earlier version of Sybase to SQL Server is made more
challenging because of behavioral difference between how one product handles
specific statements.
Another challenge to the migration process is the need to deal with the SQL code
developed by Sybase DBAs and the task of porting that code to SQL Server.
Microsoft consultants report that DBAs often write TransactSQL statements without
particular attention to scalability (although the statements do accomplish the goal
of querying the database and returning specific results). Hence, within the Sybase
environment, large increases in the number of users who execute these statements
force DBAs to revisit their designs, thus imposing additional administrative time in
order to figure out how to optimize the query. Microsoft consultants have to go
through this as part of the migration process as well – first they must ensure that
the functionality works correctly in SQL Server, and then they must perform an
analysis in order to optimize execution.
Sybase DBAs have generally also invested a great deal of time and effort in writing
UNIX scripts for the purpose of administering their Sybase database servers.
Leveraging these scripts, and perhaps more importantly, doing so within a familiar
environment is something that Microsoft addresses with what it calls Windows
Services for UNIX. Leveraging what is known as the Interix subsystem, Windows
Services for UNIX allows for the use of these scripts in a Windows environment (as
opposed to having to rewrite them).
Replication poses another challenge. The Microsoft consultants we spoke to had
some very positive things to say about the quality of Sybase’s replication server,
and its particular attractiveness for transaction-based applications in the financial
services industry. Heterogeneous replication across disparate databases, a feature
that is often important to those customers who are embarking on these types of
migrations, is not a feature that is supported in a comprehensive manner today in
SQL Server 2000 (although it will be in SQL Server 2005). In GSOC’s case, the
decision was made to retain the Sybase replication server as part of the
environment; the alternative would have been to redevelop the functionality within
SQL Server using custom scripting.
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One challenge for Microsoft has less to do with the technical features of its product
and more to do with its image as a vendor. The combination of an ongoing belief
that Microsoft solutions are suitable only for small and mid-sized enterprises, and
the relatively low cost of the SQL Server solution, has created a perception that
Microsoft is not “enterprise ready.” Microsoft consultants have discovered this to be
a significant hurdle with some customers, and their approach to defusing it lies in
the overall migration process itself. In order to deal more effectively and efficiently
with the tasks associated with these types of migrations (including some of the
issues described previously in this section), Microsoft has put together what it calls
its Sybase to Microsoft SQL Server Migration Workshop Framework. This
framework provides for both a rigorous and detailed process that forms the basis
for a migration methodology, and a variety of tools (some of which have already
been discussed in this report) that help users execute on a migration effort. The
process articulated as part of the framework involves four major steps:
Analysis and Assessment
– This first step involves fully documenting the
existing environment, defining operational and business requirements,
analyzing the current workload and achieved performance levels, identifying
the details of the existing Sybase configuration, and, as an output, developing
a full project “road map.” It is here that the requirements for the SQL Server
environment are identified and understood as a precursor to the generation of
specific migration plans.
Migration Planning Development
– In this stage, the information gathered in
Analysis and Assessment is reviewed, and specific migration issues are
identified (some of these issues, including heterogeneous replication and client
library versions, were discussed earlier) that may require special attention. A
detailed migration plan is then written, and the required test and QA
environment is built.
Migration Testing and Development
– Here, the actual migration work is
done, using a combination of Microsoft (and other) tools and resources. This is
also where QA is performed on the new environment, and the operational plan
is tested.
Migration Deployment
– This last stage of the process involves scheduling,
and executing on the strategy via a full production deployment, defining and
implementing a fallback strategy to ensure maximal uptime, and performing a
“post mortem” on the migration effort.
This process allows Microsoft to more effectively help customers through the
various migration steps in an organized manner and with a high level of tool and
consultative support. From the perception standpoint, it also gives Microsoft a
framework with which to demonstrate the viability of SQL Server in particular
customer situations. One independent consultant articulated the importance of
integrating the construction and testing of “pilot projects” into the process
(corresponding to the work done in step 3, above). Several other Microsoft
consultants also indicated that building and testing a pilot as a means to validate
the ability of SQL Server to meet both performance and scalability requirements
has been a very successful strategy for them. Despite their initial skepticism,
customers who are driven by the strong “migration motivators” discussed earlier in
this report appear to be receptive to proof that an SQL Server solution will meet
their needs from the standpoints of scalability and overall performance. One
consulting firm based in India, Tata Consultancy, has built a tool called SMART that
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focuses on automating script and SQL conversion and testing – functionality that
both augments what Microsoft can provide, and in many cases offers an enhanced
ability to demonstrate SQL Server’s suitability for specific customers and
Summary and Conclusions
For a variety of cost, performance, scalability, and vendor-related reasons, users of
Sybase are looking at Microsoft SQL Server running within a Windows environment
as an attractive alternative. As we learned from discussions with those who
executed on migration projects, significant and positive results are in fact
achievable in all three of these areas.
From the cost perspective, while it is difficult to clearly separate all of the cost
components associated with the various hardware and software elements, it is
abundantly clear that much savings can result from the migration to a less
expensive hardware platform. These new systems will generally incorporate
processors from companies such as Intel and AMD, and use Linux or Microsoft
Windows as the operating system.
The choice of operating system is an interesting one, and while a perception may
exist among many in the industry (for both end users and vendors) that Linux is
both the default migration path from the more expensive UNIX platform, and the
best choice based on cost and “openness” considerations, in our view this scenario
is not an obvious one. There is much debate (with each side arming itself with data
designed to favor its position) as to which of the two options – Linux or Windows –
provides the most cost-effective solution. Licensing and usage terms vary widely,
and recent changes in the prices charged by some Linux vendors have caused
concern among users. Another consideration has impacted the decision as well:
While some consider the “community” approach afforded by open source as a
positive from the product quality standpoint, others view the benefits associated
with the use of a solution obtained from one vendor that has designed all elements
of that solution to work together in a highly integrated and efficient manner, as a
much more valuable. Most will look carefully at the vendor “lock in” aspects of this
latter approach, but when cost and time to market weigh heavily on the shoulders
of decision-makers, Microsoft’s approach is often received very positively.
Recognizing that technical, organizational, and business issues often make the
migration from Sybase to SQL Server challenging, Microsoft has built a
comprehensive framework, including both process specifications and tools that can
help facilitate the transition. The framework helps automate and ease many of the
tasks associated with a migration effort (including data transformation, leveraging
existing UNIX-based scripts, and porting applications). Perhaps of equal
importance, the framework provides a testing and QA environment that enables
Microsoft to demonstrate SQL Server’s ability to perform and scale to a particular
enterprise’s current and future needs. Even today, overcoming a perceived lack of
“enterprise readiness” is not a trivial issue for Microsoft, and its consultants (both
internal and third party) spend significant effort on using Microsoft’s (and others)
tools and processes to convince prospects that their needs can be met. Our
conversations with end users and consultants support Microsoft’s contention that
The Benefits of Migrating from Sybase to SQL Server Running on Windows Ser ver 2003
October 2004
2004 Ideas International, Inc.
SQL Server offers great performance and can be a highly scalable option for many
current Sybase users.
We do believe, however, that enterprises should perform a careful evaluation of the
costs associated with the migration effort as they apply to their particular and
unique circumstances. As a case in point, discontinuities resulting from variations
in product capabilities can introduce additional tasks that can take a great deal of
time and money to resolve. While we do not believe it will often be the case that
these tasks will force a change in a “go” decision, they may result in a more
gradual approach to the migration project schedule (perhaps separating DBMS
migration from application migration), and/or the decision to retain some portions of
the Sybase solution until a complete migration is achievable. The bottom line is that
applying organization and rigor to the effort up front can yield significant benefits in
terms of managing costs and resources.
We find Microsoft’s approach to this particular migration scenario both well
conceived and well implemented. It would not surprise us – once Microsoft gains
more experience in this area – if the company initiated similarly aggressive efforts
to apply its migration framework to other competitive database products. We
believe the interest on the part of enterprises to persist along a path of moving to
lower cost infrastructures, databases, and applications will continue with Microsoft
well positioned to exploit this interest in a big way.
Ideas International, Inc.
(Formerly D.H. Brown Associates, Inc.)
222 Grace Church Street
Port Chester, NY 10552
Tel + 1 914 937 4302
Fax +1 914 937 2485