Guide to AWS Database Migration Service (DMS)

March 13, 2024

As a Solution Architect, I've encountered numerous scenarios where clients need to migrate their databases to the cloud. AWS Database Migration Service (DMS) is a popular choice for many, thanks to its versatility and ease of use. However, like any tool, it has its pros and cons, and it's important to understand these before deciding if it's the right solution for your migration needs.

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Pros of AWS DMS

  1. Wide Range of Supported Databases: DMS supports a variety of source and target databases, including Oracle, MySQL, PostgreSQL, Microsoft SQL Server, MariaDB, and Amazon Aurora, among others. This flexibility makes it a versatile tool for many migration scenarios.

  2. Minimal Downtime: One of the key advantages of DMS is its ability to perform migrations with minimal downtime. This is crucial for businesses that cannot afford significant disruptions to their operations.

  3. Ease of Use: DMS provides a user-friendly interface and simple setup process, making it accessible even to those who are not deeply technical.

  4. Scalability: DMS can easily scale to accommodate large databases, ensuring that even complex migrations can be handled efficiently.

  5. Continuous Data Replication: DMS supports continuous data replication, which is useful for keeping the target database in sync with the source database until the cutover is completed.

Cons of AWS DMS

  1. Limited Transformation Capabilities: DMS is primarily a migration tool and offers limited capabilities for transforming data during the migration process. This can be a drawback for scenarios requiring significant data transformation.

  2. Performance Overhead: While DMS is designed to minimize downtime, the migration process can still introduce some performance overhead, especially for large or complex databases.

  3. Dependency on Network Bandwidth: The speed and efficiency of the migration are heavily dependent on network bandwidth. Insufficient bandwidth can lead to slow migration speeds and longer downtimes.

  4. Learning Curve: Despite its user-friendly interface, there is still a learning curve associated with configuring and optimizing DMS for specific migration scenarios.


When considering DMS, it's important to weigh the ease of use and minimal downtime against the potential performance overhead and limited transformation capabilities. For straightforward migrations with minimal transformation requirements, DMS is an excellent choice. However, for more complex scenarios requiring significant data manipulation, alternative solutions might be more appropriate.

Use Cases

DMS is well-suited for a variety of use cases, including:

  1. Homogeneous Migrations: Migrating a database from one version to another, such as Oracle 11g to Oracle 12c.

  2. Heterogeneous Migrations: Migrating between different database platforms, such as from Microsoft SQL Server to Amazon Aurora.

  3. Disaster Recovery: Setting up a secondary database in the cloud for disaster recovery purposes.

  4. Continuous Data Replication: Keeping a cloud-based replica of an on-premises database for reporting or analytics.

Situations Not Suitable for DMS

While DMS is a powerful tool, it's not suitable for all scenarios. For example:

  1. Complex Transformations: If the migration requires complex data transformations, a more specialized ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) tool might be necessary.

  2. Very Large Databases with High Transaction Rates: In cases where the source database is extremely large and has a high transaction rate, DMS might struggle to keep up, leading to extended downtime or data consistency issues.

  3. Unsupported Database Engines: If the source or target database is not supported by DMS, alternative migration methods will be required.

In conclusion, AWS DMS is a versatile and user-friendly tool for database migration, but it's important to understand its limitations and ensure it aligns with your specific requirements. By carefully evaluating the pros and cons and considering the trade-offs, you can make an informed decision on whether DMS is the right choice for your migration project.

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Victor Leung, who blog about business, technology and personal development. Happy to connect on LinkedIn