How AWS, Azure, and Google import data in bulk

How AWS, Azure, and Google import data in bulk
Credit: flickr/JD Hancock

Curious how the major cloud providers migrate data en masse to the cloud? Here's what Amazon, Microsoft, and Google offer

Enterprises that started in the cloud have it lucky in that they rarely have to worry about migrating legacy data. But if you're considering a move to the cloud, you'll want all the help you can get.

With that in mind, here's how the big three cloud providers -- Amazon, Microsoft, and Google -- stack up when it comes to importing data.


Amazon's recent wave of announcements temporarily puts it at the forefront in providing avenues to get data into the cloud. Last week, Amazon added two services to AWS to speed migrations: a database migration service for passive data migration over the wire, and the Snowball appliance for bulk-mailing data to Amazon's data centers.

Snowball is the headliner because it expands on an existing data migration program, with Amazon providing a rugged appliance as the storage hardware. It also includes tracking mechanisms for keeping tabs on the data as it moves into and through AWS.

Amazon is also expediting over-the-wire migrations between databases via its Database Migration Service. Transformations can be made on the fly between common types of databases, with tooling included for performing schema migrations.

Best for: Those with a job where a physical migration is more or less mandatory.


Microsoft isn't far behind Amazon since it too has the ability to take in physical media courtesy of the Azure Import/Export Service. However, Microsoft's offer is reminiscent of Amazon's previous-generation version of its mail-us-your-media service: The user has to procure the storage, as well as fill, label, and send it in. Microsoft provides some tooling to automate the job, but it mostly ensures that the data to be transported is encrypted and properly labeled. That said, Microsoft also supports export jobs to physical media (as implied by the name); Amazon's Snowball is, for now, import-only, but that's likely to change.

For over-the-wire migration, Microsoft's main avenue is its Site Recovery service, which is normally used for disaster recovery and backup but has eclipsed an earlier migration tool, Migration Accelerator. Site Recovery is biased toward wholesale protection of existing Microsoft installations and products; for migrating across databases (for example, Oracle to Azure SQL), you'll have to use an item from Microsoft's roster of migration products.

Best for: Those with an established Microsoft product use case or only a moderate need to move data physically.


When it comes to moving data over the wire, Google provides options for common use cases, including importing from Amazon S3, migrating MySQL data to Google Cloud SQL, and generic migrations from an HTTP/HTTPS endpoint.

But if you're planning on sending Google physical media for upload, prepare to be less than enthused. It's possible to do this with Google's Offline Media Import/Export service, but the actual work is outsourced to third-party providers, such as Iron Mountain and Prime Focus Technologies. In other words, Google doesn't perform the migration, and the media is handled largely by the third party.

Best for: Those comfortable with managing an over-the-wire migration with Google's toolset and have little need for shipping data physically.

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