Migrate from MS SQL Server to MySQL

In this blog series, I will share my experiences as I migrate commercial databases (i.e., Microsoft SQL or Oracle) to open source (MySQL). More specifically, we will look at how you can migrate from MS SQL Server to MySQL.

For this first blog post I’ve chosen Jira database as an example, and used three different tools to migrate Jira database in Microsoft SQL Server to MySQL:

  1. MySQL Workbench (opensource)
  2. Amazon DMS (cloud tool)
  3. Ispirer MnMTK 2015 (commercial tool)

When I started my research, I was under the impression that Jira database would be easy to migrate (no stored procedures, no triggers, etc.). It turned out that there were some problems that I was able to fix.

One of the reasons I chose Jira as opposed to some standard MS SQL database (such as AdventureWorks2014) is that it is a non-standard choice. Most of the software vendors use standard databases to test their software, and it works perfectly on those standard databases. Jira is not a usual choice and will be closer to real life.

MySQL Workbench

MySQL Workbench supports Microsoft SQL Server migration. The migration is straightforward except the issues with character sets. I have experienced the error “Could not successfully convert UCS-2 string to UTF-8”.


It turns out (with the help of Martin Brennan’s blog) that we will need to use “ODBC (FreeTDS)” drive for MS SQL, and enable sending Unicode data as UTF8:


After changing those settings, I was able to successfully migrate Jira database from MS SQL to MySQL.

Advantages and disadvantages:

  • Plus: free and open source tool, multi-platform
  • Plus: successful migration for Jira
  • Plus: supports multi-threaded migrations (increase worker tasks if needed, default value is 2)
  • Minus: needed some tweaks to work with character sets
  • Minus: not very easy to debug errors

Amazon DMS

AWS Database Migration Service supports migrating from MS SQL to MySQL, but the actual migration method is different from other tools. It uses the source database (MS SQL server in this case) replication feature to stream the data to the target database (MySQL). Amazon DMS starts a temporary “migration” instance that is used to stream data. Both the source and destination database can be in AWS (EC2 or RDS) or outside AWS (no restriction).


The important limitation for MS SQL migration: it only works with MS SQL Server versions that support replication (subscription service). It doesn’t work with MS SQL Express edition. Also, if the subscription service is not enabled the DMS can’t even see the schema(s) to migrate (full list of limitations for MS SQL Server migration).

I’ve also gotten errors around the “constraint” name being too long:

The problem here is that “AO_38321B_CUSTOM_CONTENT_LINK_pk_AO_38321B_CUSTOM_CONTENT_LINK_ID” is too long a string for MySQL. At the same time, this name does not really matter as this is the PRIMARY KEY.

After changing the “constraint” name in MS SQL to smaller strings, I could migrate all tables to MySQL.

Amazon DMS notes: Amazon DMS lets you migrate from a database located anywhere (not necessarily in AWS) to another database located anywhere (not necessarily in AWS) — however, the traffic will go thru AWS. Thus the migration path is fastest and the most beneficial if either the source or target (or both) instances are in AWS (for example, ec2 or rds instances).

Advantages and disadvantages:

  • Plus: successful migration for Jira
  • Plus: Multithreaded execution (this is a huge advantage for migrating large databases)
  • Plus: In addition to migration, you can also use a replication link between the SQL Server and the new MySQL to fetch the new changes. This is a huge advantage when migrating a large database with lots of traffic and tight downtime requirements.
  • Minus: replication should be enabled to perform a migration, which means that migrating from SQL Server Express isn’t supported.
  • (Can be plus and minus): All traffic is going through a cloud environment.

Potential issues

(This section has been updated) I’ve figured out that the table structures generated by Workbench, Amazon DMS and SQLWays are different. For example:

Workbench generated:

AWS DMS generated:

SQLWays wizard generated:

In AWS DMS version, the index on CONTENT_KEY is missing and ID is not declared as auto_increment. However, the Workbench “lost” the character set. SQLWays wizard has created partial key (191 characters).

At the same time, I was able to start Jira on top of two versions of the MySQL database (migrated by using Workbench and Amazon DMS).

Ispirer MnMTK 2015

Ispirer MnMTK 2015 toolkit is a commercial (not open-source) software application that lets you migrate from MS SQL Server to MySQL (among other databases). Ispirer has provided me with a demo license so I can test the migration.

I was able to migrate the Jira database from MS SQL to MySQL with the Ispirer SQLWays Wizard:


One issue with this process is that SQL Ways Wizard relies on the MySQL command line utility (“mysql”), which should be in the path. If you do not have MySQL installed on the migration machine, or it is not in the path, the migration will fail:


To fix simply add the MySQL “bin” directory to the path. In addition, you can use the SQL Ways Wizard to generate scripts and run those scripts on the destination host where the utilities are installed.

Advantages and disadvantages:

  • Plus: successful migration for Jira
  • Plus: support from SQL ways: can work on fixing potential migration issues (requires paid license)
  • Plus: can convert stored procedures, triggers, foreign key constraints
  • Minus: commercial, not open source software.
  • Minus: only runs on Windows (however, target machine for the database migration can be Linux)
  • Minus: no multi-treaded migration support (can manually run multiple instances of SQL Ways)


All tools I tried finally worked, but at the same time I was surprised with the number of issues I found. Migrating a very simple database (no stored procedures, no triggers, no foreign key constraints) should be easier.

Another surprise was that all tools are focused on a nice GUI with “next” buttons. For migrating one database to another, I would prefer using a command line tool interface (may be similar to Percona toolkit or iconv):

Actually, Ispirer MnMTK does have a command line migration utility included, but it only works on Windows.

Until somebody develops a better command line tool, any of the above solutions will help you migrate from MS SQL Server to MySQL.

Learn more about Percona Server for MySQL

Share this post

Comments (14)

  • Peter Zaitsev

    Alexander, Couple of comments

    First I wonder what was the table structure SQLWays generated was it any different ? Also what was the original MS SQL Table structure (for the same example table)

    I am puzzled about the example table through. You posted messages about UTF8 conversion while the table you show created by Workbench has latin1 character set and it does not use any column level character sets.

    June 26, 2016 at 6:44 pm
    • Alexander Rubin

      Peter, the utf8 issues (for workbench only) were with the different table called audit_changed_value.

      Here is the version of the same table, imported by sql_ways (will update the blog with this information):

      LINK_URL varchar(255) CHARACTER SET utf8 DEFAULT NULL,
      SEQUENCE int(11) DEFAULT ‘0’,
      KEY index_ao_38321b_cus1828044926 (CONTENT_KEY(191))

      June 27, 2016 at 8:10 pm
  • Fadi El-Eter (itoctopus)

    Hi Alexander,

    Thanks for the post. I’ve personally used MySQL Workbench before and it does work great. But, I haven’t tested it with migrating SPs and I hoped that this post would. It would be interesting if you later update this post (or write another post) to include the migration of a complex database that leverages the power of MS SQL and see how that goes.

    By the way, how big was that Jira database – I’m asking this because it seems that the second software that you used took only 1.5 seconds to migrate it.

    One last question: what’s with the errors in Ispirer MnMTK tool?

    June 28, 2016 at 11:32 am
    • Alexander Rubin

      Fadi, thank you for your comment.
      The Jira db size was < 100Mb, I've only use it as a test. However, the 1.5 sec is because of error - MySQL was not in the path, so the actual migration was aborted. I will plan to test a larger MS SQL with SP, etc in the future.

      June 28, 2016 at 8:05 pm
  • Chris

    We tested AWS DMS for migrating of MySQL databases from RDS to EC2 and found it to be wholly unreliable. Tables were often reported as being completed when they weren’t, or the migration one run indefinitely never reporting it was completed. I certainly wouldn’t trust it to migrate databases of the same type, never mind cross vendor.

    July 5, 2016 at 6:20 am
    • Alexander Rubin

      Chris, that is very interesting. Regarding RDS/Aurora <-> MySQL EC2 I would rather use standard MySQL replication which will be easier.

      July 6, 2016 at 1:00 am
  • vidyadhar

    @Alexander Rubin, This is really very useful information. We have performed some migrations earlier from MS SQL to MySQL. We have followed different approaches and all are manual. I have tries to use MySQL work bench but it is very slow and not sure on the exact reason. I hope workbench is definitely not a good option to migrate huge amount of data (200 GB). We have created SSIS package which exports data using the manual commands and import the same uinsg load commands into MySQL. Here why we used manual commands is to handle bit data type columns (which need to converted to varchar before export otherwise import gives errors) as well as null values (basically printed as empty string in out file). This approach is simple for few number of tables but very hard for the huge table count.

    I am eagerly waiting to see your test cases with workbench and DMS for SPs migration. Frankly I don’t prefer commercial tools as I am here to reduce the cost to my company.

    July 5, 2016 at 1:46 pm
    • Alexander Rubin

      vidyadhar, thank you for your information!

      July 6, 2016 at 1:02 am
  • Eike

    you wrote to Workbench ” Minus: needed some tweaks to work with character sets “.

    Guess I face the same here and I wonder if you could share your experience.
    My migration works fine with Data Source ODBC FreeTDS, but the Umlauts (ä,ö,ü) are replaced as “?”.

    July 12, 2016 at 6:05 am
    • Alexander Rubin

      If the source of the data is utf8, try checking “driver sends unicode data in UTF8” on the “advanced” tab (as on the screenshot above).

      July 12, 2016 at 11:00 am
  • Piotr Rodak

    Interesting article alexander, thanks.
    As a SQL Server guy though, I wonder what would be the business case for migration of a SQL Server database, especially a large one to My SQL. I would imagine that there would be a tremendous amount of testing, performance tuning, perhaps even schema changes in order for such migration to be successful.

    August 22, 2016 at 6:11 pm
  • Jacob

    Hi Alexander,

    It was interesting article.

    Few comments.

    1. You did not mention what version of SQL Server, MySQL Workbench and Free TDS drivers you used. It is important, because some versions don’t work well.

    2. You did not mention whether you ran MySQL Workbench as well as SQL Ways Wizard on Windows or on Linux (I think Amazon only runs on Linux, but it would be nice to know what OS was on AWS)

    3. MySQL Workbench does provide command line tool. It is very convenient way for data migration.
    Workbench allows you to generate data migration script. Once you generate it, you don’t need any GUI at all. It is quite unfortunate that you did not use it – it is a great option.


    May 11, 2017 at 5:49 pm
  • ashish

    here you are only talking about data what about procedures / view migration from MS SQL to Mysql ?
    anyone have done it and is their any good tool you like to suggesst

    July 21, 2018 at 12:26 pm

Comments are closed.

Use Percona's Technical Forum to ask any follow-up questions on this blog topic.