Microsoft Previews Storage Migration Service in Windows Server 2019

Paul Thurrott's Short Takes: April 20

Microsoft releases a preview of Storage Migration Service in the latest Insider version of Windows Server 2019. In this Ask the Admin, I’ll provide an overview of what it is and how it works.

It’s never been an easy task to migrate Windows file servers using the tools provided by Microsoft. But finally, Microsoft is doing something to right that wrong. Part of the reason is that Microsoft wants to make it easy for you to migrate file servers to the cloud. Microsoft wants customers to move off Windows Server 2003 and by 2020, Windows Server 2008. Even if you are not planning to migrate to the cloud, the Storage Migration Service supports migrating to on-premises Windows Server. So, there is some good news for everyone.

The preview of Storage Migration Service migrates files to SMB file servers like on-premises physical or virtual Windows Server, Azure File Sync, and Azure VMs. The Storage Migration Service runs on Windows Server 2019, which acts as an orchestrator for the inventory, transfer, and coming soon, cutover phases of the migration process. The service supports migrating from any version of Windows Server going back as far as Windows Server 2003. But the only supported destination server is Windows Server 2019, Standard or Datacenter Edition.

The service transfers data, shares, configurations, security, file attributes, and share permissions on nodes that you decide to migrate. It can transfer files that are currently in use and files that you don’t have the privilege to access. It moves local users, groups, and files that have changed since the last transfer. It also sorts out IP addresses, computer names, and DNS.

Migration Is a Three-Step Process

The inventory phase of the process is where a sysadmin selects the servers to migrate. The orchestrator then inspects storage, networking, security, SMB share settings, and the data to transfer on the selected nodes. Once that’s done, the transfer phase involves manually matching source and destination servers, selecting what data to migrate, and then performing the transfers.

Windows Server 2019 Storage Migration Service (Image Credit: Microsoft)
Windows Server 2019 Storage Migration Service (Image Credit: Microsoft)

Cutover is not available in the current preview build but will be made available in a future version. It will allow sysadmins to assign source networks to destination networks and the destination servers will take over the identity of the source servers. Cutover will provide a seamless transition for users and applications that rely on the file servers. The source servers are retired into a maintenance mode until you are sure everything is working as expected. At which point, the source servers can be decommissioned.

Storage Migration Service and Windows Admin Services Are Best Buddies

One interesting point about this release is that the GUI for the Storage Migration Service is provided as an extension to the Windows Admin Center. For more information about the Windows Admin Center, see Getting Started with the Windows Admin Center on Petri. There’s a complete walkthrough of how to migrate a file server using the Storage Migration Service on TechNet here.

I don’t know if the Storage Migration Service will help Microsoft reach its goals or persuade organizations to move away from unsupported versions of Windows Server. But this tool is long overdue because the Windows Server Migration Tools in Windows Server 2003 are not suited to large datasets. Also, Microsoft’s File Server Migration Toolkit doesn’t support newer versions of Windows Server. Migrating file servers, with the help of command-line tools like Robocopy, doesn’t scale and requires many manual steps. It’s still early days for the Storage Migration Service but what Microsoft has revealed so far looks like a promising start.

Follow Russell on Twitter @smithrussell.