Case study: SQL SharePoint Environment Migration to Azure Cloud for National Telco

Challenges

The Company, one of Australia’s largest and fastest growing Telco companies had 2 primary SharePoint environments that had different types of data stored. Both had to be migrated to Azure cloud sequentially for business reasons.

Since the telco company’s establishment, the SharePoint environment had grown extensively and had outgrown the high-end storage that was previously purchased and now fully allocated to that environment.

The primary goal of the migration to the Cloud was to reduce DC resource utilization and to increase cost-effectiveness of resource usage by allocating resources only when they required.

Method

The Company currently uses the services of 2 major Cloud providers:

Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure.

For this migration Azure Cloud infrastructure was chosen as it offers services better oriented to Microsoft products as well as handling the expected future expansion of SQL services in the short term.

Due to complexity of the SQL server configuration used for the SharePoint environment (multi-terabyte database size and multi-node “Always On” cluster) as well as the requirement for the SharePoint environment to be highly customized it was decided to use Azure VMs to store the SQL server data rather than other options available:

Other SQL database options available at that time in Azure:

  • Azure SQL database. Possible but officially not supported for use with SharePoint due to the low-latency network bandwidth requirement (<1msec) between SharePoint farm and SQL database.
  • Azure SQL managed instance. Was not generally available at the time of migration planning hence could not be used.

Performance testing completed before the migration highlighted a few bottlenecks, which were primarily related to Cloud specific details like IO and VM performance that required some parts of initial design to be changed.

Fusion Professionals engineers identified the IO bound databases and moved them to a striped Azure disk. Further testing confirmed the satisfactory performance of this configuration which was reflected in the final design.

Results

The first SharePoint environment was migrated within a weekend with no major issues observed after migration. This migration provided users with significantly faster response in the new Cloud environment together with an update to a newer current software version.

The migration was completed using full backups, restored with latest transaction logs delta applied during outage.

The second SharePoint environment was migrated with a very short database outage period due to the use of SQL “Always On” technology with quick failover during the migration.

Post migration testing confirmed satisfactory performance results in the new Azure configuration. Despite concerns that some application functionality would be slightly slower than on premise the actual user experience showed speed improvements on all the identified application functions of concern.

Benefits of migration:

  • Both SharePoint environments have now newer software versions (SQL and Windows)
  • No more storage or other VM constraints due to practically unlimited resource in Azure (complete scalability, only limited with budget)
  • Simplified support
  • Additional monitoring and support provided by Microsoft

Product Manager’s feedback:

“We are a large Telco and have a strategy to Migrate 70% of our Data Centre footprint to Public Cloud.  Our SharePoint environment is large and complex and was running out of capacity in the Data Centre, and so was identified as a Priority candidate to migrate to Azure.”

The migration project was not without its challenges, the most significant of which was identified during Performance Testing.  The solution performed significantly slower in Azure than it did on Premise, which would have resulted in a No-Go decision if it couldn’t be rectified.  Through systematic troubleshooting and a process of elimination, it was identified that the SQL environment in Azure although similarly spec’d to On-Premise, had insufficient IOPs to cope with the SharePoint load. 

The Fusion Professionals engineer was instrumental in working with the team to troubleshoot, and in helping to confirm the IOP requirements, disk configuration and overall SQL design required to ensure a successful migration.  With the Fusion Professionals team assistance, the new environment was stood-up and configured quickly.

A repeat of the performance testing showed favourable results, allowing Steering Committee to make a “GO” decision.

The migration itself was very successful receiving high praise from Execution Committee, with only very minor issues being reported in the days following migration.  End users have reported a significant improvement on system performance, and the system is healthy and stable.”

Technologies delivered

The first smaller SharePoint environment migration, with 10+ TB of data required SQL and SharePoint upgrade and full backup and restore to migrate the data. The Outage only required the application of the delta since the application shutdown and last transaction log was applied.

The second (larger) migration required terabytes of data to be moved to two “Always On” copies in Azure.

Conclusion

Now all the large Telco’s SharePoint environments are in an Azure Cloud and have scalability to grow with business requirements. The Company has already ear-marked several projects to migrate more data to these secure, stable and scalable SharePoint environments, which will now be possible and easy to achieve using Fusion Professionals fully tested and approved approach and practically unlimited resources available for future growth.

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