Migrating Sybase ASE to SQL Server: 2 Easy Methods

Luke Smith
Enterprise Solutions Architect
February 3, 2023
Matt Tanner
Developer Relations Lead
February 3, 2023
Matt Tanner
Matt Tanner
Developer Relations Lead
February 3, 2023
 min read
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Organizations may need to switch from one database solution to another due to many factors. Some popular reasons for migrating from one database solution to another include handling increased workloads, security concerns, modernization, and anything under the digital transformation umbrella. Most database solutions provide a migration route to help move their customers' data from other available solutions.

In this article, we will look at how to migrate data from Sybase Adaptive Server Enterprise (ASE) to Microsoft SQL Server. Both Sybase ASE and Microsoft SQL Server are enterprise databases for handling massive amounts of data while preserving data integrity. A major push to move from Sybase ASE, which was rebranded to SAP ASE, comes from the announcement of the end of mainstream maintenance (EoMM) by 2025. This means that by 2025, anyone or any organization using Sybase ASE as their database will be left with the software as is, frozen in time. The platform will receive no further updates to its features or access to security patches. This means users of Sybase ASE must migrate to a more robust platform, like SQL Server, that is fully backed and has a team continuously releasing updates and security patches.

SQL Server is a formidable enterprise database and is continuously under active development by Microsoft. It is a great alternative for those looking to move off of Sybase ASE in almost every way. On top of the great performance and compatibility between the platforms, SQL Server also offers a Sybase ASE to SQL Server migration path through two different options. The first way of migrating existing data from Sybase ASE to SQL Server is through the SQL Server Migration Assistant for Sybase client. The other option is via a server-to-server connection between Sybase ASE and SQL Server.

Even though the second option typically transfers data faster, it does require more dependencies to be installed and configured. This means that using a server-to-server connection may be more technical and more challenging for the average user to implement. Due to this, this article will show how to migrate data from Sybase ASE to SQL Server using the first option, SQL Server Migration Assistant for Sybase client.

Table of Contents

What Is Sybase?

Sybase was a software company that specialized in the production of enterprise software, particularly for the storage and analysis of data. Sybase came to represent a suite of database products, including its most popular product, Sybase Adaptive Server Enterprise (ASE). Sybase ASE was a row-based Relational Database Management System (RDBMS) that could perform Online Transaction Processing (OLTP) operations efficiently and scalably.

Sybase and all of its products were acquired by SAP in 2010. Through this acquisition, all of Sybase’s products were completely absorbed into the SAP ecosystem. The Sybase name itself was also discontinued and removed from all Sybase products in 2014. As part of this, Sybase Adaptive Server Enterprise became known as SAP Adaptive Server Enterprise. It continued to be a viable and widely-used RDBMS solution as it was already in use in the data stack of many enterprises up until the recent end-of-life announcement. With the announcement of the end of support by 2025, it has become imperative for organizations to migrate legacy data from the platform onto something more modern and with long-term support.

Benefits of Migrating from Sybase to SQL Server

The main benefit of migrating from Sybase to SQL Server is to future-proof your data infrastructure. A part of this strategy is picking a database solution that will be managed and updated well into the future. Sybase will discontinue support for the database by 2025 and SQL Server is a robust database solution that can easily replace it. SQL Server also has an easy pathway to the cloud migration through using Azure SQL managed instance and Azure SQL Server. This means that migrating to SQL Server  brings the benefit of a great underlying database solution and can also make your data stack cloud native. Depending on the flavor of SQL Server you choose, you may also enjoy the benefits of a managed environment for your databases.

The other major benefit of migrating from Sybase to SQL Server is security. When software is no longer actively maintained, exploits are not patched through updates. This gives a company unnecessary exposure to potential attacks through unmaintained software. For a database, that can be catastrophic and lead to data breaches and data loss. SQL Server is actively maintained and battle-hardened with most security vectors and vulnerabilities covered. In the event zero-day exploits are discovered, Microsoft quickly releases patches to address those security concerns. As of 2025, this will no longer be possible if you continue to run Sybase ASE.

Another benefit of choosing Microsoft SQL Server as the database to migrate to is the amount of innovation in the platform. Many of the innovations published to the platform improve data quality management and incremental improvements of existing features. In addition to that, you will be part of a vibrant ecosystem with world-class support and tooling available through Microsoft and its partners.

What Is SSMA?

SSMA stands for Microsoft SQL Server Migration Assistant. It is a tool from Microsoft that is designed to enable the automation and migration of data from various databases. The tool currently supports popular databases such as Microsoft Access, DB2, MySQL, Oracle, and SAP ASE. SSMA supports SQL Server 2012 and newer versions, as well as Azure SQL Managed Instance and Azure SQL Database.

Working With SSMA objects

To use SSMA, you must first install the client and accept the licensing agreement. SSMA is typically installed on both the machine that contains your existing database and the machine with the target database you want to migrate to. SSMA converts the database objects from the format of the source database to the SQL Server or Azure SQL Database syntax so that the data can be loaded and subsequently migrated.

What Is SybaseToSQL?

SybaseToSQL is the Microsoft SQL Server Migration Assistant (SSMA) for Sybase Adaptive Server Enterprise (ASE). It is the tool responsible for migrating data in Sybase ASE to SQL Server. It contains a client which can be used for the migration and an extension pack that can optionally be installed to enable server-to-server migration of data. Before you can install SybaseToSQL, your computer must fulfill some prerequisites, such as:

  • Running a version of Windows 7 or later
  • Running Microsoft Windows Installer 3.1 or later versions
  • Have Microsoft .NET Framework version 4.7.2, or later installed
  • Have Sybase OLE DB/ADO.Net/ODBC provider available
  • Have connectivity to the Sybase database you want to migrate
  • Have sufficient permissions in the SQL Server database
  • Have at least 4GB of RAM on the machine

With these prerequisites checked off, you will then be able to run SybaseToSQL and migrate your database without issue.

Using SSMA to Migrate from Sybase to SQL Server

In this section, we will use SSMA to migrate data from Sybase to SQL Server through a series of steps. First, you will create a new SSMA project, then connect to SAP ASE. You will also connect to the SQL Server instance, then map the SAP ASE schema to SQL Server. After that, you will convert the previously mapped SAP ASE schema to SQL Server, then load the converted objects into SQL Server and finally, migrate the data.

Create A New SSMA Project

To create a new SSMA project, go to the SSMA client and do the following.

  • First, on the File menu, select New Project.
  • Then input the name of the project in the Name box.
  • Next, choose a folder location for the project by clicking on the Location box.
  • Select the version of the target SQL Server database you want to use by clicking on the Migration To dropdown.
  • Click on Ok.

Connect to SAP ASE

You will need to connect your SAP ASE source database that you are migrating from. Remember to make sure that you have the requisite access to the SAP ASE database to be migrated, such as public access to the master database.  To connect to SAP ASE follow the steps below.

  • Click on Connect to Sybase from the File menu. If you had previously connected, the menu item will be Reconnect to Sybase.
  • Next, select any of the installed providers from the Provider box, required to connect to the Sybase server.
  • Select your desired connection mode from the Mode box. The options are Standard mode or Advanced mode. If you selected the standard mode, you will be required to provide the Server name, Server port, User name, and Password. If you selected the advanced mode, you will have to provide a connection string in the Connection string box.

Connect to the SQL Server instance

You can connect to the target SQL Server instance using the commands below.

  • From the File menu, click on Connect to SQL Server.
  • Next, in the connection box, enter or select the name of the SQL Server instance.
  • You may be required to enter the server port in the Server port box if your instance is configured to accept connections on a non-default port.
  • Next, in the Database box, enter the name of the target database.
  • You will be required to perform authentication, so provide your authentication details through either Windows Authentication or SQL Server Authentication via the Authentication box.
  • Check the Encrypt Connection and TrustServerCertificate check boxes to ensure enhanced security.
  • Finally, click on Connect.

Map the SAP ASE Schema to SQL Server

By default in the SSMA client, all mapping of the objects within a database and schema in the source are migrated in a similar form to the target database and schema in SQL Server. However, if you need some custom mapping to be done, you can modify the target database and schema through the steps below.

  • Select Databases, from the Sybase Metadata Explorer.
  • Click the Schema Mapping tab from the right pane.
  • Next, select the rows in the mapping that you want to change and click on Modify.
  • From the Choose Target Schema dialog box, browse and select the available target database.
  • You will notice that the target changes on the Schema Mapping tab.

Convert the SAP ASE Schema to SQL Server

To convert SAP ASE database objects to SQL Server objects, do the following.

  • In the Sybase Metadata Explorer, expand the ASE server and then expand Databases.
  • Select the objects you want to convert.
  • Next, right-click on the Databases and select Convert Schema to convert all selected objects.

Load the converted database objects into SQL Server

The next step in the process is to load the converted database objects into SQL Server. You can achieve this by doing the following.

  • From SQL Azure Metadata Explorer or in SQL Server, expand the top SQL Server or SQL Azure node, and then expand Databases.
  • Next, select the objects to be loaded into SQL Server.
  • Right-click on Databases in SQL Server or SQL Azure Metadata Explorer and then click on Synchronize with Database to initiate the loading process.

Migrate the data from Sybase ASE to SQL Server

This is the final step that culminates the previous steps and migrates the data from Sybase ASE to SQL Server. You should follow the steps outlined below to initiate data migration through the client.

  • In the Project Settings dialog box, select Client Side Data Migration Engine.
  • Next, verify that the ASE providers are installed on the same machine running SSMA.
  • Ensure that you have synchronized the converted objects with the target database.
  • Select the objects that contain the data you want to migrate from the Sybase Metadata Explorer.
  • In the Sybase Metadata Explorer, right-click on Schemas and then click on Migrate Data.
  • Enter the connection credentials of Sybase ASE in the Connect to Sybase ASE dialog box and click on Connect. Similarly, also provide the connection credentials of SQL Server in the Connect to SQL Server dialog box, and click Connect.

Using Arcion to Migrate from Sybase to SQL Server

Arcion is a cloud-native Change Data Capture solution that guarantees infinite scalability and data consistency. It also has integrations to various enterprise databases and data warehouses. Arcion is a highly performant solution for data migration and for data replication. In this section, We will use Arcion to migrate data from Sybase ASE to SQL Server.

Step 1: Download And Install Arcion Self-hosted

First, we will need to download and install Arcion Self-hosted. This will require a few steps, including downloading Replicant, creating a home directory for it, and adding your license. Each step can be seen in detail by referencing our quickstart guide in our docs.

Next, we need to configure and enable Arcion to connect with Sybase and Snowflake. We will refer to the directory where Replicant was downloaded to as $REPLICANT_HOME in the following steps. Now, let’s go ahead and configure all of the connections with Arcion.

Step 2: Set up Connection Configuration for Sybase ASE

From $REPLICANT_HOME, navigate to the sample connection configuration file:

vi conf/conn/sybasease_src.yaml

If you store your connection credentials in AWS Secrets Manager, you can tell Replicant to retrieve them. For more information, see Retrieve credentials from AWS Secrets Manager.

Otherwise, you can put your credentials like usernames and passwords in plain form like the sample below:

database: 'DATABASE_NAME'
username: 'USERNAME'
password: 'PASSWORD'
max-connections: 20
max-retries: 10
retry-wait-duration-ms: 1000

Replace the following placeholders in the example above with:

HOSTNAME: hostname of the SAP ASE server

PORT_NUMBER: port number of the SAP ASE server

DATABASE: the name of the SAP ASE database to connect to

USERNAME: the username of the DATABASE user

PASSWORD: the password associated with USERNAME

After this is complete, save the file.

Note: If you want to use the bcp utility for extracting data from your Source ASE, you’ll need to specify some additional parameters in the connection configuration file. For more information, see Use bcp Utility for Extraction.

Step 3: Set up Extractor Configuration for Sybase ASE

From $REPLICANT_HOME, navigate to the Extractor configuration file:

vi conf/src/sybasease.yaml

Arcion supports both snapshot and realtime modes for SAP ASE. In this example, we will set the configuration to use realtime mode.

Step 3.1: Use realtime mode

First, make sure that the ASE account you specified in the Replicant connection configuration file has the following permissions granted:

  • sa_role
  • replication_role
  • sybase_ts_role

After that, you can specify extraction parameters under the realtime section of the configuration file. Below is a working sample:

 threads: 1
 fetch-size-rows: 100000
 fetch-interval-s: 10
 _traceDBTasks: true
   enable: true
   catalog: tpch
   schema: blitzz
   interval-ms: 10000

It’s important to note that the fetch-interval-s parameter determines the interval between each CDC fetch cycle. Always make sure to keep its value above or equal to 10. For more information, see Limitations in the docs.

For a detailed explanation of configuration parameters in the Extractor file, read Extractor Reference.

Step 4: Set up connection configuration for SQL Server

From $REPLICANT_HOME, navigate to the sample SQL Server Connection configuration file:

vi conf/conn/sqlserver.yaml

The configuration file has two parts:

  • Parameters related to target SQL server connection
  • Parameters related to stage configuration

For connecting to the target Snowflake server, you can choose between two methods for an authenticated connection:

In this example, we will simply connect to the server using the basic username and password authentication. For simplicity, we will specify the credentials in a plain form in the connection configuration file as shown below:

port: 1433
username: 'replicate'
password: 'Replicate#123'
max-connections: 30

Replace the following placeholders in the example above with your values. The value definitions can be seen below for each field:

type: The connection type representing the database. In this case, it’s SQLServer.

host: The hostname of your SQL Server system.

port: The port number to connect to the host.

username: The username credential to access the SQL Server system.

password: The password associated with the username.

max-connections: The maximum number of connections Replicant uses to load data into the SQL Server system.

Once these details are added, save the SQL Server configuration file.

Step 5: Set up Applier configuration

From $REPLICANT_HOME, navigate to the sample SQL Server Applier configuration file:

vi conf/dst/sqlserver.yaml

    The configuration file has two parts:

  • Parameters related to snapshot mode.
  • Parameters related to realtime mode.

Step 5.1: Parameters related to realtime mode

To operate in realtime mode, we will use the realtime section in the sqlserver.yaml config file opened at the start of Step 5. Below is an example of how to set up the config file for realtime.

 threads: 8
 txn-size-rows: 10000
 batch-size-rows: 1000

For more information about the configuration parameters for realtime mode, see the Realtime Mode docs.

Now that your SQL Server connector is configured, we can run Replicant, Arcion’s program for running the CDC pipeline.

Step 6: Running Replicant

From $REPLICANT_HOME, run the following command to execute Replicant in realtime mode:

./bin/replicant realtime
conf/conn/sybasease_src.yaml \conf/conn/sqlserver.yaml \
--extractor conf/src/sybasease.yaml \
--applier conf/dst/sqlserver.yaml  \
--id repl2 --replace –overwrite

Once the command is executed, Replicant will start up the pipeline. In real-time mode, Replicant first creates the destination schemas if they are not already present. If the destination schemas are present, Replicant appends to the existing tables.

In real-time mode, Replicant starts replicating real-time operations obtained from log-based CDC. By default, real-time mode starts replicating from the latest log position, but a custom start position can be specified by the user in the real-time section of the extractor configuration file.

With this, you have set up a real-time CDC pipeline with Arcion. As changes occur in the source Sybase database, they will be replicated in your Snowflake instance. In a matter of minutes, with no code, we have created a robust pipeline that will enable us to further many use cases, including running real-time analytics through the Snowflake platform.

Benefits of Using Arcion

When using a tailored solution like Arcion, there are massive benefits over some of the native solutions offered by database providers themselves. Arcion has been built to be performant, easy to use, and scalable. Let's look at some of the benefits of using an integrated data management platform like Arcion instead of a manual or native database solution.

Sub-Second Latency

Many other existing migration solutions don’t scale for high-volume, high-velocity data, resulting in slow pipelines, and slow delivery to the target systems. Arcion is the only distributed, end-to-end multi-threaded CDC migration solution that auto-scales vertically & horizontally. Any process that runs on Source & Target is parallelized using patent-pending techniques to achieve maximum throughput. There isn’t a single step within the pipeline that is single-threaded. It means Arcion users get ultra-low latency migration and replication.

100% Agentless Migrations

Arcion is the only product in the market that offers 100% agentless migration capabilities to all its supported 20+ connectors. The agentless CDC applies to all complex enterprise databases including Sybase ASE and SQL Server. Arcion reads directly from database logs, never reading from the database itself. Previously, data teams faced administrative nightmares and security risks associated with running agent-based software in production environments. You can now migrate and replicate data in real-time, at scale, with guaranteed delivery — but without the inherent performance issues or the security concerns.

Data Consistency Guaranteed

Arcion provides transactional integrity and data consistency through its migration and replication technology. To further this effort, Arcion also has built-in data validation support that works automatically and efficiently to ensure data integrity is always maintained. It offers a solution for both scalable data migration and replication while making sure that zero data loss has occurred.

Automatic Schema Conversion & Schema Evolution Support

Arcion handles schema changes out of the box requiring no user intervention. Arcion can automatically map data between schemas. On top of this, if changes to the schema are made during the migration, Arcion will also propagate them to the target database to ensure both databases are in sync.

Pre-Built 20+ Enterprise Data Connectors

Arcion has a library of pre-built data connectors. These connectors can provide support for 20+ enterprise databases, data warehouses, and cloud-native analytics platforms (see full list). Unlike other ETL tools, Arcion provides full control over data while still maintaining a high degree of automation. Data can be moved from one source to multiple targets or multiple sources to a single target depending on your use case. This means that if you branch out into other technologies outside of Sybase ASE and SQL Server, you’ll already have the capability within Arcion to handle your new sources and targets without the need for another pipeline technology.


In this article, you were given a comprehensive overview of how you can migrate data from Sybase ASE to SQL Server. You were also provided step-by-step details of how to go through the process. Finally, as an alternative to the complex SSMA setup, we looked at a simple step-by-step approach for Sybase and SQL Server migration using Arcion. Setting up a Sybase ASE to SQL Server migration with Arcion is far easier, scalable, and more reliable than the other methods we reviewed.

SAP ASE support is available with the Arcion Self-hosted version. To get started with Arcion today, download Arcion Self-hosted for free and see Arcion in action yourself (no payment info required). If you prefer, you can also book a personal demo with our Sybase ASE to SQL Server migration experts today to get started!

Matt is a developer at heart with a passion for data, software architecture, and writing technical content. In the past, Matt worked at some of the largest finance and insurance companies in Canada before pivoting to working for fast-growing startups.
Luke has two decades of experience working with database technologies and has worked for companies like Oracle, AWS, and MariaDB. He is experienced in C++, Python, and JavaScript. He now works at Arcion as an Enterprise Solutions Architect to help companies simplify their data replication process.
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