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Easily transfer VMs to the cloud with Microsoft Azure Migrate

It takes time to plan, assess and set up a VM migration. Microsoft's Azure Migrate gives you a central dashboard to efficiently get your VMware and Hyper-V VMs into the cloud.

Planning a cloud migration is like taking a trip: It's important to double-check that every necessity is in the suitcase and confirm that every travel leg is on time. When admins move VMs to the cloud, they must ensure they have the right tools to move all essential virtual infrastructure and that they have enough storage. This type of task is where Microsoft's Azure Migrate can help.

Microsoft's Azure Migrate provides IT teams with a centralized portal to discover, assess and migrate systems and data from their on-premises infrastructure to the Azure cloud.

Admins can use the portal to move their physical and virtual servers, VDI, databases, web applications and large-scale data sets. They can use Azure Migrate to migrate VMs to Azure on private and public clouds. The service is included in an Azure subscription at no additional cost.

A look at Azure Migrate's capabilities

Azure Migrate provides a single portal to manage the entire VM migration process. The portal walks admins through the discovery, assessment and migration phases and provides end-to-end visibility into operations. Admins can start, run, track and analyze workflows.

The tools enable admins to perform different tasks based on the types of systems or data they plan to migrate. Organizations should be aware that Azure Migrate is a one-way service specifically designed to move servers, applications and data to Azure.

The portal includes the following:

  • Server Assessment. Discovers and assesses on-premises physical servers, VMware VMs and Hyper-V VMs in preparation for the migration to Azure. This tool supports both Windows and Linux servers.
  • Server Migration. Migrates physical servers, VMware VMs, Hyper-V VMs and their applications. Server Migration also migrates VMs from public clouds because it categorizes them as physical servers.
  • Data Migration Assistant. Evaluates SQL Server databases to prepare them for migration to Azure SQL Database, Azure SQL Managed Instance or Azure VMs that run SQL Server. The assessment information helps admins understand potential database compatibility concerns, such as partially supported issues or behavior changes.
  • Database Migration Service. Migrates on-premises databases to Azure SQL Database, Azure SQL Managed Instance or Azure VMs that run SQL Server. The tool supports SQL Server, MySQL, PostgreSQL, MongoDB and Oracle.
  • Movere. Provides an analysis of on-premises infrastructure to prepare for an Azure migration. This SaaS tool scans for available servers, provides application utilization statistics and details potential security gaps.
  • App Service Migration Assistant. Assesses on-premises .NET and PHP web apps in preparation for migration to Azure and then runs the migration.
  • Data Box. Facilitates large-scale migrations of offline data to Azure.

Azure Migrate also integrates several third-party tools from Carbonite, Lakeside, RackWare and UnifyCloud.

For certain operations, admins must install a lightweight appliance into their infrastructure setup. Azure Migrate uses this appliance to discover and assess physical servers, VMware VMs and Hyper-V VMs. A single Azure Migrate appliance can discover up to 1,000 physical servers, 10,000 VMware VMs and 5,000 Hyper-V VMs. It also uses the appliance to carry out agentless migrations of on-premises VMware VMs.

Admins that already use Azure have minimized risk if they try out Azure Migrate because service is free. However, they can still incur charges if they use the integrated third-party tools or certain Azure services; the Database Migration Service tool is free only for the first 180 days.

Migrate VMs to Azure

To better understand how Azure Migrate works, admins should reference a specific use case. Suppose an IT department decides to migrate on-premises Hyper-V VMs to Azure VMs.

For this, admins can use the Server Assessment and Server Migration tools, along with the Azure Migrate appliance. The entire migration process can be broken down into three basic phases: discovery, assessment and migration.

These instructions are an abbreviated version of the steps admins must take with Hyper-V VMs, but it should act as an overview.

To carry out the discovery process

  1. Prepare an Azure user account for assessment and migration sequences. This includes necessary permissions and role assignment setup.
  2. Prepare the Hyper-V host. The host must run Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Server 2016 or Windows Server 2019. The VMs themselves can run any Windows or Linux OS. Also, verify the PowerShell version, and configure Hyper-V Integration Services.
  3. Set up a new Azure Migrate project. Specify the subscription, resource group, project name and geography. Azure Migrate automatically adds the Server Assessment tool to the project.
  4. Deploy the Azure Migrate appliance. Microsoft provides several options for appliance setup. One option is admins can download a VHD file and deploy it to the Hyper-V host. Regardless of how admins deploy the appliance, they must generate an Azure Migrate project key, which registers the appliance with the Azure Migrate project. Also, be sure to configure the appliance on its first use.
  5. In the Azure Migrate portal, register the appliance with the project key.
  6. Initiate the VM discovery process from the appliance. Then, connect the appliance to the Hyper-V host, and start the discovery process.
  7. After the discovery process is complete, go to the Azure Migrate portal, and verify that the Hyper-V VMs are properly identified.

To carry out the assessment process

  1. In the Azure Migrate portal, initiate the assessment and migration process for the VMs, and specify the appliance as the discovery source. Edit any assessment properties during this step, and select which VMs to assess.
  2. Launch the assessment process.
  3. Review the assessment results, and address any potential issues.

To carry out the migration process

  1. Install the Hyper-V Replication provider on the Hyper-V host, and register the Hyper-V host with Azure Migrate. Then, enable replication on the host if needed.
  2. Add the Server Migration tool to the Azure Migrate project.
  3. Launch the replication process. Then, specify which VMs to replicate, and edit the settings that control replication. Once the replication process begins, its progress is available to view within the portal.
  4. Run a test migration. This verifies that everything works as expected and addresses any issues that might come up before the actual migration.
  5. Launch the migration process. At this point, there is the option to shut down the original VMs and perform a planned migration with no data loss. After the migration is complete, review the operation's status to verify its success or view and manage any VMs.

Refer to the Azure Migrate documentation before any attempt at VM migration, and pay close attention to the potential limitations and workload requirements.

Admins can discover and assess up to 35,000 Hyper-V VMs in a single Azure Migrate project; however, a single appliance instance can discover only 5,000 Hyper-V VMs, which are spread across 300 Hyper-V hosts. That said, admins can deploy multiple appliances and create multiple projects. A project can include physical servers, VMware VMs and Hyper-V VMs.

A Hyper-V host can be a standalone machine or deployed in a cluster. It is available as a server core installation, but the host requires administrator permissions. Plus, the system must enable PowerShell remoting, and Hyper-V Integration Services must run on the assessed VMs.

Admins must account for port settings and storage limitations. Azure Migrate supports only Integrated Drive Electronics and SCSI virtual controllers. The system cannot discover machine metadata or dynamic performance data for Hyper-V VMs but can for VMware VMs. But even VMware VMs are limited to discovery only and not assessment.

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